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

  • By: Dave Moffat
  • Date: April 28, 2023
How To Lat Spread Like A Bodybuilder

For many gymgoers, targeting the lat muscles can be a challenging task. Whether it’s due to a lack of understanding or a lack of visibility, getting these muscles firing correctly can be frustrating.

However, the lats are important for creating that muscular and lean physique many aspire to achieve.

Not only do they help make the waist look smaller, but they also create the appearance of wider shoulders, giving a powerful impression.

Strong and developed back muscles are essential for anyone looking to achieve a well-rounded, balanced physique, including regular lifters and physique competitors alike.

At our fitness facility, we provide expert guidance and support to help individuals achieve their aesthetic goals. Our focus on back training ensures that those seeking a V-tapered physique or a more pronounced upper body will love the results.

We understand the impact that a developed back can have on overall appearance, and with our help, clients can achieve an impressive, wing-like spread of the lats. Trust us to help you craft the balanced, defined body you’ve been striving for.

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

Bodybuilders frequently use the lat spread pose to display the impressive latissimus dorsi muscles.

These muscles originate from the lower three or four ribs, the lower six thoracic vertebrae, and iliac crest, and insert on the humerus bone just below the shoulder joint.

Competitors must demonstrate their lats facing the judges or audience, as well as face away for dimension appraisal.

The term “spread” refers to the dramatic flexing of the lats, which makes the back appear wide and dense, even from the front.

It is an essential component of any bodybuilding competition, as it allows participants to showcase their muscular development and hard work.

While it’s not a necessary skill, knowing how to flex your lats can be beneficial in certain situations.

For those dedicated to bodybuilding or fitness, being able to show off well-defined lats can be a source of motivation to continue pushing oneself to achieve their goals.

Knowing how to pose your lats effectively can help you get credit for your hard work and dedication. With a tutorial available, it may be worth taking the time to learn how to properly flex and display your lats.

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, leading to improved performance in your favorite activities.

1. Reverse-Incline Lat Pulldown

The reverse-incline lat pulldown is a popular exercise among those looking to strengthen their back muscles. One key factor in this exercise is the neutral grip, which keeps the arms close to the body and focuses on the lat muscles.

For added stability and targeting of the lower lat muscles, performing pulldowns and rows with the torso supported on a bench is recommended.

The development of the lower lat fibers can lead to a desirable “cobra-hood” effect when spread, making the waist appear smaller while the back appears broader. 

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.

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 and 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 an effective exercise that targets the lower lats. Utilizing single-grip handles with soft, spongy material enhances the comfort and grip during the exercise, allowing for maximum focus on form and contraction.

By moving the hands further apart, one can increase the range of motion and engage more muscle fibers in the back.

Bringing the elbows closer to the hips during the exercise ensures a full contraction of the lower lats, resulting in toned and defined muscles.

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, keeping 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, pulling 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, as 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 increasing the weight as your strength and skill improve over time.

3. Reverse-Incline Dumbbell Row

The Reverse-Incline Dumbbell Row is a dynamic exercise that targets the lats and rhomboids in the middle back, creating a “rear lat-spread pose”.

By developing this area, the overall width of the back is increased, giving you a fuller and more defined look.

Using a bench removes the ability to cheat or use momentum, allowing the target muscles to be worked in near isolation, ensuring maximum benefit. It’s a challenging exercise with very specific targeting that can help you achieve your desired aesthetic.

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. As you lift the weights, focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement to engage 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 and 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.

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, ultimately resulting 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 not only help build strength in your upper body, but 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, while not a commonly used exercise, 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 that 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.

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Hi, I'm Dave Moffat the founder and Chief Editor of 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.