Tip: Do This First on Back Day

Here's how to fire up your lats to build more muscle and strength.


Your lats are the biggest muscles in your upper body. Developing a mind-muscle connection with them is mandatory for developing a wide back. If you can't properly engage the lats, you'll always struggle with exercises like pull-ups, rows, and deadlifts.

Have a hard time feeling your lats work? Do some activation work first on back day. Here are three lat activation exercises you should perform prior to pulling. Just 2 sets of 10 reps each will do the trick.

One-Arm Cable Adduction

  1. Set up the cable at shoulder-height. Stand with your palm facing down and arm out to the side.
  2. Keeping your arm straight, pull the cable down and in towards your side.
  3. As it nears your leg, rotate your shoulder so that your palm faces away from you. Make sure your hand ends up about where your back pocket is.
  4. Pause for one or two seconds at the bottom of each rep and squeeze to feel your lats engage.

Straight-Arm Lat Pulldown

  1. Begin with straight arms, a slight hinge in your hips, and a forward lean so that your lats are full stretched.
  2. Pull the bar down toward your waist and push your hips forward to meet the bar.
  3. Finish in a straight standing position with your hands near your thighs and your hips extended.
  4. Pause for one or two seconds at the bottom of each rep as you squeeze your lats and glutes.

Wide-Grip Barbell Lat Pulse

  1. Begin with a wide grip on the barbell and a slight forward lean. Rotate your shoulders so that your elbows face outward.
  2. Extend your shoulders so that you lift the barbell away from the legs.
  3. Control the bar while lowering it back toward your legs.
  4. Once your feel the bar touch the back of your legs, extend your shoulders again.
  5. Do this exercise in a "pulsing" motion to keep tension on your lats.
TJ Kuster is a certified athletic trainer (ATC) and certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS), specializing in mobility and injury prevention. He coaches at Method Sports Performance in Bloomington, IL.