The latissimus – large back muscle

(Musculus latissimus dorsi)


The large back muscle - better known as latissimus or lat - is part of the group of back muscles. The latissimus is a flat and very strong muscle having its origin on the humerus. It is the biggest muscle of a human being - regarding its surface - and covers a large area of the back. It has multiple attachment points (origins) across the spine and stretches from the sacral and ilium bone across the spinous processes of the vertebrae of the loin and the chest. From there it runs through the axilla to the upper arm.


It is located near the surface of the skinand has four parts which are the following: Pars vertebralis (vertebrae part), Pars costalis (rib part), Pars iliaca (pelvis part), Pars scapularis (shoulder blade part).


These 4 muscle groups together take full effect either when the arms are raised and lowered against a weight (lat pulldown) or the arms are bent and pull the body upwards (pull-ups). The latissimus acts as antagonistic muscle of the delta muscle, which is responsible for the raining of the arms.


Furthermore, it is part of the respiratory muscles and supports the lungs when breathing out.


In regard to physical exercise the M. Latissimus dorsi is involved in the haul off motion of athletic throws and strikes. Tis is the reason why a highly developed latissimus is very important for athletes.



Origin: Thoracic vertebrae (dendritic spine of the 7th-12th vertebrae)
9th-12th rib
Crista iliaca (ilium bone)
Angulus inferior scapulae (lower shoulder blade angle)
Base: Front of humerus

Lower the lifted arm
Draw back the arm
Internal rotation of the arm



Exercise examples



Lat pull


Course of motion:

  • Legs are below the support roll (knee angle is approximately 90 degree)
  • Torso is slightly leaning forwards on the padding
  • Back is straight
  • Hands in overhand grip (thumbs show to each other) and a bit more than shoulder-width apart
  • Pull shoulder blades downwards and together
  • Bring elbows down on the side of the body
  • Head is slightly bent forwards to pull the bar along the neck
  • Finish exercise accomplishment as soon as the lat pull bar is on height of the back of the head
  • Then bring arms completely upwards (muscles keep tension)
  • Abdominal is kept tensed during whole motion



  • Exhale while bending arms
  • Inhale while stretching arms


Advices of proof:

  • Mind distance of motion (not too short or too long)
  • Adjust training weight according to condition/fitness
  • Do not bend wrists
  • Avoid a distance too great of the hands



  • Pull lat pull bar to the chest
  • In underhand grip (thumbs show apart from each other)
  • Narrow grip
  • Use of different grips




Course of motion:

  • Chin-up bar is hanging in horizontal position
  • Hands in overhand grip (thumbs show to each other) and a bit more than shoulder-width apart
  • Legs hang loosely downwards or are crossed behind
  • Slight knee bending is possible
  • Pull body upwards in a slow and controlled way
  • Bring collarbone/chest near the bar
  • Bend torso slightly backwards



  • Exhale while lifting the body
  • Inhale while lowering the body


Advices of proof:

  • Mind speed of accomplishment (not too fast !)
  • Avoid distances of motion which are too short
  • Do not take a swing
  • Avoid a grip which is too wide open
  • Do not extend arms while lowering the body
  • Tip: use training gloves for protecting hands and bar



  • Behind the neck
  • In underhand grip (thumbs show apart from each other)
  • On the low bar (feet are leant on)
  • For advanced: use of additional weight, i.e. weighted vest




Pull-over with a dumbbell

Pull-over with a dumbbellPull-over with a dumbbell 2


Courses of motion:

  • Lay down on your back
  • Head is on the edge
  • Hold dumbbells upright with both hands
  • Palms touch the inside of the upper weight plate
  • Lower dumbbell slowly backwards over the head and lift it in a controlled way
  • Flexion of elbows remains the same during the whole motion
  • Keep body tension during the whole motion 



  • Inhale while lowering the dumbbell
  • Exhale while lifting the dumbbell


Advices of proof:

  • Elbows are always slightly bent – even while lowering the dumbbell over the head
  • Mind speed of accomplishment (not too fast !)
  • Adjust training weight according to condition/fitness
  • Mind breathing
  • Avoid distances of motion which are too short or too long
  • No outside rotation of the arm



  • With two dumbbells alternately
  • With barbell
  • With curl bar


Advice: Back muscles tend to shortening. In contrast, abdominal muscles tend to weakening. Shortened back (and abdominal muscles) as well as abdominal muscles which are too short have negative effects on the structure of the vertebral column. Strengthen, stretch, mobilise, and relax your trunc muscles in a holistic way. The body forms a unity and that's how it should be exercised ! 




You can use many training devices for a varied and motivating workout of back muscles, especially the large back muscle (latissimus):


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