COACH columnist

Most people think of the deadlift as a lower-body exercise, and while that’s true, it can hammer the lats really hard, too — if you perform them properly.

You can read more about pulling for lats in the video description, but in case you don’t have time to click through, here’s what it comes down to.

When deadlifting for a big deadlift:

  • Engage your lats by pulling them back and down toward your butt. This helps keep your back flat, even when moving near-max weights.
  • Brace your abs to create a good neutral spine position and “bear down” to generate lots of intra-abdominal pressure to help power the weight off the floor, balancing the load between your back, hips, and legs.
  • These steps should align your shoulders with the bar, resulting in a straight bar path and efficient movement pattern for lifting as much weight as possible.

When deadlifting for big lats:

  • Flare the lats by lifting the chest high and pushing them out. This helps to shift emphasis to the lats as you break the bar off the floor.
  • Brace your abs, but rather than trying to bear down, try to almost “flex in.” This will help to keep your good spinal position while keeping the chest high.
  • These steps will pull you slightly over the bar, resulting in a less efficient bar path and less weight lifted, but this will create more work for the lats.

The differences are very subtle. Don’t get frustrated if everything doesn’t click the first time you try. Just keep practicing, keep thinking strong, and keep training hard!