You won’t be a slouch if you strengthen your back

Anatomy 101 says people aren’t designed to fly. That doesn’t mean that we can’t have wings.

The latissimus dorsi of the upper back tend to pop like wings when they are well developed.

It’s one of coolest parts about helping men build muscles. After a few weeks they notice their shirts getting tighter and their upper body taking on an impressive V shape. Coupled with development of a thinner waist, the results are even more noticeable. (See

Both men and women can benefit from training the lats. Many sports and activities require upper back strength.

Swimmers and rowers need a strong back to propel themselves through the water. Any sport where you must rotate requires lat strength. Tennis, baseball and softball players will deliver stronger hits if their backs are conditioned. And the golfers among you. Lat training will give you strength to rotate the torso through your swing, making the ball go farther. Volleyball players will have more powerful serves and pitchers will have faster pitches.

Having a strong back also contributes to better posture. Slouching has become too common. Sitting in front of a computer monitor all day, watching hours of television and even driving in your car can contribute to slouching, especially if you don’t sit up straight, like mom always told you to do.

When you slouch, the dominant chest muscles pull on the shoulders, causing them to round forward. Remember the top attachment site for the lats is the front of the shoulder, contributing to the slouch. Luckily, the lats aren’t the only muscles in the back being worked as you perform the two exercises I am recommending in today’s column — the row and the lat pull down. The trapezius and rhomboids, which I call the posture muscles, also are strengthened in these exercises. When they are strong, they can assist in pulling the shoulders back into good posture.

While the main motivation for men to do these exercises may be the V-shaped torso, women also can benefit from adding back exercises to their routine. The added strength will help with posture. By concentrating on higher repetitions with a slow tempo and low to moderate resistance, women will develop strength without adding bulky muscles that pop out.

Rock climbers also can benefit from slower tempo lat training because climbing requires controlled movements as opposed to fast swings or throwing motions.

Muscles of the upper back work together in different ways. Rows and lat pull downs engage most of them. The lats are a large group of muscles that attach from the lower back to the front of the shoulder. They are a major contributor to upper body strength as well as the main muscles used when doing rows. Rows also work the trapezius muscles that extend from the neck down the middle of the back and the rear deltoid (shoulder).

Lat pull downs work mostly the latissimus dorsi, and teres major (just under the arm pit) as well as the lower part of the trapezius and the rhomboids (between the shoulder blades).

Chris Huth is a Las Vegas trainer. You can contact him at Before beginning any exercise program, consult your physician.

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