Your latissimus dorsi muscles, lats for short, are located on the side of your back and link your arms to your torso. These large, wing-shaped muscles are responsible for extension and adduction of your shoulder joint, as well as medial rotation -- the action of turning your arm in toward the mid line of your body. The most conventional way to train your lats is by performing lateral or lat pull downs, but several body weight exercises also can target this area.
Pullups are an advanced movement and are similar to lat pull downs. Grasp a sturdy overhead bar using a grip slightly wider than shoulder width. Hang off the bar so that your arms are extended but tense and your feet are off the floor. Bend your arms and pull your chin up and over the bar. Concentrate on leading with your elbows to maximize your lat recruitment in this exercise. Extend your arms and slowly lower yourself back to the starting position. Continue for the desired number of repetitions.
Chinups are a variation of pullups that place your arms in a biomechanically advantageous position. This allows you to perform more repetitions. Grasp an overhead bar with an underhand, shoulder-width grip. Hang with your arms extended and your feet off the floor. Pull your chin up and over the bar while trying to drive your elbows down and back. Slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position and repeat. You can make this exercise more demanding by wearing a weighted vest.
Inverted rows, also known as body rows, replicate bent-over rows, which are normally performed using a barbell or dumbbells. Set the bar on a squat rack or Smith machine to hip height. Sit on the floor below the bar, then grasp it with a shoulder width, overhand grip. Extend your legs and lift your hips off the floor. Your weight should now be supported on your heels and hand only. Keep your body straight, bend your arms and pull your lower chest/upper abdomen up to touch the bar. Slowly lower yourself back to full arm extension, then repeat. Make this exercise more demanding by elevating your feet or resting a weight across your hips.
Ab Wheel Rollouts
This exercise is normally associated with abdominal training, but is also a powerful and demanding lat exercise. Kneel down and place your ab wheel on the floor in front of you. Grasp the ab wheel and with straight arms extend your hips and push the ab wheel away from you. Lower your chest as close to the floor as possible. From this stretched position, contract your abs and lats, and pull yourself back up to the starting position. Do not allow your lower back to arch excessively, as this might lead to injury. For a more advanced workout, perform the rollout from standing. If you do not have an ab roller, you can perform this exercise using a barbell.
- "Anatomy of Exercise: A Trainer's Inside Guide to Your Workout"; Pat Manocchia; 2009
- "Never Gymless: An Excuse-free System for Total Fitness"; Ross Enamait; 2006
- "You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises for Men and Women"; Mark Lauren; 2010