One of the things that separate the wolves from the sheep in the iron game is back development. It's easy to train the stuff you can see in the mirror. It gives you the "warm and fuzzies" that come from immediate gratification.
But some of the largest and most impressive muscular structures – with the biggest potential for growth – reside on the back side of the body.
A guy who puts in years grinding away on his upper back and lats – embracing the aching stretches and the powerful pulls – will end up with a physique that ultimately blows away the one developed by the dude who's just pressing, flying, and curling his way to mediocrity.
So let's get into the good stuff. Use these four lat-dominant finishers to level up your lat game and end your back day with a bang!
1 – The Rack Pull-Up Marathon
Fellow T Nation contributor Paul Carter has sung the praises of rack pull-ups here before. If you're after more width, this is a monster. This finisher uses the rack pull-up as the foundation and, from there, we're just going to manipulate leverage and body position to create a nasty mechanical drop set.
Set up a bar in a Smith machine or rack at upper-chest height. Set an incline bench out in front of you to prop up your straight legs. When you're at the top of the pull-up, your thighs should be as close to parallel to the floor as possible.
Then do the following:
- Rack Pull-Ups: max reps
- Modified Behind-The-Neck Rack Pull-Ups: max reps
- Modified Rack Pull-Ups: max reps
- Feet-Elevated Scap Depressions: max reps
Use straps. Don't take any rest between any of the above exercises, outside of what it takes to transition. On the second and third exercises, use as little lower-body assistance as necessary to complete the reps.
2 – Pulldown Lollapalooza
This is an efficient mechanical drop set requiring only a high pulley and a rope attachment. You won't even have to change the weight. Do the following:
- Straight-Arm Pulldowns: 12-15 reps to failure (upright position)
- Straight-Arm Pulldowns: max reps (bent over position)
- Bent-Over "J" Pulldowns: max reps
- Hybrid Motorcycle Row/Face Pull: max reps
- Bent-Over Lat Pulldowns: max reps
Take no rest between exercises. This protocol has a nice flow to it and you'll appreciate the pump.
3 – Twelve Angry Reps
If you have access to a dual-adjustable pulley or freedom-type trainer, give this one a shot. You're going to hold the reps constant from exercise to exercise while also adding a bit of weight at each transition.
Do the following:
- Straight-Arm Pulldowns: 12 reps (use about a 15-rep estimated max weight)
- Split Stance High Rows: 12 reps (add a plate beyond what you used in the first exercise)
- Half-Kneeling Lat Pulldowns: 12-plus reps (add a plate beyond what you used in the second exercise)
- Half-Kneeling Lat Pulldown ISO Hold: for max time
Take about 10 seconds or so to transition between exercises, recover just a bit and change the weight, with the exception of the last exercise where you'll take 20 seconds to recover from the previous movement.
4 – DUDS (Double-Up Drop Sets)
Don't let the "DUDS" acronym fool you: they're far from a dud finisher. Pick literally any lat pulldown variation and do this:
- Do an all-out set to failure (5 to 8 reps)
- Cut the weight in half and double the number of reps (10 to 16)
- Immediately cut the weight in half again and double the number of reps (20-32). If you need to take mini 10-second breaks to finish, go ahead.
I'd suggest doing it on a well-designed pullover machine.
When to Use These
These are finishers. They're not meant to replace heavier, progressive-overload back work. Start your back workouts with the big, basic exercises (rows, chin-ups, pull-ups, lat pulldowns, etc.) and chase rep and/or weight personal records.
The four protocols above are metabolic-stress type work and should come at the end of a workout and only be done for ONE set. Don't abuse these; maybe sprinkle them in every other week or so.