Next up on our trip through all the different muscles and why they’re important is…. Your lats!
I know we’ve all been in classes and heard “Squeezing into the muscles right under your armpits” and you’ve probably thought- what on earth does that mean why is that important? This cue is so important to helping you engage your lats, the most underrated muscles in your core. Your lats are gateways to other key muscles AND they help reduce tension in the neck and shoulders. What do these so called “lats” work with?
Your lats (which are officially called latissimi dorsi) are two wing-shaped muscles that help you move your arms and also help support your posture and spine! They stop at the top of your humerus, extend underneath your armpits and then wrap around your spine and go down your back! Now that’s pretty interesting that these muscles help maintain our posture and our spine, wouldn’t strengthening your lats help improve your posture? Yes, but not in the way you’d think. Keep on reading and we will get to that!
Underneath your shoulder blade comes the serratus muscle and this muscle helps you when you lift your arms up or you push yourself off the ground!
And then come our trapezius muscles, these support shoulder-blade movement and they’re broken up into three parts: upper, mid and lower. Pretty easy to remember right? The lower and mid traps are often forgotten and left weak which leads to your body compensating in other places.
Now that we’ve covered the muscles surrounding the lats, what is it important to strengthen these?! Well we’ve already mentioned that having weak lats can affect your posture but it can also lead to muscles around your body having to compensate for the weakness your lats are experiencing! We also said earlier our lats are essential to our core and we all know that core is the foundation of an aligned body which is our sole purpose in True40! If we have weak lat muscles (keeping in mind all the important things lats do) all of our other muscles will be forced to compensate for the weakness and they will become overworked and fatigued which can lead to injuries. Also having weak lats and overcompensating in other areas can lead to tension in our necks and shoulders. So here’s a quick review of what we’ve learned so far: lats support our spine and are an essential part of our core. Weak lats can lead to bad posture and injuries due to the overcompensation of other muscles. Now, what can we do about this?!?! Easy answer, work to strengthen them! Here’s our favorite ways.
One key thing that’s super easy to fix and we can do it in almost every movement in class is to drop our ribs. If we’re standing there with our ribs popping up and forward, lats are just hanging out not doing what they’re supposed to. Becoming aware of this, we can work to pull our ribs in and drop them which helps us find proper alignment and proper usage of our muscles. Another easy thing we can constantly do is think about engaging our lats. Before you head into those lat pulls in combo work, think about those lats and think about engaging them and BOOM you’ll get a better workout! Need help knowing which exercises work your lats and which exercises you need to tell your brain “This, this is where I want to work!” No worries, we got you. Keep reading for the most common exercises we do in class!
- Lat pulls overhead with weights. Now this exercise is one you’ll definitely feel almost instantly.
- Low row/High row with TRX straps
- Deadlifts (yes just doing dead lifts without any arm movements can help strengthen your lats!!) Dead lifts are honestly just one of the best full body exercises that work so many muscles you don’t even realize. Yes a typical dead lift is working your hamstrings and glutes, but what you don’t realize is dead lifts also allow you to work your whole upper back!
- Renegade rows
- One arm rows
- Plaks!!! Any plank you can think of works your lats- wow!!!!!
- Supermans. Such a random exercise right? Sometimes when I’m doing supermans I really sit there and think “what on earth is this working?” But now looking at this exercise, it makes so much sense! Squeezing into our lats as we lift our shoulders and arms off the mat really hits the back of that core and also those lats.
Lats are one of those muscle groups that are so essential to our body yet we don’t even realize that. That being said, it’s 10x easier to forget and neglect these muscles! These don’t show on your body as much as your biceps and quads will once you’ve been working, and you won’t get that euphoric feeling working these like you often do when you work your glutes! But they’re still just as important!!! Kind of ironic that one of our muscles that strengthen our core the most most people don’t even know of. Strong stable lats make it possible to keep the rest of our body functioning correctly!! Helping strengthen these (even if they aren’t really visible or obvious we need to work) will help us continue to develop our strong, balanced body! One of our major goals in True40 (as I’m sure you’ve heard multiple times) is to balance our body out. What we do to one side of our body, we do to the other to make sure that we’re completely balanced. Another aspect of balancing our body is not only making sure to spend the same amount of time on each side of the body, it’s also important to make sure we’re balancing the amount of work we’re putting on each set of muscles. Next time you’re in a True40 class or working out at the gym, start to think about those lats and how important they are to you and your balanced body!!