Quick Guide To Your Muscles: Latissimus Dorsi Aka. “The Lats”

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Let’s admit it, many folks¬†wants a sexy, toned, and fit looking back. ¬†Whether you’re sporting a sports bra, racer back tank, or an awesome backless dress for the ladies. Or a tank top or even going shirtless for the guys, having a back that’s strong and firm leaves a statement in any room your presence graces… Even as you turn away to exit!


The back muscles are a group of many. ¬†But the one that we’ll focus on for today is the latissimus dorsi – commonly referred to as your “lats”.¬†¬†¬†The lats are one of the largest muscles of the back. ¬†And because of their sheer size (we’re talking both the left and right side together) they create a lot of motion in the upper body. ¬†


It originates along your thoracic spine (the middle back), lower back (lumbar spine), the edge of your hip bone (known as the iliac crest, and it does this through connective tissue called fascia), the sacrum (which is that bony middle part of the back of your pelvis), the lower ribs, and the bottom edge of your shoulder blade. ¬†Yes I know, it’s a whole LOT of surface area. ¬†It’s easy to see how and why this muscle is a sheer powerhouse! ¬†


All of that inserts into a small groove on your upper arm bone (the humerus).  Because of where it inserts, the lat muscle acts upon the arm a great deal.  More specifically the lats will pull your arms downwards into the body, pull it backwards, and can also rotate it inwards. With these actions in mind, there are several ways that you can hit the lats in the gym.  One of my most favorite back building exercises is a traditional pull up.


(Video via Bodybuilding.com)




In my opinion, pull ups are the GRAND-DADDY of all back exercises (next to deadlifts).  


If you want a sheer and direct way of hitting those lats, and building your own amazing V taper, pulls ups will never fail you. ¬†In this very move, you have the action of the lats pulling the arms inward towards the body – a direct action of the lats as notated above. ¬† Now don’t worry, if you can’t perform these with perfection on your own, feel free to hop up on the assisted machine at your gym. ¬†


Focus on using a weight that makes you lift as much of your own bodyweight as possible. ¬†Over time, you’ll be able to perform this move without a hitch. My next favorite width builder hands down is the seated lat pull down.


(Video via Bodybuilding.com)


By holding on with a wide grip, you’ll be able to mimic the same motion as the pull up. ¬†So for those of you that have some issues with pull ups, or you don’t feel quite ready for it yet, this is a wonderful alternative. ¬†While pulling down, be sure to keep your chest up nice and high, and maintain the natural curve of the lower back.


Another really awesome favorite that I like to throw into my own mix (and that of my clients) from time to time is more of a power move called Medicine Ball Overhead Slams (or Med Ball Slams). ¬†It’s really important to variate your training and allow yourself to work within various modalities.


A lot of people tend to think only about lifting hard and heavy when it comes to building muscle, however doing moves that are more power based, and explosive, can really help to define your body (as well as give you a great caloric burn in the process).  Medicine Ball slams are a great way of directly targeting the lats.  


In this move the arms are stretched overhead and then pulled quickly downwards when you slam the ball towards the floor – and remember pulling the arms in back of you is a direct action of the latissimus dorsi.



And the final exercise I’ll throw out there is #4 on my list of great lat builders, and that’s the rope press down. ¬†Remember, one of the actions of the lats is pulling your arms in back of you. ¬†This exercise is excellent simply because its main action does exactly that.


(Video via InstructionalFitness.com)


With these three in your program, you’ll be sure to build up a great v taper, and sexy back in no time. ¬†Of course individual programming is essential, so what your body needs is specific to you. ¬†You can try to mix things up a bit by doing a few sets with moderate or lighter weights and higher reps (15 or greater), or by doing the opposite with heavier weights and lower reps (15 or below). ¬†


The most important part is that you CHALLENGE YOURSELF TO CREATE CHANGE!



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