Are You Using Your Lats?
By Cris Holler
- Movement Specialist & Owner of CrossFit Monterey
The basis of the role your latissimus dorsi play in your movements, and whether you’re activating correctly to achieve your best performance.
Let’s begin with the primary function of the Latissimus Dorsi - Extension, Adduction, Transverse Extension and Flexion from a extended position. Simply put, when something is overhead and statically held it’s the Lat’s job to stabilize the scapula and shoulder girdle by eccentrically (pulling the load downward) onto the scapula and giving support to the small muscles or the shoulder and scapula.
How we commonly use the lats (or don’t) is something else in it self. Often seen in Pull ups, Ring Rows and DB Rows etc. Typically we see a less than perfect ingrained pulling pattern in most beginners and even experienced athletes. The elbow tends to be the easiest way of spotting the fault. In a improper DB Row for example most start to pull the DB to the nipple line which in turn fires the bicep in order to get the DB to touch the chest.
Example 1 - As you see here, it is very plausible for an experienced athlete to get some lat activation here, but from a standpoint of getting movement patterns safer we can certainly find a better angle to activate the lats.
Example 2 - What we want to do or think of during this same setup is to leave our angle the same or as close as possible between the elbow and drive the bottom of the DB as close to our back pocket as we can with control. This results in a much more efficient pull and allows us to avoid the shrug in the scap which we all get enough of on a daily basis.
In conclusion if you read this and still are not sure if your lats are doing their job, give a 12 rep max single arm DB row a test on each arm and aim to touch the bottom of the DB on your back pocket with control. If you find that your drastically weaker in this variation, you may have some serious work to do to secure the health of your shoulders and they will thank you for it.