The Bioneer (Adam Sinicki Talks Fitness, Bodybuilding, Productivity, Flow States, Psychology, Martial Arts, Parkour And More):

Big lats are one of the most important features if you want to develop an athletic and imposing looking physique. A huge wingspan makes you wider, while a dramatic V Taper gives you a super heroic silhouette. But lats do a lot more for us than just that. In fact, they do a lot more than many people realize.

One of the most memorable scenes featuring Bruce Lee is the balcony scene, where he blows up his lats to cobra-like proportions. Bruce developed those lats for a reason. They helped dramatically with punching power. And if you look at the backs of boxers, you’ll see that Bruce was not alone in making that connection. This might come as a surprise considering that lats are primarily pulling muscles, but of course that’s precisely the contribution that the lats make. Helping to snap the punch back and in the case of a powerful one-two combo, this helps to rotate the torso, thereby throwing your entire body into a juggernaut cross. That quick rechambering also gives the punch its snap and prevents your arm from getting trapped.

The Bioneer (Adam Sinicki Talks Fitness, Bodybuilding, Productivity, Flow States, Psychology, Martial Arts, Parkour And More):

Outside of combat, lats play a range of other critical roles. They are absolutely central to rock climbing for example. Which also makes them crucial things like parkour and generally running across rooftops like batman. Like the glutes which they are often used in conjunction with, the lats are anti-gravity muscles. More fundamental still, the lats actually play a huge role in spinal stabilization. You might think of your lats as your armpit muscles, but in fact they originate right down by the hips, coming from the iliac crest and lower spine attaching at various points, all the way up to the inter-tubercular groove of the humerus. They actually help with the extension and lateral flexion of the spine. As a result, strong lats can help to prevent lower back injury during exercises like the deadlift. So, how do we train them?

The Bioneer (Adam Sinicki Talks Fitness, Bodybuilding, Productivity, Flow States, Psychology, Martial Arts, Parkour And More):

One of the best uses for building functional powerful lats, comes from Pavel Tsatsouline. No big surprise there. Pavel recommends that the ideal pull-up, should maintain the same hollow body position that a fighter adopts in the ring. This tactical pull-up involves contracting the abs to pull the belly button towards the spine, while engaging a posterior pelvic tilt. If you do this while standing with your back against the wall, you should find that your lower back touches the wall, while your shoulders round and move away from it at the top. With that rigid position maintained, you’re now going to perform a strict pull-up with legs together. And your thumb is going to be on top of the bar. You’re at the apex of the movement only once your chin is above the bar and you should simultaneously retract the scapula. This is important for other movements like the front lever too. The hand position not only mimics the way you actually use your hands when climbing, if you ever need to climb into a window for instance where you can’t wrap your thumb around the bottom, but also subtly alters the engagement of the lats. Anything that adds a little flexion to the wrist will increase lat activation.

The Bioneer (Adam Sinicki Talks Fitness, Bodybuilding, Productivity, Flow States, Psychology, Martial Arts, Parkour And More):

Pavel actually has a fighter pull-up program that offers the best programming to use this type of pull-up. If you want to improve your overall posture and resilience against injury, then improving strength endurance is critical. That said, if you want more lat power, then you can use the same program using a weighted vest. Alternatively, you can try a lat pull down in order to add even more weight. While the pull-up is a wonderfully functional movement, there isn’t enough on its own to develop the lats optimally. That’s because the pull-up is a vertical pull. In my personal opinion, training the vertical pull only, is the equivalent of doing hundreds of military presses and ever performing a single bench press or push-up. Doing a horizontal pull will transfer better to punching grappling and moving furniture.

The Bioneer (Adam Sinicki Talks Fitness, Bodybuilding, Productivity, Flow States, Psychology, Martial Arts, Parkour And More):

You can use the seated rail or bent over row as an example of a horizontal pull, but I’m also a big fan of the body weight row or inverted push-up. Here you’ll be lifting a small percentage of your body weight, owing to the fact that your heels will be on the floor. This makes it a great movement to use as a mechanical drop set with the pull-up. Perform as many pull-ups as you can to failure and then immediately lower yourself into the body-weight row without rest. I love mechanical drop sets as they allow the development of both power and endurance.

The Bioneer (Adam Sinicki Talks Fitness, Bodybuilding, Productivity, Flow States, Psychology, Martial Arts, Parkour And More):

I’d also recommend adding a rotational element to your horizontal rowing movements. There’s a general lack of movements that target the transverse plane in many training programs and this is a much better way to mimic the way you often use your lats in real life. A great movement for this is the single armed bodyweight row with rotation. This is commonly done with the overly expensive TRX, but you can achieve the same effect with a gymnastic ring rope, towel dip bar, or parallel bar.

The Bioneer (Adam Sinicki Talks Fitness, Bodybuilding, Productivity, Flow States, Psychology, Martial Arts, Parkour And More):

Just as effective as the single arm standing cable row with rotation. This movement has the added benefit of forcing you to brace your core and dig your feet into the ground. It won’t allow you to maximally engage the lat, so, it won’t build massive size but it’s perfect for developing real functional performance and teaching us useful movement patterns for things like wrestling or dragging things along the ground. Keep the elbow in towards the body to target the lats predominantly. When performing these movements you can again increase lat activation by adding a little flexion to the wrists, making sure to tuck the finger knuckle under the bar when rowing or to wrap it over the top of the bar when doing pull-ups. But I advise combining a range of different hand positions and pulling angles for the most complete back development.

The Bioneer (Adam Sinicki Talks Fitness, Bodybuilding, Productivity, Flow States, Psychology, Martial Arts, Parkour And More):

A great way to develop strength, endurance, size and power in the lats, is by rock climbing. Rock climbing is fantastic as you’ll be keeping continuous tension in the lats and combining a vertical pull to move upwards and a horizontal pull to keep you close to the wall. Especially when traversing. You’ll naturally combine this with explosive movements for things like dinos along with every manner of hand position, unilateral movements and everything else in between. I was big into rock climbing at university and some of the guys there had insane lats and unbelievable gripping strength. It’s also just a really fun way to train. Don’t have a climbing wall, if your gym has monkey bars then this will work well too, or you can try climbing along fences or similar. Alternatively, grab onto your pull up bar and try not only pulling yourself up but moving around the bar. Vary your cadence, alter your grip and move not only up and down, but left to right, round and round and just generally move yourself around. Rope climbing of course is also fantastic and I like to combine this sometimes with pull-ups.

So, there you go. There’s a ton of different things you can do to build bigger and more powerful and more functional lats. Let me know if there’s anything I missed and what you do to train your lats. If you like this kind of functional training that develops usable real world strength and performance, then you’d probably enjoy my eBook and training program, ‘Super Functional Training’ that’s a PDF with a full training program and also tons of information on different ways to train different aspects of strength performance, mobility, even brain function.




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