How To Lat Spread Like A Bodybuilder – Tips and Exercise Guide

  • By: Dave Moffat
  • Date: December 13, 2023
How To Lat Spread Like A Bodybuilder

For a lot of people who go to the gym, working out their lat muscles can be hard. This might be because they don’t really understand how to do it or because they can’t see these muscles very well. It can be really annoying when these muscles don’t work the way you want them to.

But, the lats are really important if you want to look strong and lean, which is a goal many people have.

Not only do they make your waist look smaller, but they also make your shoulders look wider, which can make you look really strong.

Having a strong and built-up back is super important for anyone who wants to have a balanced and well-rounded body. This includes people who lift weights regularly and those who compete in physique competitions.

At our gym, we have experts who can guide and support you to reach your fitness goals. We focus on back training so that those who want a V-shaped body or a more muscular upper body will love how they look.

We know how much having a developed back can change how you look overall, and with our help, you can get an impressive, wing-like spread of the lats. Trust us to help you create the balanced, defined body you’ve been working towards.

What Is A Lat Spread and Why Do People Do It?

Bodybuilders often do the lat spread pose to show off their super impressive latissimus dorsi muscles.

These muscles start from the lower three or four ribs, the lower six backbone pieces, and the top of the hip bone. They connect to the bone in your upper arm right below the shoulder joint.

When competitors do this pose, they need to have their lats facing the judges or the audience. They also need to face away so people can see how big their muscles are from different angles.

The word “spread” is about how bodybuilders flex their lats to make their back look really wide and thick, even when you’re looking at them from the front.

This pose is really important in any bodybuilding competition. It lets the competitors show off the muscles they’ve worked so hard to build.

Even though you don’t have to know how to do this, being able to flex your lats can be helpful in some situations.

Those who are really into bodybuilding or fitness may be motivated to keep working hard to reach their goals by being able to show off well-built lats.

Knowing how to pose your lats the right way can help people see all the hard work and dedication you’ve put in. There are tutorials available, so it might be worth it to learn how to flex and show off your lats properly.

lat spread

Lat Strengthening Exercises

When it comes to upper body exercises, building strong lats is essential for activities such as climbing and swimming.

These major muscles extend from the upper arms to the lower back, playing a crucial role in pulling movements. To target and strengthen your lats, there are many common exercises to choose from, such as pullups, chinups, lat-pulldowns, and rows.

By incorporating variations of these exercises, you can better isolate and challenge your lats. This can lead to improved performance in your favorite activities.

1. Reverse-Incline Lat Pulldown

The reverse-incline lat pulldown is a favorite exercise for people who want to make their back muscles stronger. One important thing about this exercise is the neutral grip. This means you keep your arms close to your body and it really works out the lat muscles.

To make sure you’re stable and to work out the lower lat muscles even more, it’s a good idea to do pulldowns and rows while your upper body is resting on a bench.

When you work out the lower lat fibers, it can make your back look like a cobra’s hood when you spread it out. This makes your waist look smaller and your back look wider, which a lot of people think looks really cool.

Step-by-Step Guide to Performing a Reverse-Incline Lat Pulldown:

Step 1: Prepare the equipment and set up your body position – First, place an adjustable bench on a 45-60 degree angle in front of a cable station with a high pulley. Attach single-grip handles or a lat-pulldown bar to the pulleys. Then, rest your chest on the bench and grasp the handles with palms facing each other. Ensure that your feet are firmly planted on the ground for stability and support.

Step 2: Ready the body for the movement – Take deep breaths and engage your core muscles to stabilize your spine. Maintain a neutral position of your head, neck and spine throughout the movement. Keep your shoulders down and squeezed together to activate the lats.

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Step 3: Pull the handles down until elbows reach hips – Begin the movement by pulling the handles down towards your hips. Lower the weight under control. Avoid jerking or swinging motions that can cause injury. Focus on engaging your lats and biceps throughout the movement. Ensure that the elbows are close to the sides of the body to maximize lat activation. 

Step 4: Maintain proper form and control the weight – Be mindful not to pull further than arms being in line with the body as it will shift emphasis onto the upper back instead of the lats. Hold the position at the bottom of the movement for a brief pause to maximize muscle activation.

Avoid hunching your shoulders or rounding your back as it can lead to injury. Finally, slowly release the handles back to the starting position and repeat the movement for the desired number of reps. 

2. Close-Grip Cable Pulldown

The close-grip cable pulldown is a great workout that really works the lower lats. Using handles that have a soft, squishy material makes it more comfortable to hold onto and helps you focus on doing the exercise right.

If you move your hands farther apart, you can stretch and use more of the muscles in your back.

By bringing your elbows closer to your hips while you do the exercise, you make sure the lower lats are working as much as they can. This leads to muscles that look toned and defined.

Here is a step by step guide on how to do a Close-Grip Cable Pulldown:

Step 1: Set up the cable pulldown machine with a close-grip attachment. Sit facing the machine and adjust the seat so that your feet rest flat on the ground and your thighs are securely in place under the leg pads. Grasp the handles with a neutral grip. Keep them close together and positioned above your head.

Step 2: Engage your core muscles and lean forward slightly, keeping your shoulders down and your back straight. As you exhale, pull the handles down towards your chest, keeping your elbows close to your sides. Focus on engaging your lats. Pull with a slow and controlled motion until the handles come down to your chest.

Step 3: Pause briefly at the bottom of the movement, squeezing your shoulder blades together and feeling the contraction in your upper back muscles. Avoid using momentum or jerking movements to pull the weight down. This can result in injury and reduce the effectiveness of the exercise.

Step 4: Slowly release the weight back up to the starting position, keeping your elbows close to your sides and maintaining tension in your muscles. Remember to breathe in as you release the weight upward. Repeat the exercise for the desired number of reps. Gradually increase the weight as your strength and skill improve over time.

3. Reverse-Incline Dumbbell Row

The Reverse-Incline Dumbbell Row is a cool exercise that works out the lats and rhomboids in your middle back. This makes it look like you’re doing a “rear lat-spread pose”.

When you work out this part of your body, it makes your back wider. This gives you a fuller look that’s really well-defined.

Using a bench helps you do the exercise right because you can’t cheat or use momentum. This means the muscles you’re trying to work out get all the attention, which makes the exercise more effective. It’s a tough exercise that really focuses on certain muscles and can help you get the look you want.

Here is a step by step guide on how to do a Reverse-Incline Dumbbell Row:

Step 1: Begin by setting up a bench at a 45-degree angle, ensuring that it is securely positioned to avoid any accidents or injuries. Grasp a pair of dumbbells with your arms fully extended at your sides and palms facing towards your body.

Step 2: Position yourself on the bench with your chest against the bench and your feet firmly planted on the ground. Allow your shoulder blades to spread apart, making sure that your back is straight and your head is in a neutral position.

Step 3: Start the exercise by rowing the weights towards your side, keeping your elbows pointed at a 45-degree angle away from your torso. Lift the weights and focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement. This engages the targeted muscles effectively.

Step 4: Lower the weights back down slowly and under control to the starting position, making sure to maintain proper form throughout the exercise. If necessary, use wrist straps to reinforce your grip. They can help avoid hand fatigue that may hinder your performance.

4. Kelso Shrug

The Kelso Shrug is a powerful exercise that targets the upper traps. Its effectiveness lies in the way the shrugging motions are performed while standing upright.

This movement is ideal for those looking to widen and thicken the middle part of their back, resulting in a powerful lat spread from behind.

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But it doesn’t stop there. When you perform the Kelso Shrug with chest support, it hits not just the upper traps but also other fibers in the upper back.

To perform Kelso shrugs, follow these simple steps:

Step 1: Begin in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms straight down by your sides. Grasp a pair of dumbbells in each hand, with your palms facing your body.

Step 2: Slowly raise your shoulders up toward your ears, keeping your arms straight and elbows slightly bent. As you lift your shoulders, squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for a second or two.

Step 3: Lower your shoulders back down to their starting position and then repeat the movement for several more repetitions. As you perform the shrugs, focus on keeping your neck straight and your chin tucked in.

Step 4: Continue with the Kelso shrugs until you reach failure, which is the point where your body can no longer physically perform any additional repetitions. At the end of the set, take a brief break and then repeat the exercise for several more sets, as desired.

5. Neutral-Grip Pullup

Neutral-grip pullups are a valuable exercise for those looking to engage their lats and keep their elbows from flaring out. By maintaining a neutral grip with palms facing each other, these pullups help keep the elbows in front of the body. This results in increased activation of the lats.

According to fitness expert Tony Catanzano, this is where the lats are most active. Incorporating neutral-grip pull-ups into your workout routine can help build upper body strength. It can also improve your form during other exercises.

Here is a step by step guide on how to do a neutral-grip pullup:

Step 1: Find a sturdy pullup bar that can hold your weight. The bar should be high enough so that your feet do not touch the ground when you hang from it.

Step 2: Stand in front of the pullup bar and grip it with both hands using a neutral grip. This means that your palms should be facing each other, and your thumbs should be pointing towards the ceiling.

Step 3: Make sure your grip is secure and your arms are fully extended. Your shoulders should be relaxed, and your core should be engaged.

Step 4: Slowly lift yourself off the ground by bending your elbows and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Keep your elbows close to your body and your chin tucked in.

Step 5: Continue to pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar. Pause for a moment and hold the position.

Step 6: Lower yourself down slowly and with control, until your arms are fully extended. Avoid swinging or jerking your body, as this can lead to injury.

Step 7: Repeat the exercise for the desired number of reps.

A Lat Flexing and Spreading Tutorial

Lat spreading is not a commonly used exercise. However, it is essential for anyone looking to build their back muscles and improve their posture. This exercise targets the latissimus dorsi, the largest muscle of the back. It plays a crucial role in shoulder mobility, arm movement, and overall posture.

Here is a three-step guide to help you master the art of lat spreading:

  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together: To start building a foundation for a great lat spread, focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together. Imagine you’re holding a pencil between your shoulder blades as you try to bring them closer together. This will activate your lats and help you create a firm foundation for your spread.
  • Drive your shoulders down: Once your shoulder blades are squeezed together, you want to focus on driving your shoulders down. This will help you create more space and depth in your lat spread. Pretend like you’re trying to push the floor away with your hands as you drive your shoulders down.
  • Roll your shoulders forward and slightly upward: Finally, to showcase your lat spread, you want to roll your shoulders forward and slightly upward. This will help create a wider look and emphasize the V-shape of your torso. As you roll your shoulders forward, lift your chest and ribcage nice and high and proud.

Remember, good shoulder mobility is necessary for an impressive lat spread. Make sure you’re stretching and working on your shoulder mobility regularly to get the best results.

Dave Moffat

Hi, I'm Dave Moffat the founder and Chief Editor of and certified International Personal Trainer and Certified Nutritionist. My passion has always been bodybuilding but with 15 years' experience in weight loss programs too, it's hard not to mention all that when you're working at your fitness level fullest (I hope). When Im not in the gym or spending time away from my family i often think about what advice would help others achieve theirs goals just like these inspired mine.