When looking to get wide lats, most people assume training the back with rows and pulldowns will be enough. While this is often the case for many beginners, it may not be that easy for others.
You can get wider lats by training the back with both vertical and horizontal pulling movements, and do them in a high volume program that allows for progressive overload. If you struggle gaining lat width, you may need to take a few months to prioritize them in your workouts and train the back more frequently while eating more to grow more muscle.
In this article, we’ll go into detail about what factors you should consider when training to grow wider lats and what exercises to do to get wide lats.
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Factors To Consider When Trying To Get Wide Lats
When looking to get wide lats, you need to consider a variety of factors that influence how long it will take you to grow wider lats and help you set realistic expectations for yourself.
Below, we will discuss six factors to consider when trying to get wide lats, and how to attack your training and diet to get the most out of your efforts.
Genetics and bone structure play a large role in lat width development. Individuals who have broader shoulders and bone structures tend to have the ability to fill them out to a greater degree than those with narrower shoulders.
This is not to say you cannot grow wide lats with narrow shoulders, however it may mean you will need to train harder and prioritize them more in your training to get similar results as other individuals who may genetically be more predisposed to growing wider lats.
Development of Other Muscle Groups
When looking to get wider lats, most people are often doing so to get a more pronounced V-taper physique. If this is the case, you will also want to devote training time to develop the shoulders, traps, and abs as well.
Building bigger shoulders and traps will aid in the appearance of a wider upper body. Couple that with eating properly to lose body fat around the torso, and you have a more drastic v-taper.
How Often You Train
Increasing training frequency is one way to increase your overall weekly training volume (working sets that target the lats). For some poeple, training the lats twice per week may be enough to signal growth, however other individuals may need to train the back three times a week for more growth.
If you train back 1-2 times a week and are not seeing growth, then up your training of the back to 2-3 times per week and see what happens. If you are already training back directly 3 times a week, then you may not be training the back with enough volume or intensity on those days.
Looking for a custom workout program that is built around your schedule, goals, and abilities? With the Fitbod app, every workout is tailored to you, and progressed weekly based on your prognances in the gym to ensure results.
How Hard You Train
When talking about training intensity, we often refer to your level of effort during a session. Most people believe they train hard, and they very well might be, but the truth of the matter is if you are already struggling to grow wider lats, and are doing everything else discussed throughout this article, you might just need to train harder.
Training harder doesn’t mean you forget proper form. Rather, it means you train the muscle to failure, and then keep doing more. You can use more advanced training protocols like supersets, drop sets, and rest pause sets as well to further enhance muscle growth and training intensity.
Gaining muscle goes hand in hand with eating properly. For many lifters who struggle to gain muscle size and lat width, addressing their diet (and lack of calories) is often just as important as training harder.
If you are someone who is leaner or a more advanced lifter, strategically eating more food could really help you gain muscle and lat width.
If you need specific guidance on how to eat more calories to properly add muscle during a bulk (and minimize body fat), be sure to read this article.
Best Exercises For Getting Wide Lats
When looking to get wide lats you will want to include vertical pulling movements to target the lat muscle fibers that provide width.
In addition to vertical movements, you will also want to include horizontal pulling movements to help increase overall back size and muscle mass to further enhance the V-taper physique.
The 9 best exercises for wide lats are:
- Wide Grip Lat Pulldowns
- Straight Arm Pulldown
- Single Arm Landmine Row
- Incline Dumbbell Row
- Bent Over Rows
- Machine Row
- Dumbbell Pullovers
- Barbell Deadlifts
- Farmers Carry
1. Wide Grip Lat Pulldown
The wide grip lat pulldown is a movement that can be done with cables, a pulldown machine, or even band resistance. They pulldown targets the lats at an angle that promotes back width, making it a staple for any program looking to increase lat width.
When training the lat pulldown, you can use a variety of rep ranges and loading schemes. Taking a wider grip (a few inches widener than shoulder width, or wider) can also be helpful and should be utilized.
2. Straight Arm Lat Pulldown
The straight arm lat pulldown is a single joint lat isolation exercise that targets the lats and serratus muscles. This is a great movement to train the lats directly, without having too much involvement from the arms (as opposed to pulldowns, rows, or pull ups).
When training this exercise, you can use moderate to light weights and train to muscle failure, as heavy loading of single joint movements may not be best when training at high volume (for injury prevention sake).
3. Single Arm Landmine Row (Meadows Row)
The single arm landmine row, which can also be called the Meadows row, is a unilateral rowing movement that trains the back. While it is more geared to develop back thickness, it can als be a great movement to train the lats as a whole, and due to its increased range of motion can be a powerful muscle growth exercise.
These movements can also be trained with heavier loads and light weights, making it a very good movement for all levels of training.
4. Incline Dumbbell Row
The incline dumbbell row is an unilateral rowing movement that trains the back for muscle growth and thickness. When doing dumbbell rows, people have the tendency to let their background or are limited by their ability to keep positioning correct.
By performing them in a chest supported manner (chest down on a bench) you are able to train the lats to failure with both heavy weights and/or high reps, making it a great movements to stimulate serious muscle growth and train around sore hamstrings and lower back muscles (which may be necessary following deadlifts or hard squat sessions).
5. Bent Over Rows (Wide Grip)
The bent over row is a great exercise to build both back width and thickness, and can be done with a variety of grip widths to target various parts of the back. When looking to train for more back width, you can take a wider grip which will help develop the upper back and rear delts.
When you develop the upper back and rear delts, you contribute to increasing the V-taper of the body, creating a more visual V-taper and pronounced back width. These can be done at a variety of angles, and can also be done with a chest support if you find your form changes as you get more fatigued or if you are limited by hamstrings stiffness and/or lower back fatigue.
6. Machine Rows (Wide Grip)
Machine cable rows, or most machine rows for that manner, are great back width exercises when done with a wider grip (grip can be pronounced or neutral). Machine rows often lock the lifter into position, and force them to assume a good torso positioning to minimize cheat reps as you get tired.
Machines are a great way to add high amounts of training volume and muscle fatigue to the back without adding too much stress to supporting muscle groups like the lower back and hamstrings.
7. Dumbbell Pullovers
Dumbbell pullovers can be done with cables, dumbbells, or a bar, and are the lying equivalent to the standing straight arm cable lat pulldown.
This single joint exercise works the lats, and can be helpful at developing wider lats. When doing this, it is important to strive to hit a full range of motion, and to focus on performing the movement with moderate to light loads and training the muscular failure.
8. Barbell Deadlifts (Wide Grip)
Barbell deadlifts done with a conventional grip are great for adding back size and strength. The wider you take your grip (referred to as a wide grip or snatch grip deadlift) will increase the demands on the lats and can help increase back size and width.
When doing wide grip deadlifts, it is important to not allow your shoulders to round forward or internally rotate, but rather keep your chest up and back active throughout the entire lift. This deadlift variation often results in great back growth, despite less loading being used than during other deadlift movements.
9. Farmers Carry
The farmers carry is a straightforward back exercise that is great for increasing back strength, grip strength, and back width. To do this, you will grab a pair of heavy dumbbells, kettlebells, or farmer’s carry handles and walk, for time or distance.
The back muscles work isometrically to maintain good posture, and grow under high amounts of muscle tension. This is a great way to also overload the back muscles with high amounts of weight, or finish the back muscles off after a hard session.
Back Workout For Wider Lats
Below is a 3-day back workout for wider lats.
If you are only training your back once per week currently, take a few weeks and perform only the first two days of this workout program.
After 4 weeks of training, add the third workout and continue for another 4 weeks.
If you are currently training back twice per week, then you could jump right in and train the back three times per week for 4-8 weeks at a time.
Note For Fitbod Users:
- If you are a current Fitbod user, don’t worry if what you see below is not exactly the same as what you see in the app. The app’s algorithms are designed to customize workouts based on your individual progression, muscle recovery, and other training data it collects every time you log a workout.
- With the app, you get specific recommendations that are customized to you and your current fitness level. This is a good thing because what works for you won’t necessarily work for someone else.
Day 1 – Low Rep Day
- Wide Grip Pull Up: 4 sets of 6-8 reps. If you can do more than 8 reps, then add as much weight as you can and still hit the prescribed rep range. If you cannot do pull ups, then use as much assistance (resistance band assist or machine assisted pull up) as you need to hit the rep range (and have the set be very difficult).
- Bent Over Row (wide grip): 4 sets of 8-10 reps. Use a wider grip than usual, and pull the barbell to the sternum, keeping your elbows flared out. Make sure your back is nearly parallel to the ground, and your chest is up. Bring the bar to the floor every rep.
- Wide Grip Barbell Deadlift: 4 sets of 8-10 reps. Perform a regular stance deadlift (conventional) with a wider than normal grip. You can use straps if you need to assist with grip issues. At the top of every rep, flex your back, and then slowly lower the bar to the floor, keeping the lower back flat and chest up. Do not let the shoulders be rounded forward.
Day 2 – Moderate Rep Day
- Wide Grip Lat Pulldown: 4 sets of 12-15 reps. You can use a wide grip here, or you can also use a wider grip with neutral handles (palms facing in). The key here is to train the lats in the full range of motion.
- Incline Dumbbell Row: 4 sets of 12-15 reps. Use a bench to support your body as you perform the rows. After Day 1, your lower back may be sore from deadlifts, or at least tired, and we want to make sure that you can train hard and heavy with these rows and not be limited by your lower back and hamstrings.
- Straight Arm Pulldown: 4 sets of 12-15 reps. Do this slightly leaning forward to allow for a wider range of motion, and keep your elbows straight so that the arms are fully extended.
Day 3 – High Rep Day
- Straight Arm Pulldown: 3 sets of 20-30. Do these the same way as you did on Day 2, and get a good contraction and the bottom and stretch at the top.
- One Arm Dumbbell Row: 3 sets of 20-30. This can be done with a chest support or unsupported, but the goal here should be to feel the lats.
- Lat Pulldown: 3 sets of 20-30. Flex the back at the bottom, and reach all the way up at the top. You can change grips if you like based on preference.
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5 Advanced Tips For Getting Wider Lats
#1 – Train the Lats 3 Times Per week
When looking to increase your muscle growth of a particular muscle group, training it more frequently is often one of the easiest ways to get new growth. If you are only training your lats once a week, bump that up to two times a week for a month and see if you see growth. If you still want more, you could train the back three times a week with a rest day in between each session.
By training the back more often in the week, you increase your overall training volume and can promote muscle growth.
Note, that if you do train the back multiple times a week, make those sessions tough, and understand that you may not be able to train all muscle groups as much as usual. That is perfectly fine though, since you could train the back for 2 months, three times a week, and then afterwards go back to twice per week and now train another muscle group three times a week.
#2 – Train the Lats for Low, Moderate, and High Reps
The back muscles are composed of both slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibers, which means to effectively train all the muscle fibers of the lats and to get serious muscle growth you should train lower, moderate, and higher rep ranges.
In a lat width workout program, you could train some movements on some days in the 5-10 rep range, and then on another day you train them in the 10-15 rep range. You could also train very high rep ranges (15-30) on another day, as long as those sets are done with heavy enough weight to promote muscle failure in that rep range (too often people don’t use heavy enough weight when training high rep).
#3 – Increase Training Volume within a Single Workout
If you are already training back multiple times a week, or cannot fit another back session in based on your schedule, you could train with more work sets in your workouts.
Generally speaking, you can train the back directly with 10-15 total working sets per session, as any more than this and you may find your overall fatigue may diminish the effectiveness of your workouts. If you are training less than 10 total sets per session (combine back exercises sets), you may not be doing enough work to stimulate growth.
#4 – Eat More Food (and Train Harder)
If you are someone who struggles to gain size, you most likely need to train harder and eat more food. If you are not eating enough calories to (1) fuel hard sessions, (2) stimulate new muscle growth, and (3) recover in between sessions to train hard again, you will have issues gaining muscle. This is even more so for more advanced lifters or leaner individuals.
#5 – Progressively Overload Your Back Workouts
If you train with the same weights, reps, and sets every week without progressing them over time, you may be missing out on tons of muscle growth.
Progressively overloading your workouts means you add weight, add reps, or sets to increase the overall muscle damage and stress.
Too often, people will do the same workout rep schemes and weights, and over time those become easier and easier. They will then switch exercises, which isn’t always a bad choice, but should come after you have exhausted a movement.
To fully exhaust a movement in a program, you want to train with it for a week on end, and add weight, do more reps, and keep pouting on the intensity week after week until you no longer can progress any further or until you experience joint, tendon, or muscle discomfort.
The Fitbod app is a great tool to use to progress your workouts weekly, and to ensure you are doing everything you can in the gym to promote muscle growth. With the Fitbod app, your workouts are taken and progressed weekly based on your performance in the gym to take your training further.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Are Wide Lats vs Thick Lats The Same?
While you often can see both wide and thick lats together, wide lats often refer to the width of the lats “wingspan” often giving you the very wide “V-taper”. Thick lats are a byproduct of having wide lats, and vice versa; and generally are referred to as having a big thick back in terms of back circumference.
Can You Get Bigger Lats At Home?
Getting big lats at home can be challenging unless you have the means and ability to do pull ups, and lots of them. When training for wide lats, lat pulldowns, wide grip pull ups, and other vertical pulldown movements are key. It’s not impossible, but it is difficult without those movements.
Can You Get Wider Lats With Just Dumbbells?
Getting wider lats with dumbbells only will often be challenging for more advanced or stronger individuals, as dumbbell movements usually are not able to target the lat muscle fibers that promote width. You need to find a way to also include vertical pulldown movements, like pull ups, to maximize lat width.
About The Author
Mike holds a Master’s in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), USA Weightlifting Advanced Coach, and has over 10+ years of experience working with collegiate athletes, national level lifters, and beginners alike. Mike is Founder of J2FIT Strength and Conditioning, a growing global training company with gyms in New York City, Cincinnati, and online offering personal training, online custom coaching programs.