Build better: Lats

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Inferior angle of scapula

9th-12th ribs

Spinous process of T7-T12

Thoracolumbar fascia

Posterior ⅓ of iliac crest



Crest of the lesser tuberosity of the humerus and the intertubercular groove



Extension, adduction and internal rotation of the arm

Aids in breathing


Exercises for lats:

Wide grip pull down

Wide grip pull up

Wide grip horizontal row

Standing cable lat flexion

Romanian deadlift

Conventional deadlift

DB pull over

Dragon flag hold

Planche/ pseudo planche work


Review. Function of a muscle is to move the insertion point toward the origin point. The pulling action of the lat moves the insertion point (on the upper arm) toward the origin points (shoulder blades, ribs, thoracic spine, thoracolumbar fascia, and hips). 


We perform a concentric contraction of the lat (that is the muscle shortens as it contracts) during the portion of a pull up where our chest is moving toward the bar. We perform an eccentric contraction of the lat (that is the muscle lengthens as it contracts) during the portion of a pull up  where our chest is moving away from the bar. Both concentric and eccentric contractions are important for strengthening. Generally, eccentric contractions place a greater load on the connective tissues, so they are used frequently in tendon rehab- or when we cannot perform a concentric movement unassisted- as in the eccentric pull up work we program frequently. 


In gymnastic skills the lats have a pivotal role in the transition from an arch body position to a hollow body position. Let’s look at the Crossfit kipping pull up. A skillfully performed kipping pull up is a series of arch/ hollow shapes. The arch at the bottom as we push the chest forward and hollow at the top as we pull our chin over the bar. That movement from the arms over the head at the bottom of the kip swing to the position at the top of a pull up where our elbows are bent and hands are close to our shoulders is an excellent demonstration of the action of the lat. 


The pulling action moves the origin points (shoulder blades, ribs, thoracic spine, thoracolumbar fascia, and hips) toward the insertion (the humerus- aka arm bone). 


Limitations in overhead motion? More often than not, we find that the lats are a contributing factor. If we look at the direction of the muscle fibers, we can see the contractile plane of the muscle. Think about your body shape in an excellent hollow body position with your arms extended overhead. This places the lat in a fully extended position. Feel like you can’t get into a good posterior pelvic tilt with your arms over head? Remember the lat attaches on the back of your hip bone and ties into the thoracolumbar fascia which could absolutely contribute to motion limitations. 


Our favorite “mobility” exercises for lats are eccentric movements as they place an appropriate amount of force on the tissue. Force = adaptation. This is why we don’t love passive stretching for improving movement. Being able to passively move ourselves into a range of motion doesn’t really help us improve function. But placing load on a tissue in the range of motion that we’re after. That’s the key. 


Questions? Drop em in the comments!




App: Essential Anatomy

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