Best Horizontal Pulling Exercises to Build Huge Lats
Fitness

8 Best Horizontal Pulling Exercises to Build Huge Lats

Building a huge back means having wide, thick lats. Officially called the latissimus dorsi, this muscle group provides the V taper from a wide upper back down to a narrow waist. Few things are impressive on the male physique. To develop those lats, you’ve got to hit the muscle through its full range of motion. That means horizontal pulling. Here are the 8 best horizontal pull exercises you need to be doing to build a better back.

1. Bent Over Row

Why It’s a Good Lat Exercise

The bent-over barbell row allows you to use a heavy with through the lat’s range of motion. It’s a fundamental power move to make you stronger and to thicken the lats while also hitting the rhomboids and upper traps.

Step By Step How To

1. Stand in front of a loaded barbell with feet shoulder-width apart.

2. Maintaining a neutral back, bend down to grab the bar just wider than shoulder-width grip. In the starting position, your knees should be bent and your torso at a 30-degree angle.

3. Lift the bar from the floor and then row the bar up to your ribcage.

4. Lower under control and repeat.

5. Do 3 sets of 8-12 reps.

Equipment

Barbell

Training Tip

Do not swing your body up as you bring the bar up. Squeeze the shoulder blade together in the top position. 

2. Single-Arm Row

Why It’s a Good Lat Exercise

The single-arm dumbbell rows allow for unilateral training, which means that you can focus on each side of the lat muscle as well as the trapezius muscles. The one-arm dumbbell row also allows for a greater range of motion than if you were using a barbell.

Step By Step How To

1. Grab a dumbbell and hold it in your right hand. Lean your left arm on a bench or dumbbell rack and stagger your stance, with your torso at a 45-degree angle.

2. Row the dumbbell up to your ribcage.

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3. Lower slowly and repeat.

4. Do 3 sets of 12 reps.

3. Cable Row

Why It’s a Good Lat Exercise

The cable pulley row allows you to adjust the direction of resistance to better align with the direction of muscle fiber. The horizontal cable row also has the benefit of early phase loading, so that the pull is harder at the beginning and easier at the end.

Step By Step How To

1. Position yourself in a seated row station and grab the handles. Your knees should be slightly bent.

2. In the starting position the handles should be pulled into your navel and your torso upright with a neutral spine.

3. Extend forward as far as possible to stretch the lats.

4. Pull the handles back to your belly button.

5. Do 3 sets of 10-15 reps.

Equipment

Cable row pulley

Training Tip

Maintain a neutral position through the back.

4. Resistance Band Row

Why It’s a Good Lat Exercise

The resistance band row allows you to get an effective horizontal pulling exercise at home without having to buy expensive barbells and dumbbells. Working with resistance bands also makes the exercise harder towards the end of the movement.

Step By Step How To

1. Attach a resistance band by its anchor to a secure upright about a foot from the floor level. Sit on the floor about three feet from the anchor, facing it.

2. Grab the resistance bad handles and row into your navel area.

3. Extend your arms back to stretch the lats.

4. Do 3 sets of 12 reps. 

Equipment

Resistance exercise band

Training Tip

Maintain a neutral back at all times. 

5. T-Bar Rows

Why It’s a Good Lat Exercise

The T-Bar Row allows you to load the bar to provide a maximum load on the upper back muscles as you move them through their full range of motion. 

Step By Step How To

1. Straddle a T-Bar Row bar and take hold of the V-handle with a neutral grip.

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2. From a starting position with your arms fully extended and knees slightly bent, pull up to the ribcage area.

3. Lower and repeat.

Equipment

T-Bar Row bar

Training Tip

Do not arch up with your torso as you pull up; squeeze the upper back muscles in the top position. Squeeze the shoulder blade together in the contracted position. 

6. Chest Supported Dumbbell Row

Why It’s a Good Lat Exercise

The chest-supported dumbbell row is a stricter version than the standard barbell row as your body is supported by the bench. This means that you cannot cheat by arching your body up as you pull. It also reduces your risk of injury.

Step By Step How To

1. Set an inclined bench to a 45-degree angle and get on it in a face-down position, with a pair of dumbbells in your hands. Extend your arms down towards the floor.

2. Pull the dumbbells up as high as you can.

3. Lower under control and repeat.

4. Do 3 sets of 6-10 reps. 

Equipment

Incline bench, dumbbells

Training Tip

Keep your feet flat on the floor; do not lift your torso from the bench.

7. Suspension Trainer Row

Why It’s a Good Lat Exercise

The suspension band row allows you to do horizontal pulling exercises at home using just a set of straps and your body weight.

Step By Step How To

1. Set up a suspension band on an overhead anchor and grab the strap attachment. Lean back so that your body is at a 45-degree angle and your arms are fully extended.

2. Pull your body back to an upright position.

3. Lower back to the start position under control.

4. Do 3 sets of 10-15 reps.

Equipment

Suspension Trainer

Training Tip

Be sure to get a full range motion; to make the exercise harder,  move further away from the anchor. Keep your core tight. 

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8. Low Row Machine Row

Why It’s a Good Lat Exercise

The Low Row Machine is chest supported row exercise that is ideal if you want a very strict movement for the lats that will give you a great range of motion. 

Step By Step How To

1. Position yourself on the low row machine and grab the handles.

2. Pull the handles back to the chest pad.

3. Reverse the motion to return to the start position.

4. Do 3 sets of 12-15 reps. 

Equipment

Low Row machine

Training Tip

This exercise can be done with both arms or one arm at a time.

Conclusion

Experiment with the 8 horizontal pull exercise variations described in this article to discover which ones work best for you. Then put 2 or 3 of them together to create your upper back exercise routine. I recommend doing a total of 10-12 set for lats, with rep ranges between 6-15,  and training them twice per week.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I strengthen my back muscles at home?

You can strengthen your back muscle at home by investing in a pull-up bar. The pull-up is the best of the vertical pulling exercises to build strength through the muscles of the upper back. I also recommend buying a set of resistance exercise bands so that you can do horizontal and vertical rowing exercises at home without needing cable machines or free weights.

Why work your back and biceps together?

Working your back and biceps together makes sense because when you work the back your biceps are activated. As a result, the biceps muscles are thoroughly warmed up and pumped with blood if you train them directly after working the back muscles.

Do push ups work the back?

No, push ups do not work the back. This exercise hits the chest muscles, as well as the deltoids and triceps.

Steve Theunissen

Steve Theunissen is a former gym owner and personal trainer based in Tauranga, New Zealand. He is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness, and fat loss.

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