There are a few misconceptions when it comes to training the lats, one is that pull-up is all you need for a thick back and or that wide-grip lat pulldowns will give you a wider back. Here are most of the things you need to know when it comes to training your lats.
Firs thing we’ll look at is a comparison between machine rows and lat pulldowns, comparing reverse grip vs regular and rows with retracted scapula and with a slack one. The rowing exercise provided a greater stimulus to the lats when compared to the lat pulldown exercises. The retracted row, where the shoulder blades were kept squeezed together the whole time seemed to trend to a higher activation even though not significantly different.
With that in mind, when it comes to training the lats it is important to incorporate both extension-based exercises as well as adduction ones like lat-pulldowns. It is also important to add different variations of rowing exercises, as we can see from a study by (Fenwick C.M et all 2009) who looked at different rowing exercises (one arm row, inverted row, and bent over row). He found different levels of activation in the lats and different segments of the erector muscles. This shows us that a variety of exercises are needed to fully target the lats and all the back muscles.
When it comes to lat pulldowns (Andersen et al 2014) found that the wider grips tend to favor the lats more compared to normal or narrow grip. So it may be more beneficial as far as activation to use a wider grip, however the wider grip may limit you to how much weight can be lifted so it is a give and take situation. But most importantly, make sure you incorporate more than one lat exercises that focuses on extension like T-bar rows, bent over rows , cable rows etc in combination with your pull up or pulldowns.
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