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Health and Fitness News

Work the Lats

Six exercises to build and strengthen your lats

Short for latissimus dorsi, the lats are the largest muscles in your upper body. Starting under your arms and extending all the way to your glutes, the lats work to stabilize your back, core, and shoulders, helping you do things like breath, move your upper body, bring your arms to your sides, lift your body weight up, arch your spine, maintain proper posture, and bend to the side.

Because your lats are so vital, a balanced strength-training routine will include exercises that work them. Here are six exercises to circuit through as you build and strengthen these important muscles. The first four can be adjusted to any fitness level, while the last two are more advanced.

Seated Rows

You can do seated rows with a cable row machine or resistance band. To get started, sit with your back straight and your legs straight out in front of you. Place a selected amount of weight on the machine, lean forward, and hold onto the cables. If using a resistance band, lean forward, hold each end of the band, and wrap the middle around your feet. Keep your elbows next to your body and pull back, bringing your shoulder blades together.

Superman

Lie facedown on the floor and extend your arms above your head. Squeeze your legs and feet together and keep your arms next to your head. Start by just lifting your legs off the floor while keeping your upper body stable. Hold for a second, lower, and repeat. Now, lift just your upper body off the floor, hold, lower, and repeat. You can do variations by lifting both your upper and lower body at the same time or by lifting your right arm and left leg and then your left arm and right leg.

Bent-Over Flys

While standing with your arms down by your sides, hold a dumbbell in each hand. Bend forward at your hips, bring the dumbbells down in front of your face, keep your back flat, and slightly bend your knees and elbows. Now, raise each arm out to the side until your elbows are at shoulder-height. Squeeze your shoulder blades together. Lower the dumbbells back down in front of you. Repeat.

Lat Pull-Down

Using a lat pull-down machine, adjust the amount of weight for your fitness level. Sit on the bench and rest the pad across your thighs to keep your body stable. Hold the bar with a wide forward-facing grip. Pull the bar down slowly and in a controlled manner toward your upper chest. Don’t lean back, but keep your torso stable. Experiment with different lat pull-down variations including underhand, straight-arm, single-arm, and close-grip.

Pull-Ups

A challenging lat workout is the pull-up. Hold a pull-up bar with a forward-facing grip. A wide, medium, or close grip will work different parts of your back. Hang from the bar, lean back about 30 degrees, and stick your chest out. Now, exhale and pull your body up, squeezing your back muscles, until your chest touches the bar. Hold for a second, inhale, and lower your body back to the starting position. Repeat. If you can’t do a pull-up, don’t despair. Focus on other lat exercises.

Chin-Ups

Another lat exercise reserved for those with extra upper body strength is the chin-up. Grip a pull-up bar with your palms facing you at shoulder-width. Hang from the bar with your torso straight, your lower back curved, and your chest sticking out. Exhale and pull your body up, keeping your elbows next to your body, until your head or chest reaches the bar. Hold for a second and then inhale and lower your body back to starting position. Repeat.