The 5 Best Exercises For Thick Lats

Written by Tihomir Stefanov, M.S.(C), PT

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Attention all gym-goers with lats that could use some extra lovin’! 

Are you tired of feeling self-conscious about your back muscles? 

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Do you find yourself constantly trying to hide your thin, wimpy lats under baggy shirts? 

Well, it’s time to say goodbye to those bird-like muscles and hello to some serious thickness. 

We know the struggle is real, which is why we’ve compiled a list of the 5 best exercises for thick lats. 

With these moves in your workout routine, you’ll be able to skip the chicken wing emoji and go straight for the buffalo wing emoji. 

Imagine the envy of your gym buddies as you effortlessly throw around heavy weights, flexing your newly acquired thick and muscular back. 

No more hiding in shame. It’s time to embrace your inner beast and show off those lats with pride.

Are you ready to learn more about the best back/lat exercises and their variations?
Let’s get to it!

It’s Not Just Lats

The back musculature is a complex system of muscles that work together to provide stability, strength, and mobility. 

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While the lats, or latissimus dorsi, are certainly a major component of the back, they are just one piece of the puzzle. 

Developing a strong and well-defined back requires targeting all of the muscles that make up the back, including the traps, rhomboids, and erector spinae. 

In short, while lats are certainly important, true back development involves more than just focusing on these muscles alone.

Why Back Muscles Matter

Having a well-developed back can provide numerous benefits, both aesthetically and for overall skeletal health. 

From a visual standpoint, a strong and defined back can enhance overall body proportions and create a balanced, muscular physique. 

In terms of health, a strong back is essential for proper posture and can help to prevent back pain and injuries. 

The muscles of the back work to support the spine and protect it from strain and stress, especially during activities that require lifting or carrying. 

Strong back muscles can also improve performance in sports and other physical activities. 

Think of it this way – investing time and effort into developing a strong and healthy back can pay off in numerous ways.

Top 5 Back Exercises

Alright, so we briefly covered two major points – for one, the back is a complex chain of muscles, and lats are just one piece of the big puzzle.

Secondly, the implications of a well-developed back go way beyond aesthetics.

Sure, a thick, muscular back is a major staple in terms of aesthetics, but it also provides stability and can help prevent dreaded back pain and injuries.

Now without further ado, let’s have a look at the exercises that can help you target the back all-around, with, of course, a strong focus on the lats.


If there is one exercise that reigns supreme for targeting and building the lats, it is the humble pull-up. 

Without a doubt, this is a top-one on our list of the best exercises for thick lats!

Pull-ups are a compound exercise that involves multiple joints and muscle groups, making them an extremely effective and efficient way to work the lats and other back muscles. 

Pull-ups require a good level of strength and can be challenging for even experienced gym-goers, making them an excellent test of upper body and lat strength. 

Additionally, pull-ups can be easily made more complex by adding extra weights or even switching to a wider grip. 

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All in all, the pull-up is a tried and true exercise that should have a place in any back training routine.

Here are the steps to a traditional pull-up that emphasizes on the lats:

  1. Hang on a pull-up bar with your hands placed slightly wider than shoulder width
  2. Keep your legs straight, together, and slightly in front of the body (this allows you to engage the core)
  3. Look up slightly
  4. Engage your shoulder blades, then pull yourself up, with your elbows following the line of the torso (avoid pulling your elbows back)
  5. Once your chin is at the level of the bar, hold very briefly and go back down slowly
  6. Repeat!


One of the great things about pull-ups is that they have multiple variations that can be well-utilized in a training program. 

While the traditional pull-up involves an overhand grip with the hands placed slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, there are many other grip and hand position options that can be used to target different areas of the back and challenge the muscles in different ways. 

Some examples of variations include narrow grip pull-ups, chin-ups (with an underhand grip), and wide grip pull-ups. 

Each of these variations can be incorporated into a training program to provide a diverse range of training stimuli and keep workouts interesting. 

By experimenting with different pull-up variations, you can more effectively target and strengthen all areas of your back.

Lat Pulldowns

In addition to pull-ups, lat pulldowns are another effective exercise for targeting and building the lats and other back muscles. 

They may not sound like one of the best exercises for thick lats, but don’t doubt them just because they involve using a cable machine!

Lat pulldowns are usually done on a cable machine, and they can be a great substitute for pull-ups if you are unable to perform them or need to scale the exercise down. 

Lat pulldowns allow you to adjust the weight and use a variety of grip and hand positions, making them a versatile exercise that can be tailored to your specific strength and training goals. 

They can be particularly useful for beginners or those with limited upper body strength who may struggle with pull-ups. 

Here are the steps to a standard lat pulldown:

  1. Grab the bar wider than shoulder width
  2. Sit down, tucking your legs under the pads (make sure you’re not tip-toeing, and keep your feet planted to the ground
  3. Lean back slightly and look up 
  4. Pull the bar down until it is slightly under your collarbone
  5. Pause very briefly then go back up slowly
  6. Repeat!


One of the great things about lat pull-downs is that there are a variety of variations that you can try in order to challenge your muscles and keep your workouts interesting. 

Some variations include using different attachments, such as a narrow grip bar, a wide grip bar, or a V-shaped bar, which can help to target different areas of the lats. 

You can also try using a single arm to perform lat pull-downs, which can help to improve muscle imbalances and increase the difficulty of the exercise. 

Other variations include using different tempos, such as slowing down the eccentric (lowering) phase or using pauses at the bottom or top of the movement. 

By incorporating a variety of lat pull-down variations into your workouts, you can challenge your muscles in new ways and keep your body on an adaptation streak!


In addition to vertical pulling exercises like pull-ups and pulldowns, it is also a good idea to include horizontal pulling exercises in your back training routine. 

Horizontal pulling exercises, also known as rows, involve pulling a weight toward your body from a horizontal position. 

Rows are some of the best exercises for thick lats, and overall back development, as they target the middle and upper back muscles, including the lats, traps, and rhomboids. 

There are many different variations of rows that can be performed using a variety of equipment, such as dumbbells, barbells, cables, or machines. 

Some examples of rows include bent-over rows, seated rows, inverted rows, and single-arm rows. 

By including both vertical and horizontal pulling exercises in your training program, you can more effectively target and strengthen all areas of your back.

T-Bar Rows

Now, out of all the different row variations, our favorite is the T-bar row, and it is, hands down one of our very best exercises for thick lats.

The t-bar row is a great exercise for targeting the lats and other back muscles. 

It involves rowing a weight towards your body while standing on one end of a barbell that has weight plates on the same end. 

Here are the steps to perform a t-bar row:

  1. Place a barbell on one end, in the cylindrical T-Bar Row Attachment
  2. Load weight disks on the other side of the barbell
  3. Take the V-shaped attachment from the cable row machine
  4. Step with your feet at shoulder width over the bar so that it stands between your legs
  5. Bend your knees slightly, bend over and grab the bar with the V-shaped attachment 
  6. Keep your back straight and lift the weight off the ground, and look down
  7. Row the weight toward your body, until the  disks are close to your chest
  8. Squeeze the back muscles, then go back down slowly

NOTE: Make sure that your elbows stay close to your torso for the entire duration of the pull

Rack Pulls

Last but not least, we have rack pulls. Rack pulls, also known as deadlifts performed from a raised position, can be one of the best exercises for thick lats and building a powerful back. 

Rack pulls involve pulling a barbell off of a rack or platform from a position that is higher than the traditional deadlift starting position. 

By starting the lift from a higher position, you can place more emphasis on the back and less on the legs. 

When performed with proper form, rack pulls can be a highly effective exercise for building strength and size in the back muscles. 

In short, rack pulls can be the final nail in the coffin for a thick and muscular back.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the lats are an important muscle group that plays a key role in overall back development. 

But what are the best exercises for thick lats?

If you’re looking to build thick and muscular lats, the exercises listed in this article should be a valuable addition to your training routine. 

Pull-ups, lat pulldowns, rows, t-bar rows, and rack pulls are all effective exercises for targeting and strengthening the lats and other back muscles. 

By including a variety of these exercises in your workouts and challenging yourself with progressively heavier weights, you can build a strong and impressive back. 

Remember to always focus on proper form and technique to get the most out of these exercises and avoid injury. 

With consistent training and dedication, you can achieve the thick, muscular lats you’ve always wanted.

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