The Beginners Guide: Why My Lats Won't Respond To Exercises?

Updated June 26th 2021

Physical fitness can be frustrating if it won't respond as you may expect.

Beginners think about quitting, considering how difficult exercise is, let alone lifting weights.

However, experience makes it simpler and easy to go by.

Why are my lats not growing?

  • Poor exercise selection
  • Diet restrictions
  • Being new to lifting

These are all common problems when trying to develop your lats.

However, the lack of lat development is a temporary problem with many permanent fixes.

One common muscle group that beginners may have trouble growing is their lats.

Every gym-goer knows how important it is to develop huge lats.

It is one of those muscle groups that are not addressed by the big 4 lifts.

Most people get worried when their physique fails to adapt to the exercise.

Two common complaints you will hear are that:

  1. “My lats won’t grow!”
  2. “My lats won’t respond to exercises!”

You aren't doing anything wrong to hurt yourself.

Don't give up.

Here is all you need to know!

If your lat pulldown is not working your lats, this would be a pink flag for me since lat pulldowns are one of the best exercises for isolating lat activation.

There are different reasons that can make the lats resistant to growth.

Knowing that will help ease your burden of worry and prepare you for a further experience that will see you lit.

Are your lats not responding to the exercise?

It is possible that you aren't working on your lats enough.

It is all about the connection between the mind and the muscle.

While engaging into the development of your lats, think about how your scapula retracts and how you drive your elbows towards your body, when doing pullups for instance.

Do multiple sets with multiple repetitions for a long period of time.

I am confident that your lat development will be absurd.

Another reason might be— that you aren't engaging your diet enough.

Growing lats need a heavy diet.

However, if you eat too much to increase your calories, you will get fat.

Nevertheless, eating a lot will help sustain your bodybuilding exercise as you break through the odds.

Doing weight pull-ups may not be enough for the growing of lats without an extraordinary eating routine.

Just eat clean and watch the progress.

You might be a beginner.

Are you new to the lifting?

Often, beginners have a difficult time growing their lats.

Growing your lats may not be as easy as anyone can tell you.

You really have to engage yourself more and for a longer period.

It will take a little longer for the body to adapt to your new exercise.

So, if you are a beginner, you need to do more exercise.

Eat well, and work hard without giving up.

Stay consistent and your rewards will come soon, do not worry.

My Lats Won't Engage

We need to find the most optimal exercises for you to choose from.

In a later section, I also dive into what are the best exercises for gross lat growth.

A few things jump out to me immediately:

  1. You are using improper form
  2. You are not strong enough
  3. You are fatigued

You are using improper form

If you are not using proper form, you might not even activate certain muscle groups.

Research shows that it does make a difference.

Take, for example, even grip width for lat pulldowns.

A medium grip width for lat pulldowns may be slightly more effective than a wide or narrow grip lat pulldown.

While more studies need to be done, it does shed some light to reveal that you need to find the exercise variation that works for you.

Most common exercises and forms should work for 95% of lifters (you should fall into this category most of the time).

In extremely rare cases, you need to figure out what works for you.

You are not strong enough

Have you transitioned into weighted pullups?

If not, you may lack both lat strength and growth.

Sore lats from burpees or even sore lats after pushups?

You are just weak in general.

One reason why your lats won't engage is that you are picking exercises that are too difficult for your current level.

Either regress the exercise or split the exercise so that you work on the eccentrics.

You are fatigued

This is a tougher situation to be in but you should know if you are fatigued or not.

Just like having your serratus anterior sore after a bench press.

Or are your biceps tired from lat pulldowns, making it harder for your to activate and isolate your lats?

Just one of the things you will instinctively know.

Do Lats Grow Fast?

Lat development varies from person to person but training and eating properly will exponentially increase your rate of recovery and growth.

Beginner lifters can see progress in physique in as little as three weeks especially if they are on Greyskull LP or Fierce 5.

The lat is the most powerful muscles on your back.

Its responsibility is to enhance bringing of the upper arm downward as well as backward.

It is the part of the body that requires enough support for other strenuous movements.

For many weightlifters, there are different reasons to increase their lats strength and size.

Lats may take a long time to grow due to various reasons.

It depends on the different people and the kinds of exercise they are doing.

It also depends on the diet— which is the fundamental requirement for effective exercise and stellar bodybuilding.

But gaining excellent lat is easy for those who choose never to give up.

Sleep enough, eat well, be persistent especially when you are a beginner.

Work out properly and watch your lats grow fast.

How Should I Increment My Training To Get Bigger Lats?

Building your lats can be easy but complicated if you aren't just doing it right.

Adding weight is a perfect idea for both starting and experienced lifters.

It is one of the first steps towards growing lats since it tells whether you are developing or not.

Discover the best way to kick off your training with effective exercise.

Increase your weight volume over time.

Once you realize that your body has adapted to a particular weight, it is advisable to add more weight every time to achieve a progressive increment.

Engaging in great weightlifting programming can have a significant effect on your development.

Personalize your training and allow your lats to grow in a few steps.

Increase the weight during exercise to engage your muscles as the lats grow.

Decrease your rest time— to a shorter resting period so as to engage your body to frequent exercise.

These are the fundamental steps to help you achieve encouraging lat development.

To achieve perfect lat growth:

  • decrease the rest time between the consecutive exercising sessions
  • sleep in a dark and cool environment so as to guarantee your body an excellent environment for growth
  • practice proper dieting so as to build bigger lats.

Eat a high-in-protein diet inclusive of enough fruits and vegetables.

Don't avoid whole grains consumption as well as dairy products.

Avoid processed food as much as possible.

Take more than six small meals per day and not the normal three large ones.

Note: Drink plenty of water during the day.

Water helps in the support of digestion as it flushes the toxins off your body.

And do not forget to stretch your lats more often so as to increase the flexibility of the muscles.

The extra flexibility of your lats makes your experience easier to perform reps with a proper form.

Stretching yourself often will also help your body to become more flexible so as to prevent injuries.

Best Lat Exercises

The best way to do lat exercises is normally from pulling movements— which always involve (but don’t isolate) lats, as that allows you to easily move heavy loads as well as it best improves your body strength.

But the best way that will build great lats is ensuring that you have a great back — and building a great back means you get strong on these particular exercises.

Here are the Best Back Exercises you must know!

If you just focus on the progressive exercises below.

  1. Barbell deadlifts
  2. Lat pulldown
  3. Pullups and chinups
  4. Barbell rows

Then you will be ready to build not only excellent lats but also a great back.

Barbell Deadlift

The king of all exercises.

It is not only one of the best lat exercises that you can do, but it is also a single exercise you can do comfortably and with confidence for full body development.

Lat Pulldown (Wide-and-Close-Grip)

Need some isolation lat work?

This is the perfect exercise for you.

It is a mechanized variant of a pull-up — which allows you to quickly increase the load more than your actual body weight, hence becoming the most practical activity for the heavy-weight-lifting.

It is also perfect for building up your lats.

Pull-Up and Chin-Up

One of my personal favorites for building lats.

You can easily increment weight to add difficulty for each set.

Engaging in pull-up isn't only simple, but it is also an effective exercise that develops your back, as well as the lats.

The chin-up is a considerable variation that places extra emphasis on your biceps.

Barbell Row

Another great exercise to specifically target your lats.

Your back will be on fire after you do these rows.

It is a staple way of developing your back workouts— since it engages everything in the back.


Now, if you want the best exercises for lat activation only with EMG, there are tons of scattered research about what has the best lat activation.

But there is a trend.

Here are the best lat exercises—

  1. Seated rows
  2. Lat pulldowns
  3. Bent over rows

Though research will try to see whether or not lat pulldowns vs seated rows vs bent over rows have the most activation, it is very clear that these three exercises heavily activate your lats.

Also check out which exercise is better for your posterior chain, Romanian deadlifts vs good mornings.

What Set/Reps Are Best To Get Big Lats?

Training with "heavy" weights requires 80-85% plus of your 1RM with optimal volume getting to 60-70 total reps for every 5-7 days a week.

As a determined weightlifter, the long-term goal that you have is to increase your whole-body strength.

Of course, as you get stronger, your tolerance will increase and you get to do even more volume.

How fun!

That's the secret to the development of big lats.

How Do I Know If I Am Hitting My Lats Correctly?

That is one of the frequently asked questions by beginners and experienced weightlifters.

But you have nothing to worry about anymore.

Here is how you will do it rightly!

The visualization that works better than thinking of "pulling" from your elbows is by "squeezing" the elbows to your body.

While standing, place your hands as well as the arms in a position —, which makes you feel as if you are about to press part of that clean and jerk. (With your palm facing forward).

Now, proceed to squeeze your elbows into the body.

While doing this, the chest will comfortably push out a couple of inches.

That is ok!

It is the right ending position of the pull-up.

While resisting the motion with the lats, push both your hands as well as the arms upward until they go over your head.

And that should allow you to feel the lat activation through your entire exercise.

How Often Should I Target My Lats?

While lifting super-heavy weights, you may want to limit the number of back workouts.

That should be around once or twice a week.

But if you do a moderate amount of lat exercises, you can go to the gym anywhere between 1-5x a week, depending on your program.

Your back is one of the major muscle groups that improve with resistance during training.

But how often do you work it out?

That depends on the type of which exercises you select and what your goals are.

For example, if you choose to do barbell rows and deadlifts for your lat training, you will probably only work out once or twice a week.

It could be accomplished even if you lift weights on weekends only.

However, if you choose to do bodyweight pullups for your lat development, you could strength train 6 days a week.

Final thoughts

Physical weightlifting is a perfect activity if it is done rightly.

Do not feel deterred if you are tired during a workout.

Keeping your lats growing will need not only determination but also, a good diet as well.

Above all, NEVER GIVE UP.

Good luck with your happy training!!

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