Though many bodybuilders and other weight lifters love to train their chest, biceps, and other "mirror" muscles, nothing makes a physique more impressive than a huge back. Wide, thick lats and traps give the body that powerful look that lets people know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are truly strong. Here is the best lat workout for building this monstrous back.
1. Barbell Rows
Most people like to start their lat workout with pull-ups or some other vertical pulling movement, but I prefer to do a heavy movement like the barbell row when I'm fresh. The barbell row, next to the deadlift, is the best builder of thickness and width in the middle and upper back.
After warm-ups, do two main work sets. One of these should be very heavy, about 6-8 reps, and with some slightly "sloppy" form. The second should be a little lighter, with the reps in the 12-15 range, and with a little bit stricter form. Use a belt and wrist straps if you need them.
2. Parallel Grip Pull-ups
While many people advise bodybuilders to focus on wide-grip pull-ups in their lat workout to build a wide back, I have found the close, parallel grip to work well for this purpose. It's counterintuitive that a close-grip movement would build width, but I have found this to be the case with my back workouts.
Your back should already be warmed up from the rows, so just do a couple of warm-up stes of 3-5 reps to stretch your lats a little more. When you're ready for your work sets, you can either add weight to yourself with a pull-up belt or use your own bodyweight.
Your degree of fatigue and strength on pull-ups will determine how much weight, if any, you can add to your body. If your lats are already very fatigued from the barbell rows, and you can't do very many pull-ups with even body weight, do the pull-down with a close-grip DD handle.
3. Chest-Supported Row
Chest supported rows offer many of the same muscle-building benefits to your lat workout as barbell rows do, but they keep your form strict and your lower back out of the movement. For this reason, it is one of the best all-around back exercises, though not quite as beneficial as free weight rows.
There are many varieties of chest-supported rows. There are some that are simply a long t-bar handle for holding plates and a chest pad, while some are more complex plate-loaded or cable-stack machines. My favorite is the Hammer Strength variety, but you can use whatever is available to you.
You can also do this exercise one arm at a time, depending on the machine you are using. Whether you do one-armed or two-armed rows, work up to 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps. Make sure you keep your form tight and range of motion relatively long.
4. Machine Pull-down
At this point in the lat workout, your upper back will be pretty fatigued. However, truck through the next exercise to really give your lat width a boost. There are many different machines that take you through the pull-down movement, so again, pick the one you like best. Personally, I like to use the one that puts your hands at an angled under-hand position.
You have already done three exercises at this point, so your lats will be very fatigued. However, they can take a lot of punishment and keep going strong, so work up to 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps, just like you did with the chest-supported row. Pull through the pain, and reap the benefits of your hard workout.
5. Seated Close-Grip Cable Row
This last exercise in your lat workout is optional, but I think it can give your back, as well as your grip and forearms, a good boost in muscle mass. Use the rowing station at the cable stack, and attach a close-grip DD handle. The movement is pretty self-explanatory, just like the other rows you have done. Use your own judgment and feel for your lats to determine how much body English you should use in the movement.
Though you should use straps as much as you need for the previous four back exercises, you should try to avoid them here. Put some chalk on your hands, and grip the DD handle as hard as possible while rowing. Your grip will probably fatigue before your back does, so do 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps to hit your forearms and lats as hard as possible.