Latissimus Dorsi

The Latissimus Dorsi muscle, often referred to as the “lats,” is a large, flat muscle on the back that stretches to the sides, behind the arm, and is partly covered by the trapezius on the back near the midline.

It is responsible for various movements of the shoulder joint and plays a significant role in activities that involve pulling motions, such as rowing or pull-ups, and it is also vital for activities that require powerful arm movements, such as swimming or climbing.

Latissimus Dorsi
Latissimus Dorsi

Latissimus Dorsi



  • Spinous processes of inferior 6 thoracic vertebrae, thoracolumbar fascia, iliac crest, and inferior 3 or 4 ribs


  • Floor of intertubercular sulcus of humerus


  • Extends, adducts, and medially rotates humerus; raises body toward arms during climbing

Clinical Relevance

Shoulder Movement Restrictions

Latissimus dorsi may be implicated in patients with restrictions of motion of abduction, flexion and lateral rotation. Assessment of this muscle is crucial for patients with upper extremity pathology. Proper function and coordination with the teres major and pectoralis major muscles are essential for smooth and fluid movements of the upper extremity.


Relationship with Low Back Pain

For patients with low back pain, it is important to assess the length and flexibility of the latissimus dorsi due to the attachments on the spine and pelvis. A decrease in length or an increase in stiffness of this muscle can lead to alterations in movement patterns and/or postures which can exacerbate low back pain.

~ Evidence-Based Exercises ~

According to an EMG study, the exercises that demonstrated significant muscle contractions of Latissimus Dorsi are;

  • Chest-Supported Prone Shoulder Extension
  • Inverted Row
  • Wide-Grip Pulldown

Prone Shoulder Extension

Prone Shoulder Extension

Inverted Row

Inverted Row



< Reference >

  • Keith L. Moore, Anne M. R. AgurArthur F. Dalley. Moore Clinically Oriented Anatomy 7th Edition, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2013
  • Palastanga N, Field D, Soames R. Anatomy and Human Movement: Structure and Function. 5th Ed. Edinburgh. Butterworth Heinemann. Elsevier. 2007.
  • Jeno SH, Varacallo M. Anatomy, back, latissimus dorsi.StatPearls [Internet]. 2021 Aug 11.Available: 31.12.2021)
  • Al-Qaisi S, Saba A, Alameddine I. Electromyography analysis: Comparison of maximum voluntary contraction exercises for the latissimus dorsi. WOR. 2022;71(3):803-808. doi:3233/WOR-213629
  • Park S yeon, Yoo W gyu, An D hyun, Oh J seop, Lee J hoon, Choi B ram. Comparison of isometric exercises for activating latissimus dorsi against the upper body weight. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology. 2015;25(1):47-52. doi:1016/j.jelekin.2014.09.001
  • Lehman GJ, Buchan DD, Lundy A, Myers N, Nalborczyk A. Variations in muscle activation levels during traditional latissimus dorsi weight training exercises: An experimental study. Dyn Med. 2004;3(1):4. doi:1186/1476-5918-3-4