Does deadlift work lats? Should you do deadlifts to work your lats?

Many lifters and athletes practise the deadlift, yet they are typically unaware of the muscles they are working. Knowing which muscles are active allows you to more readily detect your shortcomings and understand how to correct them.

Does deadlift work lats
Does deadlift work lats

So, do deadlifts help to strengthen the lats? The deadlift does, in fact, work the lats. The lats are responsible for keeping the upper back in a neutral position and keeping the bar close to the body during the pull.

I’ll go over the following topics in this article:

  • In the deadlift, the lats play an important role.
  • Whether deadlifts are sufficient for lat training
  • How can you know if your lats are weak in the deadlift?
  • Deadlift versions that focus more on the back

By the conclusion, you’ll know how the deadlift works the lats, whether it’s enough for the lats, and why strong lats are so important in the deadlift.

Dorsi Latissimus

Dorsi Latissimus

Let’s start with an understanding of what this muscle is. The Latissimus dorsi muscle, generally known as the lats, is a broad, flat back muscle. It reaches out to both sides and behind the shoulder.

The trapezius on the back partially covers this towards the midline. This is the largest muscle in the upper body, and it is responsible for several motions like extension and adduction. It adducts, extends, and rotates the shoulder internally in particular. While the arms are in a fixed above posture, the latissimus dorsi pushes the trunk upward and forwards.

The Lats’ Function in the Deadlift

The Lats’ Function in the Deadlift

While the lats aren’t the primary mover in the deadlift, they play a significant role. During the upwards phase, these are used to keep the upper back in place and the bar close to the body.

1. The Lats Assist You In Maintaining A Neutral Back Position

While deadlifting with a rounded upper back is acceptable, excessive rounding might make it difficult to lock out your deadlifts or even get the bar off the ground.

In the deadlift, the lats work to keep the upper back in a neutral, or straight, position with the shoulders not dragged forwards.

2. The Longines Keep the bar as close to your body as possible.

The bar should stay close to or against your body when deadlifting. This prevents the bar from swaying back and forth and maintains it travelling straight upwards. The lats help keep the bar close to your torso and keep the bar path straight upwards.

Is Deadlifting Enough For Lat Workouts?

Is Deadlifting Enough For Lat Workouts?

While the lats do work during the deadlift, they are more of a stabiliser (keeping the upper back in a neutral position) and secondary muscle (to keep the bar close).

In the deadlift, the lats are also taken through a relatively limited range of motion, which is purely related to the shift in thoracic angle.

Include some horizontal pulling movements (rowing variations) and vertical pulling actions (pull-up or pulldown variations) across a full range of motion and varied rep ranges to integrate more direct lat work into your routine.

How Can You Tell If Your Deadlift Lats Are Weak?

How Can You Tell If Your Deadlift Lats Are Weak?

In the deadlift, there are two telltale signals that your lats are weak.

1. Throughout the movement, your upper back is rounding.

While some back rounding is typical, especially during near-maximal efforts, excessive rounding or rounding that worsens throughout a set or rep indicates that your lats aren’t strong enough to keep you in a neutral position.

If you’re not sure if your upper back is rounding, film a set of deadlifts from the side and compare your starting back position to your end back position. Throughout the set, you should compare your form from rep to rep.

2. The bar begins to move away from your body.

If the bar moves away from your body during the movement, it could be a sign that your lats aren’t strong enough to maintain it there.

This could also indicate an issue with your starting position, as you might be kicking the bar out in front of you. Film your deadlift from the side to observe if the bar is migrating out in front of you, like I suggested above. The goal should be to keep the bar path as vertical as possible.

In the deadlift, here are three tips to help you strengthen your lats.

The following are three tips to help you strengthen your lats in the deadlift:

In the deadlift, here are three tips to help you strengthen your lats.

1. Work on your lats more.

If deadlifts are the sole exercise you do to strengthen your lats, you’re probably doing yourself a disservice.

Direct lat and upper back training, whether new or increased, will assist develop your lats and, as a result, improve your deadlift. You should blend horizontal and vertical pulling movements throughout your workout.

2. Experiment with different deadlift variations to test your upper back position.

You may strengthen the lats in a deadlift-specific fashion by using deadlift variations that target the upper back position.

3. Increase the number of times you deadlift

For individuals who only deadlift once a week, adding a second session of deadlifts can help you improve not only the overall strength of your deadlift, but also particular features such as lat strength.

Does deadlift work lats: Review

Does deadlift work lats: Review

Sorry for the inconvenience…. I completely disagree. Yes, various types of deadlifts may necessitate “tenseing” the latissimus dorsi…. But that’s merely torso stabilisation in a static position.

You must consider what the muscle DOES. What exactly does it do? It drags the upper arm down from its stretched posture above the head. The pull-up is the best analogous movement. If you go to the gym and look at a dedicated “lat machine,” you’ll notice…. What exactly does it do? It enables you to extend your arms upwards before pulling them down against opposition.

Tensing a muscle in a stationary position will have little effect. Muscles are designed to move across their whole range of motion. And it isn’t going to happen with any dead-lift version.

Should you do deadlifts to work your lats?

Should you do deadlifts to work your lats?

You want to engage your lats by drawing them back and down, towards your buttocks, when deadlifting for a huge deadlift. Externally rotate your shoulders, relax your arms and traps, and brace your abs hard to do this. Even when lifting near-maximum weights, this helps keep your back flat.

F.A.Q does deadlift work lats:

Do deadlifts give you a wide back?

Despite the fact that deadlifts stimulate back muscle, they are not the exercise to use if you want a large, “big,” or “broad” back.

Do sumo deadlifts work lats?

Traditional deadlifting requires more hamstring and lower back strength, while sumo deadlifting requires more hip and glute strength. Both will require leg (quad) and upper back (traps, lats, etc.) strength, as well as total core and grip strength.

Should I lift sumo or conventional?

Those with strong glutes, hamstrings, and lower back muscles should use the traditional deadlift. Pulling sumo makes more use of the quads and adductors than usual, but it also necessitates above-average adductor flexibility.


The lats are used in the deadlift to hold the upper back in place and the bar close to the body throughout the movement.

To develop the power of your lats in the deadlift, I recommend doing more direct lat work with horizontal and vertical pulls, integrating lat-challenging deadlift variations like stopped deadlifts or snatch grip deadlifts, and deadlifting more frequently if you only deadlift once a week.

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Field John

If you are an avid believer in health and fitness and want to do something for your team, I can help. As the founder of Field Goals Fitness, I lead a collective of health and fitness professionals dedicated to helping Australians lead a more active and healthier lifestyle. With a warm, friendly, and supportive approach that gets results, I enjoy helping individuals & organisations achieve sustainable success with their health and fitness goals. Certifying as a Personal Trainer in 2009, was a turning point in my life. I had spent 14 years in the corporate world in Business Development roles and decided to take all that I had learnt in sales and marketing and start my own business.

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