How to Do the Lat Spread Pose Like a Pro Bodybuilder
How to Do the Lat Spread Pose Like a Pro Bodybuilder
The lat spread is one of the most iconic bodybuilding poses, allowing competitors to really show off their back muscles on stage. When done correctly, the lat spread gives the illusion of having a super wide, v-tapered set of lats that flare out dramatically.
Mastering the lat spread pose takes practice but is essential for any aspiring bodybuilder to nail. In this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn proper form, get tips to maximize the pose, and find out how to take your lat spread to the next level.
An Overview of the Lat Spread Pose
The lat spread, also known as the rear lat spread, is a mandatory pose in bodybuilding competitions. It's designed specifically to show off the latissimus dorsi muscles of the upper back as well as the definition along the sides of the back.
This pose requires competitors to flex their lats and spread them as wide as possible. The goal is to make the upper body appear as wide and dramatic as possible when viewed from behind.
When done correctly, this pose will make the lats flare out and sweep widely to give the upper body a very wide, v-taper look. The lats will appear much wider than the waist and hips to create a powerful inverted triangle shape.
The lat spread pose first emerged in the 1940s and was made famous by bodybuilder Chris Dickerson in the 1970s. It remains one of the best ways for bodybuilders to show off the results of all their hard work on their lats and back.
How to Hit the Lat Spread Pose
Here is a step-by-step guide to properly performing the rear lat spread:
1. Spread Your Feet About 6 Inches Apart
Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, positioning one foot slightly in front of the other. Point the toes of your back foot out at a 45° angle.
Having one foot slightly staggered in front of the other will allow you to shift more body weight over the front leg when arching your back.
2. Bring Your Arms Above Your Head
Raise both arms straight above your head with the arms slightly angled out, not directly overhead. Bend the elbows slightly while keeping them extended.
3. Make Fists
Make fists with your hands and have your thumbs hooked underneath pointing down with your knuckles facing forward. This hand position will allow you to better spread the lats.
4. Arch Your Back and Push Your Hips Back
While keeping your arms raised, arch your back dramatically by sticking your chest out and pushing your hips back. Maintain a slight bend in your rear knee.
Be sure to stick your chest up and out as far as possible to maximize the arch in your back. Keep your core tight.
5. Pull Your Shoulder Blades Down and Together
While holding the arch position, pull your shoulder blades down and pinch them together as hard as possible.
Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together and down away from your ears. This will flare your lat muscles out to the sides.
6. Relax Your Lats
Allow your lats to relax fully as you pull the shoulder blades down. Avoid actively flexing the lats. Let them hang naturally.
7. Squeeze Your Lats Out to Your Sides
After relaxing your lats fully, powerfully spread your lats out to the sides without moving your hands. Your lats should sweep out and around your torso.
Imagine spreading your lats as wide as possible like a cobra flaring out its hood. Focus on keeping the sweep very wide.
8. Look Strong and Confident
Maintain a strong expression on your face. Gaze confidently forward or slightly upwards. Hold the pose for several seconds.
Do not look down or crunch your neck forward. Keep your chin parallel to the ground.
Tips for Maximizing Your Lat Spread
Here are some helpful tips for making your lat spread look as massive as possible:
- Lead with your elbows to maximize the shoulder range of motion. Do not just raise your hands overhead.
- Create a deep arch in your lower back to allow your lats to hang freely before spreading them.
- Relax your lats fully before spreading them outward. Avoid flexing or cramping them.
- Widen your stance and stagger your feet to allow a greater range of motion.
- Push your hips far back while sticking your chest way out. This dramatically improves the arch.
- Raise your arms slightly outward, not directly overhead, to better activate the lats.
- Move only your lats when spreading them outward. Keep your arms and hands still.
- Rotate your pinky fingers down and thumb fingers up when spreading to engage the lats.
- Hold the peak contraction for 2 seconds before relaxing out of it slowly and smoothly.
- Keep your abs drawn in tight. Do not push your stomach out when arching back.
Common Lat Spread Mistakes to Avoid
Here are some mistakes that will compromise your lat spread:
- Not creating enough arch in your lower back. This limits range of motion.
- Flexing your lats before spreading them outward. Allow them to relax first.
- Flaring the elbows too far out. Keep a slight bend in the elbows.
- Allowing the shoulders to hunch forward. Keep shoulder blades pinched back.
- Moving your entire arms when spreading lats. Hold arms still and just move the lats.
- Overhead pressing the arms. Lead with the elbows instead for better range.
- Looking down instead of straight ahead. Keep your gaze confident.
- Forgetting to push the hips back. Allow your torso to tilt back further.
- Staggering your feet evenly instead of putting one foot further back.
- Not holding the fully flexed pose long enough. Hold for 1-2 seconds.
Exercise to Build Bigger Lats for Your Spread
While genetics play a role in lat size, you can build thicker, wider lats through targeted exercises like:
1. Wide Grip Pull Ups
Using an extra wide pronated grip engages the lats through their fullest range of motion. Aim for 3-4 sets of 6-10 reps.
2. Straight Arm Pulldowns
Keeping the arms straight targets the lats thoroughly. Do 3 sets of 10-12 reps while squeezing the lats.
3. Barbell or Dumbbell Rows
Rows build lats thickness. Use good form and squeeze your shoulder blades on each rep.
4. Lat Pulldowns
Lat pulldowns enable you to overload the lats with weight. Control each rep and squeeze your lats.
Deadlifts hit the lats isometrically as you drive through your legs. Shoot for 6-8 reps if deadlifting for lats.
Take Your Lat Spread up a Notch
Once you've mastered the basics, try these advanced tactics:
- Use an exercise band overhead to practice feeling the shoulder rotation and pinch.
- Raise up onto the toes of your front foot to further arch your back.
- Place hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart to activate the lats more.
- Lean back as you push your chest out as far as flexibility will allow.
- From front double bicep, rotate straight into the back lat spread to practice transition.
- Perform 1-2 warm up sets of dumbbell pullovers before hitting your lat spread.
Hitting Your Lat Spread at a Competition
Bringing your best lat spread to a bodybuilding competition requires practicing your posing routine religiously. Be sure to:
- Hold the peak contraction for a full 2 seconds. Judges are looking for control and quality.
- Transition smoothly between poses while maintaining your confidence.
- Spread your lats as wide as possible to show the judges your back width.
- Relax into the pose to allow your lats to flare outward fully. Avoid cramping.
- Arch your back deeply and pin your shoulders back. This creates separation.
- Keep your chest lifted, abs drawn in tight, and gaze focused confidently ahead.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the front lat spread pose?
For the front lat spread, you face the front with your hands overhead and palms facing forward. Spread your lats while pushing your hips forward and chest back.
How wide should feet be for lat spread?
About shoulder-width apart is ideal, with one foot staggered slightly ahead of the rear foot. Widening your stance can help increase range of motion.
Why can't I spread my lats wide?
This usually occurs from underdeveloped lats or lack of shoulder flexibility. Work to strengthen your upper back and improve overhead shoulder mobility.
What muscles do lat pulldowns work?
Lat pulldowns heavily target the latissimus dorsi muscles of the back. They also activate the biceps, forearms, rear delts, middle traps, and teres muscles.
How was the lat spread pose invented?
Pioneering bodybuilder Chris Dickerson developed the pose in the 1970s to show off his wide, sweeping lats and dramatic V-taper. It soon became a mandatory pose.
Mastering the iconic lat spread pose is a right of passage for bodybuilders. With focused practice on nailing proper form, maximizing your arch and contraction, and avoiding common mistakes, you can develop a competition-ready lat spread even the judges can't ignore.
Remember to lead with your elbows, create a deep arch, relax your lats fully, and isolate the movement to just your lats. Built your upper back with heavy compound and isolation lifts, use advanced training tactics, and pose your lats confidently.
Flaring your lats wide to showcase your back width and V-taper for the judges is critical. With the tips provided here, you can take your lat spread to the next level.