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The lats can be hard to grow sometimes due to use of ineffective exercises for activating them. Often, it is thought that lat pull downs are the best way to activate the lats. However that’s not exactly the case. While lat pulldowns are a great exercise they also lead to an activation of the traps and the rhomboids which can take away from the lats. Another mistake that is often made when trying to target the lats with rowing motions is allowing the shoulder blades to protract.

  1. When looking at emg comparison of lat pulldowns, rows, and rows with locked shoulder blades, the rows with locked shoulder blades showed a greater activation of the lat muscles.
  2. The Row with protracted shoulder blades also showed a greater lat activation than the lat pull down, showing that lat pulldowns are not the best exercise for activating the lats.
  3. While the study had some limitations with load choice, however a second study comparing lat activation between shoulder extension adduction and internal rotation showed that the lats achieve the greatest activation during shoulder extension.


These results show us that rowing motions through extension of the shoulder joint are superior at activating the lat muscles, specifically with the shoulder blades retracted. This can add a positive benefit as well as the isometric contraction of the shoulder blades can help strengthen those muscles improving scapular stability. Another note to rowing motions, specifically barbell rows; many people choose the pronated grip which does not allow for the best range of motion and activation of the lats due to the position of the shoulder joint. Supinated grip (palms up) allows for the arms to be adducted already and a greater extension motion.

Two exercise that should be in your back day are the bent over rows supinated grip and lat pushdowns (extension). However don’t neglect the middle and lower traps which are crucial for scapular stability.


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