Build a Bigger and Stronger Back With This 3-Week Lat Workout

These exercises take you beyond the basics to build powerful lats.


Forging bigger lats is a common goal among athletes—a goal that is full of basic Rows, Pull-Ups, Pull-Downs and Pull-Overs (you're doing Pull-Overs, right?). But though there's nothing wrong with the basics, it can be nice to spice up your training a bit. Here are four back training variations designed to pump up your lats.

1. Straight Arm Dumbbell Pull-Down

The Straight Arm Dumbbell Pull-Down uses the same motion as a Cable Straight Arm Pull-Down, but it's performed with dumbbells on a bench.

Lie chest-down on an incline bench. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with straight or slightly bent elbows. Pull the dumbbells back and line your arms up with your torso. Squeeze your lats hard and pause at the top of the movement. Slowly return the dumbbells to the starting position and repeat.

2. Bodyweight Straight Arm Pull-Down

The Bodyweight Pull-Down employs the same shoulder extension movement mentioned above. However, this one requires suspension straps.

Grab the handles of the straps with slightly bent or straight elbows. Lean back to load your weight on the straps. Use your lats to pull your body up and bring your arms to the sides of your torso. Slowly return to the start. Keep your hips straight and abs tight throughout. Also, do not use momentum to swing yourself up. Slow and controlled movement is the key.

You can also loop a cable attachment, such as a rope or straight bar, through the straps for a different grip. I prefer this way over the other because the grip feels better and I feel more tension in my lats throughout the exercise.

3. Banded Rows

Want to make Rows more intense? Wrap a resistance band around your wrists when doing any double-arm rowing exercise. Actively press out against the band while rowing to inflict more upper-back tension.

The best bands for these are thin circular mini-bands. Unless you're using the smaller mini-bands designed for hip exercises, you will need to twist the band (in the shape of an 8) then fold it over to make it less wide.

Here are examples of how to use a band with Chest-Supported Dumbbell Rows and Barbell Rows:

4. Assisted Pull-Ups

Assisted Pull-Ups are usually done with resistance bands with the goal of building unassisted pull-up strength. Another way to do them is to hold on to suspension straps and use your legs for the assistance. While this method could aid in building unassisted pull-up strength, I prefer to use them as higher rep hypertrophy work.

Set up the suspension straps so that when you hold on to them with straight arms, your lower body is in a full squat position. Perform Pull-Ups using your legs as assistance. Start with the least amount of assistance early in the set and gradually shift to more assistance as fatigue takes over. The focus with these is time under tension with high reps. They may not look difficult, but doing multiple sets of 15-plus reps at the end of a workout will have you thinking otherwise.

Sample Program

How would these look as part of a full back training program? Since the focus of this article is adding size with these exercises, here's what a two-day-per-week program could look like:

Day 1, Week 1

  • A. Pull-Ups (weighted or not) – 3 x 6-10
  • B. Banded Barbell Row – 3 x 8-12
  • C. Bodyweight Straight Arm Pull-Down – 3 x 8-12
  • D. Resistance Band Pull-Aparts – 3 x 15-20

Day 2, Week 1

  • A. Alternating Chest Supported Row – 3 x 6-10
  • B. Straight Arm Dumbbell Pull-Down – 3 x 8-12
  • C. Assisted Pull-Ups – 3 x 15

Day 1, Week 2

  • A. Pull-Ups (weighted or not) – 4 x 6-10
  • B. Banded Barbell Row – 4 x 8-12
  • C. Bodyweight Straight Arm Pull-Down – 3 x 8-12
  • D. Resistance Band Pull-Aparts – 3 x 15-20

Day 2, Week 2

  • A. Alternating Chest Supported Row – 4 x 6-10
  • B. Straight Arm Dumbbell Pull-Down – 4 x 8-12
  • C. Assisted Pull-Ups – 3 x 15

Day 1, Week 3

  • A. Pull-Ups (weighted or not) – 5 x 6-10
  • B. Banded Barbell Row – 4 x 8-12
  • C. Bodyweight Straight Arm Pull-Down – 3 x 8-12
  • D. Resistance Band Pull-Aparts – 3 x 15-20

Day 2, Week 3

  • A. Alternating Chest Supported Row – 5 x 6-10
  • B. Straight Arm Dumbbell Pull-Down – 4 x 8-12
  • C. Assisted Pull-Ups – 3 x 15

Of course, there are many ways you can program these. Plug them into your program the way that works best for you and watch your lats grow.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: LAT PULLDOWN | BACK | PULL-UP | LATS | BODYWEIGHT EXERCISES | WORKOUT PLAN | DUMBBELL EXERCISES | ROW