Your “lats” are the latissimus dorsi, a broad muscle that crosses from under each arm to form a “V” shape ending near your tailbone. Your lats are what help you extend and internally rotate your arm, and rotate the trunk of your body. You can get your lats into shape with various exercises that will also work other areas of your back and arms.

What to expect from Lat Exercises

There are different sorts of lat exercises, all which also help you reduce the chance of injury. You can practice vertical pulling movements such as chin-ups, pull-downs, and pull-ups. Pull-overs and deadlifts are also great conditioning, as are horizontal movements like rowing, a T-bar row, and bent-over row. Like any other type of exercise you’ll have to push yourself to continue to improve, and adding weight to pulldowns and the like is easy - you just reposition the pin in the weight stack and see if you can push yourself another 10 pounds.

How to prepare for Lat Exercises

Double-check with your doctor to make sure none of the lat exercises will put strain on your body. While people with chronic shoulder pain find it very helpful to work on their lats, patients who have had a cardiomyoplasty (where the latissimus dorsi muscles are wrapped around the heart to increase output) should check with their doctors before heading to the gym. Make sure you start of with low weights to get a good sense of where your limit is. You won’t be helping yourself if you overstrain your body and pull a muscle before you even really begin.

Muscles You’ll Work Out

Working out the latissimus dorsi helps you work your back muscles as your burn calories, create a stronger and more stable frame, and train your body to hold better posture. Some exercises like the assisted pullups work your shoulders, middle back, biceps, and grip as well as your lats. When you work on your lat muscles, you will also be working on a combination of the surrounding muscles that support each other each time. Pulldowns help not only your lats, but the shoulder joints that pull the weight and work to extend and rotate your arm, and the biceps that flex your arms. However, it is your lats that will be receiving the bulk of the benefit during such movements, as they are responsible for your arms contracting as they pull yourself up. That also means they are the muscles that will be injured should you do the exercise incorrectly.

Tips for Success in Working on Your Lats

Although the pulldown isn’t complex or require as much coordination, it is a great and simple exercise to start off with. It works with multiple joints in your elbows, shoulders, and scapula to give your upper body a good workout that extends down to your spine. If you find it gets boring to repeat the pulldown every day, try mixing things up with different grips, or even handles.

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