lat pull ins

When it comes to targeting the lat muscles for overall back width and thickness, a combination of pulls ups, pulldowns, and rows is the standard approach for nearly all trainees out there.

While these are all great movements that allow you to effectively train your lats for increased size and strength, there’s actually another exercise you’ve probably never even heard of that just might be superior to them all if you’re looking to build a wide back and specifically target your lats.

I only began including this exercise in my own back workouts pretty recently, but the contraction it produces is unlike anything I’ve felt before when performing standard pull ups, pulldowns, or rows. And not that soreness is an indicator of a successful workout, but I can really feel these the next day, which at least tells me something given that my lats never get sore after training.

The exercise I’m referring to here are “lat pull ins,” and although it’s a very uncommon lift that you’ll almost never see being performed in the gym, I’d highly suggest testing it out in your own training program and feeling the benefits for yourself.

Unlike a standard pull-up/pulldown where the resistance is pulled vertically and downward, or a standard row where the resistance is pulled horizontally and backwards, lat pull-ins place the resistance directly out to the side of your body where it is then pulled inward instead.

Let’s go over the proper form to give you a better idea of how this is done…

(Full credit goes to another bodybuilding trainer by the name of Doug Brignole for introducing this lift to me. Although I’ve heard others talk about it as well, I believe Doug is the one who originally came up with it and popularized it.)

Build A WIDE Back: Proper Lat Pull-In Form

1) Place a bench (or a box that you can sit on) a few feet away from a cable machine and set a single pulley attachment as high up as you can.

2) Extend your arm directly to your side at roughly a 45 degree angle and grab the attachment using an underhand grip.

3) Tilt your upper body slightly in the direction of the machine and then pull the resistance inward toward your side until you feel a strong contraction in your lats.

4) Perform a controlled 3-4 second negative and then repeat the movement for anywhere from 5-12 reps for 3-4 sets per arm.

** In order to hit the lats as effectively as possible here, think about pulling the weight inward using your elbow rather than your hand. I also prefer to use a lifting strap as well to further take the grip out of the equation and place 100% focus on pure lat stimulation.

It may take a bit of experimentation in order to really find the proper form for yourself, but you’ll know when you’ve nailed it because it will almost feel as though your lats are cramping up on each rep. The feeling should be quite different and much more “lat focused” in comparison to what you regularly experience on your other back exercises.

What exactly is it that makes lat pull-ins so effective for stimulating the lats and helping you build a wide back that really “pops?”

wide back

Well, when it all comes down to it, the basic goal of any exercise that you perform is to maximally stretch and contract a given muscle against resistance by taking it from a position of being fully lengthened to fully shortened.

In order to accomplish this with maximum effectiveness and get the deepest stretch/contraction possible, the angle that the resistance is being pulled at should be parallel to the angle that the muscle fibers run.

If you take a look at the basic anatomy of the lats, you’ll see that the majority of the fibers run diagonally at anywhere from about a 45-70 degree angle.

latissimus dorsi

Although the lowest fibers do run at a fairly steep upward angle and the highest fibers run almost horizontally, most of the fibers still fall into that 45-70 degree range.

So, by placing the resistance out to the side of your body at this specific angle and then pulling inward, you’ll be able to stretch and contract your lats more significantly in comparison to what you’d get from most other traditional back movements.

Don’t get me wrong here – pull ups, pulldowns, and rows are all fantastic lifts that do train the lats and the other muscles of the back very effectively.

However, there are a couple of disadvantages assuming that your goal is to maximize lat stimulation…

1) Since most pull-up/pulldown movements are performed at a straight up-and-down angle, the resistance is only directly in line with the lowest fibers of the lats.

2) Since rowing movements involve scapular retraction, they end up hitting the muscles of the mid-back (the rhomboids, traps, teres major, teres minor etc.) just as much as the lats, since the lats don’t attach to the shoulder blades to perform this function.

Again, pullups, pulldowns, and rows are all great movements and should still be a cornerstone in your back training routine. But in order to maximize the tension on your lats and lats only, lat pull-ins should definitely be added into the mix as well.

Give these a try and I’m very confident that you’ll be pleased with the results.

Also, check out more uncommon back exercises to help with your own back development.

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