5 Isolation Exercises For Stronger Lats

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Isolation workouts help you train specific muscles without fatiguing others a lot. What are some isolation exercises that target your lats?

Isolation exercises are movements that mainly focus on one muscle or muscle group at the same time. Back muscles like the latissimus dorsi are generally difficult to isolate.

Inevitably you will engage other muscles to some extent but there is still a big difference with compound exercises.

Your lat, also known as latissimus dorsi, is a big muscle located on your middle to lower back. Due to the movements that engage it back equipment like the cable machine is often used to target it.

Even so, some of these lat isolation exercises can be done with free weights.

The best weights for isolation exercises vary from exercise to exercise and individual to individual. If you are not sure how much weight would be right for you, you can start with light weights and slowly build up from there.

Keep in mind that isolation exercises can lead to muscle imbalances more easily. Make sure you train your deltoids and trapezius sufficiently too.

1. Straight arm pulldown

For the straight-arm pulldown, you will need either a cable machine or resistance bands anchored somewhere high. Take the following steps to do a straight-arm pulldown:

  1. Set the cable machine pull as high as possible and preferably use a straight bar handle. You can also use a variety of other handles.
  2. Grab the handle, take a step or two away from the cable machine, and stand up straight with your feet at more or less shoulder width and your face towards the machine.
  3. Slightly fold your knees and tilt your upper body forward until it is at about a 45-degree angle with the ground while keeping your back straight. Let your slightly less-than-stretched arms point upward toward the cable pulley.
  4. Lower your arms until they reach your waist. Keep your arms slightly less than stretched throughout the movement.
  5. Move your arms back up into the position in step 3 in a controlled motion.

Compared to the regular lat pulldown, the straight arm pulldown isolates your lats more and engages muscles like your biceps and trapezius less.

2. Dumbbell pullover

For the dumbbell pullover, you preferably want a flat weight bench or something similar to lie on and a compact weight like a dumbbell. Once you have these, take the following steps to do the exercise:

  1. Lie on a weight bench with your head on the end of the bench. Hold a dumbbell in both of your hands.
  2. Extend your arms upward until they are slightly less than stretched and point them up.
  3. Slowly move back your arms as far as comfortable. To engage your lat muscles more instead of your lower chest bring your elbows somewhat more away from your body. Your arms stay slightly less than stretched throughout the exercise.
  4. Move your arms back to the position in step 2 in a controlled motion.

When done the right way, the dumbbell pullover is a great way to isolate your latissimus dorsi muscles. If you don’t feel these muscles working, you like have to pay more attention to pointing your elbows outward.

Due to the position of the dumbbell, you don’t want to overdo it when it comes to weight. Start with a light dumbbell and build up from there.

3. Seated side pulldown

For the seated side pulldown, you want something sturdy and narrow to sit on, a weight bench is perfect. You also want a cable machine, preferably with two pulleys but you can also do one arm at a time.

Once you have these, take the following steps to do a seated side pulldown:

  1. Attach single-grip handles to each side of the cable machine with the pulleys as high as possible. Put the weight bench in the middle of the two pulleys.
  2. Grab 1 handle, walk towards the other handle and grab it with the other hand.
  3. Sit straight up on the weight bench. Hold the handles tightly with your hand palms facing down but let your arms follow the cables for now.
  4. Slowly lower your arms as far as possible, preferably until they point down vertically.
  5. Let your hands go up again in a controlled motion to the position of step 3.

A benefit of the weight bench is that it can help you avoid using the rest of your body to move the cable. In turn, this can lead to more and faster lat muscle gain compared to doing the same exercise standing up.

4. Straight arm kickback

To really isolate your lats you can use an incline weight bench for this next exercise. You will also need some type of resistance. Take the following steps to do an incline bench straight arm kickback with two dumbbells:

  1. Put the incline bench at about a 45-angle degree. Grab 2 dumbbells of the same weight. Lie down with your front on the weight bench. Let your arms hang down for now.
  2. Keep your arms slightly less than stretched and slowly bring them somewhat more back than in line with your upper body. Keep them close to your body.
  3. Let gravity do its work on your arms in a controlled motion until they are back in starting position.

The tricep kickback is an exercise that is done to isolate your triceps. By keeping your arms straight you shift the focus to your lats.

You can also do the straight-arm kickback bent-over. This version still isolates your lats a relatively high amount but you do engage your core muscles more compared to the incline bench version.

You can also do this exercise with one arm while being supported by a horizontal weight bench. This is more lat isolated than the bent-over version but less than the incline bench straight arm kickback.

5. Isometric holds

For all of these exercises, you can stop the movement in the middle of its trajectory and then hold that position.

These types of holds are isometric exercises. In simpler words, this means that you engage your muscles in a more static way, without moving a lot.

On the other hand, you have isotonic exercises where you engage your muscles in a dynamic way, by moving.

Isotonic exercises are generally more useful for building muscle. That means that the other isotonic exercises on this list are likely better lat isolation exercises for building a lot of muscle.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.