Perfect posture, toned muscle and a tapered waistline: If you want to look amazing from every angle, working the latissimus dorsi muscle is a must. While this large back muscle can be targeted using free weights and doing pull-ups, cable exercises are by far and above the best way to get luscious lats.
Latissimus Dorsi Anatomy and Function
The latissimus dorsi is one of the largest muscles of the body. Spanning the middle back in a triangular shape, it attaches along the spine from the seventh thoracic vertebrae to the sacrum and posterior illiac crest. Laterally, it attaches to the lower four ribs, and inserts at the top of the humerus near the shoulder joint. The job of the lats is shoulder adduction, or drawing together of the shoulder blades, shoulder extension and medial rotation. The lats also facilitate respiration and hold the spine in functional alignment, promoting good posture. Perform one to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise, using a challenging weight.
Because the lats fan out with numerous attachments, do both wide and narrow grip pulldowns to work from different angles. Set your cable pulley at the highest notch and sit erect on a bench, chest lifted. Grip a wide bar attachment about shoulder width and exhale as you draw the scapulae down and back, touching the bar to the chest near the collarbone. Inhale and slowly return to your start position, stretching at the top. Use an inverted "V" bar for close pulldowns. Keep the elbows close to the ribs as you pull down to the chest.
A seated row draws the shoulder blades together at the center of the spine. Use a wide bar with a double-ended "U" grip, or grip close with an inverted "V" attachment. Set your pulley level with your mid-trunk and sit erect, chest lifted, feet firmly planted. Gripping the wide bar, exhale and draw the shoulder blades together as you pull the bar toward your ribs. Inhale and slowly return to your start position. Do not pull with your low back or rock forward from the hips. Gripping the "V" bar, graze the ribs with the elbows as you draw the shoulder blades together. Slowly return to start, allowing the shoulder to stretch but immobilizing the hips.
Single Arm Row with Squat
The attachment at the posterior illac crest makes a row and squat combo a good choice for recruiting the latissimus dorsi from its lowest angle. Stand in front of the cable rack and set your pulley at mid-trunk. Grasp a single "U" grip attachment with your right hand, positioning yourself far enough away to maintain cable tension with your arm fully extended. Begin in a squat position, feet shoulder-width with knees aligned over ankles, shoulder extended toward the rack. Fix your gaze on your elbow as you simultaneously draw the shoulder back and rotate the trunk, rising to standing. Fully extend the hips and contract the gluteals. Inhale as you slowly return to your squat position. Repeat on left side.