Push ups are a great exercise but do they help develop your lats. The answer is a little more complicated than just a simple yes or no. So, before you start doing hundreds of push ups every day, let’s look at some factors that you should consider to find out if they actually help your lats or not!
The Role of Lats in Push Ups
So, do push ups help your lats? The short answer is no! The long answer though is a little more complicated than that. A standard push up is actually an exercise for your chest, triceps and shoulders and its primary function is not for developing your lats. A push up however does incorporate your latissimus dorsi (lats) muscles because you’re using them as stabilization during the push pattern. However, performing a standard push up will not directly develop those specific muscles like pull ups or rows will.
Are there Better Exercises then Push ups that Help Lats?
It’s not as if push ups are a bad exercise, it’s just that they’re better choices out there for targeting your lats. And if you want to optimize your training and get the most out of your time in the gym then you need to focus on exercises that target your lats specifically. It’s going to be more effective than doing push ups or other chest-dominant movements. So, if lat development is one of your main fitness goals then you should definitely consider exercises like pull ups, chin ups, barbell rows or deadlifts instead. Also note that push ups are a “push” exercise and training your lats requires “pull” movements. So, by doing push ups, you won’t be maximizing your lats. Yes there lats are involved to an extent but, as said previously, try lats specific exercises.
What Muscles Do Push Ups Work The Most?
According to Healthline a standard push ups works the pectorals, deltoids, triceps, abdominal and serratus anterior. Of course, these muscles will be worked more than your lats during a push up. So, as mentioned previously, if you want to target your lats, do exercises that focus on them specifically like Lat pulldown or Dumbbell Row. However, there are some push ups variations that help target your lats more. Read below to find out more!
Variations of Push Ups that Help Lats
Push ups are some of my favorite bodyweight exercises. One of the many benefits to push ups is that they work a variety of muscles. Your triceps, chest, deltoids, serratus anterior. But are there variations of push ups that help the lats? Well yes there are. There are many push ups variations you can do such as diamond push ups, wide arm push ups or clap push ups. However, the ones that target and help lats are Push up Renegade Row, Hindu Push ups and Pike Push Ups. Of course, there are more options but these three are some of the best!
If you want these push Ups to help your tats, Make Sure You Have Proper Form! It’s easy to do them wrong and not see any results. In fact, doing push ups incorrectly will even lead to hurting your shoulders and lats!
Push Up Renegade Row – One of the Best Variations of Push Ups that Help Lats!
- Place the dumbbells on the floor roughly shoulder width apart.
- Grip the dumbbells, one on each hand, making sure your hands are aligned right under your shoulders. Put your feet right behind you so that you are in a full plank position. (A common mistake is your alignment. Make sure that you form a straight line from your head to your heel).
- Now perform a push up and bringing yourself back up into the full plank position.
- Shift your weight to your left side which means that your left palm will be supporting your weight. While keeping your hips and shoulder square to the floor, pull the dumbbell up towards your chest with your right hand while bending your elbow. Remember, don’t let your hips turn.
- Slowly, return the dumbbell back to the starting position.
- Shift your weight to the right side so that your right palm will be supporting your weight. Now pull the dumbbell with your left hand towards your chest. Again, make sure your hips and shoulder square to the floor. That’s one rep.
This is personally my favorite push ups variations that will help your lats! I do these all the time!
Hindu Push Up
- Start in a full plank position with your hands shoulder width apart. If you are a beginner, you can place your hands further then shoulder width apart and your legs can be a bit wider as well.
- Keeping your back, arms and legs as straight as possible, lift your hips up so that you’re in a downward-facing dog position. You must form an inverted “V”
- Bend your elbows while lowering your hips and chest until your body forms a straight line.
- From here, keep lowering your hips and lift your chest up extending your arms. You should form and upwards-facing dog pose.
- From here, lift your hips back up so you form an inverted “V” and repeat.
Pike Push Ups
- Start in a push up position with your hands shoulder width apart.
- Keeping your hands and legs as straight as possible, lift your hips up until you form an upside-down V shape.
- From here, start to bend your elbows and slowly lower your body until your head nearly touches the floor. Stay there for a moment.
- Push down on the floor and come into the upside-down V position with your arms straight.
Specific Latissimus Dorsi (Lats) Exercises
Now although these variations of push ups help the lats, there are exercises that are mainly just targeted the the development of lats. Exercises like Lat Pull Down, Dumbbell Rows, Pull Ups, Chin Ups are all highly beneficial for your lats.
- Grab the bar with an overhand grip and sit on the Lat Pulldown machine with your thighs under the pads to avoid your body coming off the seat. Make sure your feet are flat on the floor.
- Pull the bar down to your upper chest while also retracting your shoulder blades (pull your shoulder blades together). A common mistake is to lean back during this movement. Try resisting this and keep your upper torso stationary.
- During this downward movement, keep your elbows to the side of your body.
- Squeeze your lats at the bottom of this movement and pause for moment before bringing the bar back up. Make sure to bring the bar up slowly.
Single-arm Dumbbell Row
- Bend over and place your left knee and hand firmly on the bench to support your body. According to Men’s Health however, this position of having your knee on the bench may cause inconsistencies through hips and the spine. For beginners a better way would be to have one hand on the bench and an even stance with your feet.
- Reach down to pick up the dumbbell in your right hand. Extend your right arm with the dumbbell and make sure that your back is straight.
- Slowly lift the dumbbell towards the side of your body near your chest while keeping your torso steady. Most importantly, focus on lifting the weight with your back and shoulders not your arms. Be sure not to rotate or twist your body or even change the position of your spine. In other words, don’t twist your body to pull the dumbbell. Doing it in front of mirror might help avoid this.
- Slowly lower the dumbbell back to until your arm is fully extended.
Pull Ups & Chin Ups
- Grip the bar with your hands (overhand for pull ups and underhand for chin ups) with about shoulder width apart. Keep your legs off the ground.
- Keeping your shoulders back and pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar. Your elbows should be pointing down. Also, make sure your abs are engaged throughout this. Note that this isn’t an easy exercise.
- From here, hold this position for a moment and slowly come back until your arms are fully extended.
Want to start doing pull ups at home? Find out the best outdoor pull up bar for you here.
Related reading: Lower back pain from pull ups?
Push ups are a great exercise, but if you want to help and develop your lats, perform exercises that focuses on your lats more. Now there are a bunch more like deadlifts, barbell rows etc. I would recommend doing a variety of lats exercise so don’t get bored by doing the same one again and again. Also you can the most out of it.