6 Best Barbell Lat Exercises & Workouts for Building Muscle

Barbell Lat Exercises and Workouts

It’s a pull day, and you’re wondering what exercises you can do with a barbell to bolster your lats and build a superior back.

Well, you don’t have to because I’m going to show you the six best barbell exercises for stimulating your lat muscle growth.

The Lats or Latissimus dorsi are thick, large, and v-shaped muscles on the back that run down from shoulder to waist. They primarily work when you pull and adduct something, such as dumbbells and barbells.

Training your lats with barbells is a great way to increase strength and mass as they allow you to lift more weight than dumbbells and provide a better range of motion than machines.

Barbells can be used to perform some of the best exercises, such as deadlifts, bent-over rows, landmine rows, and Meadows rows, to train your lats from all angles and build a broader back.

6 Best Barbell Lat Exercises to Gain Mass and Strength

  1. Conventional Deadlift
  2. Bent-over Barbell Row
  3. Barbell Meadows Row
  4. Close-Grip Barbell Row
  5. Barbell Pendlay Row
  6. One-arm Barbell Row

1. Conventional Deadlift

Conventional Deadlift, a muscle-building barbell exercise for lats.

The deadlift is a powerful exercise that simultaneously bolsters multiple muscle groups, including the latissimus dorsi.

It is a heavy-lifting compound lifting that stimulates strength and hypertrophy and helps develop a broader back.

Exercise Summary

  • Target Muscles: Lats, Thighs, Abdominals, and Glutes
  • Mechanics: Bilateral Compound Exercise
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Equipment Needed: Barbell, Plates, and a Lifitng Waist Belt
  • Benefits: Strengthen Lats, Increase Strength, and Enhance Functional Fitness,

Steps to do a Barbell Deadlift

  1. Place a loaded barbell on the floor and stand upright, with your feet beneath the bar and your shin close to it.
  2. Pushing your hips back, bend your knees enough to grab the bar. Maintain a neutral spine position.
  3. Grip the bar with an alternate or overhand grip, hands just outside your knees, and keep your arms straight.
  4. Brace your core, inhale deeply, and lift the bar with your full strength, engaging your lats.
  5. Lift the bar until your hips are entirely extended. That’s one rep.

Recommended Reps and Sets

Perform four sets: 10 reps in the first, 8 in the second, 6 in the third, and 4 in the fourth. Increase weight by 10-20 percent after each set.

I recommend doing a deadlift as your first exercise on your back day, as it requires more energy and engages more muscles than the other exercises.

2. Barbell Bent-over Row

lat exercises with barbell

You can do plenty of fancier exercises to build a sizeable back, but they won’t be as effective and functional as the bent-over barbell row.

The bent-over row hammers the entire back muscles, particularly the latissimus dorsi, and helps build a wider back.

You can use both overhand and underhand grip to hit your lats from different angles and improve your torso muscularity.

Exercise Summary

  • Target Muscles: Latissimus Dorsi, Trapezius, Infraspinatus, and Core
  • Mechanics: Isolation Movement
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Equipment Needed: Barbell, Plates, and a Lifitng Waist Belt
  • Benefits: Build a firm and broader back, bolster abdominal muscles, and improve upper body appearance.

Steps to do a Bent-over Row

  1. Put the appropriate weight into the barbell and grab it with an overhand grip, hands slightly wider than your hip width.
  2. Slightly lean forward and keep your arms straight downward.
  3. Hold your head high, back straight, chest up, and core tight. That’s the setup.
  4. Pull the bar toward your stomach until you feel a good contraction in your lats.
  5. You can pause for a couple of seconds before returning the bar to the start.
  6. Make sure your back remains flat throughout the movement.

Recommended Reps and Sets

Perform three to four sets of 6 to 12 reps with moderate to heavy loads. Start with lightweight, perform at least 12 reps in the first set, then increase the weight by 10-15% after each set.

If you’re a beginner, you can place your forehead on an incline bench for balance during the lift.

3. Barbell Meadows Row

The Meadows row is a unilateral movement that helps build solid lats. It can be an excellent addition to your barbell lats workouts as it enables you to train both sides of the lats individually.

It is named after the legendary John Meadows, who invented this movement. Doing it properly also strengthens the rear delt and upper arms and helps build an athletic torso.

Exercise Summary

  • Target Muscles: Lats, Traps, Abdominals, and Rear Delt
  • Mechanics: Isolation Movement
  • Difficulty: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Equipment Needed: Barbell and Weight Plates
  • Benefits: It allows you to train your lats unilaterally and help build proportional and aesthetic back.

Steps to do a Meadows Row:

  1. Put the suitable weight into the bar and place the other end in the corner of the wall.
  2. Stand in a staggered stance with the front foot perpendicular to the bar.
  3. Hinge forward at your hips and grab the end of the barbell in your right hand.
  4. Place your left elbow on your knees or thighs for balance. That’s the beginning.
  5. Pull the weight up until you feel the good work in your lats.
  6. Pause and lower the bar to the start.
  7. Make sure you maintain proper form during the entire movement.

Recommended Reps and Sets

Aim for three to four sets of 10 to 15 reps on each side. I also suggest performing more reps on the weaker side to help improve strength imbalance and muscular symmetry.

4. Close-Grip Barbell Row

Barbell Close-Grip Row, a latissimus dorsi exercise.

Having a wider lat gives your physique a solid look from top to bottom. That’s why it is essential to hit your latissimus dorsi from all angles, and if the barbell is only your mate for training, you should never skip a bent-over close-grip row.

The close-grip barbell row engages multiple muscles simultaneously, especially the lats and traps, and helps build a functional upper body.

Exercise Summary

  • Target Muscles: Lats, Trapezius, Posterior Delt, and Abs
  • Mechanics: Isolation Movement
  • Difficulty: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Equipment Needed: Barbell, Plates, and Handles
  • Benefits: Train your lats with a neutral grip and help build an aesthetic back.

Steps to do a Close-Grip Row

  1. Insert the desired weight into the bar and place the other end in the appropriate place.
  2. Stand between the barbell with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Hinge forward at your hips, use a V-handle, and place it under the bar so you can pull the weight.
  4. Keep your head high, chest up, and core tight. Maintain a neutral spine position. That’s the setup.
  5. Pull the weight toward your torso until your lats are entirely engaged.

Recommended Reps and Sets

Perform four sets with moderate to heavy weight. For example, you can do 15 reps in your first set, 10 in the second, 8 eight in the third, and 6 in the last set. Combining moderate to heavy sets helps develop muscle mass and lifting strength.

5. Pendlay Row

The Pendlay row, also known as dead stop row, is a modified variation of the bent-over rowing. The only difference between them is that you lower the bar on the ground at the end of each rep during the Pendlay row instead of holding it off the floor.

It helps develop the upper back and latissimus dorsi simultaneously, and it will be a great addition to your workout regime.

Exercise Summary

  • Target Muscles: Upper Back and Lats
  • Mechanics: Compound Movement
  • Difficulty: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Equipment Needed: Barbell, Plates, and V-bar Handle
  • Benefits: It enhances your speed and explosive strength, makes your torso flexible, and helps build a well-balanced back.

Steps to do a Pendlay Row

  1. Grab a loaded bar with an overhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart.
  2. Stand upright with your feet together.
  3. Hinge forward at your hips until your torso is parallel to the floor.
  4. Now, pull the weight toward your body until it touches your stomach.
  5. Pause for a moment and lower the bar on the floor.
  6. Perform each rep with a controlled range of motion.

Recommended Reps and Sets

Aim for three sets of 12 to 15 reps with one minute of rest in between. I recommend using lighter weights than you lift during the bent-over row because it can put stress on your lower back and increase the risk of strain if you lose balance or are unable to pull the bar properly.

6. Landmine One-arm Barbell Row

The one-arm barbell row is an unilateral exercise, an execellent alternative to dumbbell row. This exercise is great for people whose back muscles are not aligned as it allows you to focus on each side of your lats specifically and build a proportional back.

Exercise Summary

  • Target Muscles: Latissimus Dorsi, Trapezius, and Core
  • Mechanics: Isolation Unilateral Movement
  • Difficulty: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Equipment Needed: Barbell and Weight Plates
  • Benefits: Like the Meadows rows, the single-arm barbell row effectively engages your back muscles but with a different grip and from a different angle.

Steps to do a Unilateral Barbell Row

  1. Put the suitable weight into the bar and set it at an appropriate place.
  2. Stand upright to the right side of the barbell and keep your feet together.
  3. Lean your torso forward and grasp the barbell with an overhand grip.
  4. Slightly lift your shoulder blades and row the bar at your side until you feel the full contraction in your back muscles.

Recommended Reps and Sets

Perform for three sets per workout, focusing more on the weaker side of your lats.

45-Minute Barbell Lat Workout for Building a Broader Back

You’ve all the best barbell exercises for lats training, but it is also important to do them in an organized fashion to elicit maximum results.

Here’s an example of a 45-minute workout routine for building beefy lats with barbells only.

WorkoutSetsReps
Barbell Deadlift410, 8, 6, 4
Bent Over Row315, 12, 10
Close-Grip Row315, 12, 10
Barbell Meadows Row 310/arm

You can make some adjustments if you like, but I suggest starting with heavy lift first, such as deadlift and close-grip row, before doing any single-arm barbell exercises.

My Final Thoughts

The lats are one of the largest trunk muscles in our body as they make the back look strong and broad.

You can reinforce your lats with dumbbells and machines. However, if you want to build a firm, aesthetic, and symmetrical back, you also need to hit your lats with barbells.

Barbells are easy to grip and allow you to perform compound and functional exercises for lats. They also help you lift more so you can enhance your strength and gain muscle mass.

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Picture of Murshid Akram

Murshid Akram

I’m a personal trainer, fitness blogger, and founder of thefitnessphantom.com. I help people achieve their best shape through my science-based and practical workout programs.
Picture of Murshid Akram

Murshid Akram

I’m a personal trainer, fitness blogger, and founder of thefitnessphantom.com. I help people achieve their best shape through my science-based and practical workout programs.

About Me

I’m Murshid Akram, a personal trainer, fitness blogger, and founder of thefitnessphantom.com. I primarily design workout plans and share science-based and practical information that can help you become stronger, functional, and healthier.

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