5 Exercises to Make Your Lats Flare (Plus Workout!)

Ditch your flat back for good and develop lats that flare using these 5 key exercises. To jump-start your progress, we even put them together in a workout!

We all know that the chest and arms are the most popular muscle groups to train but the impact of back training can’t be emphasized enough.

Bodybuilders need the width to make their waist look smaller and enhance the appeal of the overall physique.

Powerlifters and strongmen focus more on power and strength (of course) but having size can be an asset as well. Perhaps you’re not a bodybuilder or strength athlete. But let’s face it, if you see a big dude with a wide back walking down the street, you can’t help but turn around and stare in awe.

Of course it isn’t about seeing these guys, you want to be one of those guys yourself. That’s why you’re reading this.

This program can benefit everyone. Male or female, beginner or advanced, if you feel your back needs to be wider, take this program for an eight week spin.

This workout is focused on the lats and while it’s challenging to completely isolate them, they will be doing the majority of the work in this workout.

If you’re more focused on thickness or developing the other muscles like the traps, teres major, and rhomboids, you would be best served adding a second back day to your program or finding an alternative.

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Get Wider Back Program

Exercise Sets Reps
Neutral Grip Pull Ups 4 8-10
One Arm Row 4 12, 10, 8, 6 Each
Pullover 4 8, 10, 12, 15
Straight Arm Cable Pull Down 4 15
Seated Row 4 20

1. Neutral Grip Pull-Ups

Wide grip pull-ups are awesome for the overall back but using a neutral grip that is around shoulder-width apart is more effective for the entire lats from top to bottom. If you’re concerned about the biceps being involved, you can use straps to help you with the grip. You can also use a false grip which means the thumb is wrapped around the same way as the other fingers.

Make sure you get the full stretch at the bottom before starting. Focus on bringing in the shoulder blades and driving your elbows down into your sides. These subtle cues help you activate the lats so they do the most work.

Related: Can't Do Pullups? Try These 3 Pull Up Progressions

When you reach the top, hold this contraction for a second before lowering yourself under control. Don’t drop. You want to keep the tension on the muscles so controlled negatives are a must. Feel the stretch at the bottom before performing the next rep. If you’re kipping, you’re doing it wrong. If you need to use a band or assistant, go for it.

2. One Arm Row

There are different ways to do this movement to work different parts of the upper back. The execution for this program is to work the lower portion of the lats.

You should be leaning against a dumbbell rack with one foot in front of the other. Hold the weight at arms’ length toward the floor. Pull the weight up and back toward your hip. Keep the dumbbell so the palm of your hand if facing toward you.

When the dumbbell is at its highest point, hold this position for a count of two before lowering the weight back down. Repeat for the desired reps.

Start with whichever side you feel is weaker so you can train it with more energy. As each set progresses you should use heavier weight. If at any point you have to use momentum to jerk the weight up, you’ve went too heavy. You should feel challenged at the end of the set but not reach failure.

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3. Pullover

There isn’t a specific version of this exercise listed for a reason. If your gym has a pullover machine then that is the one you should use. If not, go for a dumbbell or kettlebell version.

Either way, the pullover has been a favorite of bodybuilding legends from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Dorian Yates. Neither of those two had a bad back so it would make sense to include this exercise in a program focused on width.

Speed isn’t what you should focus on here. Execution is more important here than with any other movement in this program. Three second negatives will serve you well. Pull the weight as hard as you can when performing concentric (lifting) portion of the reps.

This exercise is going to be set up the opposite of the one arm rows. You start with the heaviest weight for the least reps. Decrease weight and increase reps with each set after. If you reach failure, go lighter next time. You should have one or two left in the tank at the end.

4. Straight Arm Cable Pulldown

Machines allow you to keep tension on the target muscles from start to finish. This is important at this point in the workout because you’ve done three challenging exercises for several reps. The lats are going to be fatigued but using different exercises and angles will be paramount to achieving the goal of getting wider.

When you hold the attachment of choice, you should be away from the stack so the pinned weight doesn’t touch at any point. Make sure your hips are back and your lats are stretched when you start this set.

Related: A Complete Road Map to Building a Thick Muscular Back

As you pull the weight down, bring your hips forward too. You should feel like the handle and your hips are meeting in the middle. Bringing the hips in like this will activate the lower portion of the lats so the entire lats will feel it. By the end of the set, they will be burning but that is a good thing.

Use whatever handle you want on the cable but my preference is the rope because you can spread the ends and pull in further, getting a greater contraction.

5. Seated Row

We’re coming to the finish and we want to go home knowing we did the job effectively. Now the focus is on pumping as much blood as possible into the area. This means we should do more reps. However, I don’t want you to go lighter. You should still be working hard at the end of the sets.

When you pull the weight in, stick your chest out and forward. This doesn’t seem like much but you can activate more fibers by doing this. Don’t worry so much about holding the rep when you pull in. Constant motion is best as long as you’re controlled. Get the stretch at the bottom but pull as soon as you reach the peak of that stretch.

Go with a rope attachment or a V-handle so you can use a closer grip. Don’t do anything wider because the middle of the upper back will be doing more work.