The Role Of The Lats In The Deadlift

Surprisingly, or not, the deadlift works the whole back from top to bottom.

“But, what about the lats? Do they work during deadlifts,” asked the muscle nerds.

Yes, brahs. The latissimus dorsi works incredibly hard when you deadlift.


The lats are the biggest muscle in the upper body. When you deadlift, they have the following functions:

  1. keeping the bar close to the body

The only way to deadlift heavy weights is to keep the bar close to you. The barbell is fighting to move forward while the lats and the long heads of the triceps are pulling it back towards the hips.

  2. back extension

The lats have a synergistic role in extension and lateral flexion of the lumbar spine.

the-deadlift-works-the-lats-incredibly-hard

If you want to feel your lats during deadlifts, perform a set of straight arm pull-overs with a cable machine or resistance bands. This particular exercise mimics the pulling motion of the lats during deadlifts.

Focus on pulling through your elbows. If you do the exercise properly, you will feel a great pump in the lats. After a couple of sets, try some deadlifts. You will definitely feel your lats working hard.

Another exercise that also illustrates the job of the lats during deadlifts is the front lever. During front levers, the lats work incredibly hard to keep your body horizontal.

While front levers and deadlifts are very different in nature, both exercises stress the lats in a similar fashion and are a good assistance to each other. In both cases the range of motion is small and most of the work is isometric.

Tip: Before pulling the barbell during deadlifts, imagine that you are bending the bar around your shins with your lats. Your lats will have no choice put to fire. As a bonus, this technique will help you keep your upper back straight.

One more tip – It’s easier to feel your lats working when you use straps, double overhand grip or hook grip. The mixed grip is uneven and does not produce the same feel.

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