#PTonICE Daily Show – Friday, January 19th, 2024 – Lighting up the lats

In today’s episode of the PT on ICE Daily Show, Fitness Athlete faculty member Guillermo Contreras discusses the role of the lat and its importance in functional fitness as well as his top three exercises to strengthen the lats.

Take a listen to the episode or check out the show notes at www.ptonice.com/blog

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Good morning, PT on Ice, Daily Show. Welcome to the Best Day of the Week Fitness Athlete Friday. I am Guillermo Contreras on the teaching team within the fitness athlete division of the Institute of Clinical Excellence. My basement gym here. Today’s topic at hand is lighting up the lats. One topic that we see most often discussed or looked at within the fitness athlete division, whether it be in the live course or the online course, is the idea of lat weakness. And also, right, we talk about very heavily how to cue engagement of the lats, right? We never wanna say engage the lats, but squeeze oranges between your armpits, pretend I’m not gonna tickle you, don’t let me tickle you. And in essence, we want to be able to teach individuals how to better utilize, use, and strengthen their latissimus muscles. The best way we can do that is not only using the pull-up, which we teach in the live and online courses, but also giving some accessory movements. And the accessory movements are where most people tend to have the greatest amount of questions. What movements do we do? What can we actually use to strengthen it besides a standard lat pull-down machine or a seated row machine? Especially when in the fitness athlete realm, we don’t have those pulley systems. We don’t have a giant cable pulley machine. We don’t have a big lat pulldown, seated lat pulldown, or a seated row machine. So being able to give really good accessory movements that individuals can utilize in the gym to improve that lat strength, that awareness of what their lats are doing, is really pivotal. in helping improve the quality of movement, the strength of movement, and the ability for our fitness athletes to complete what they want to be doing in and out of the CrossFit box.

So, quick anatomy review for you all, right? We know the lat originates right here on the front side of the shoulder, wraps down around into the low back, and then attaches itself through to the lumbar spine via the thoracolumbar fascia, which is why the pelvis can play a part in the position of the length of the latissimus as well. So with that, I’m gonna give three of my favorite or three of the best movements or exercises that I give, that I prescribe out for a home exercise program or within the clinic to help improve individual’s lat strength and lat activation. Number one is a direct strengthener of the lat. It’s just gonna target it, it’s gonna help people feel it really, really well, and that is right here. It’s a straight arm lat pulldown. And I’m gonna show two variations that this one can be performed, depending on, I would say like the level or the strength of the individual you’re working with. We start simply by anchoring that band onto a pull-up bar or anything just above head height. We then take that band, we can hold it in both hands here, back away there so there’s some tension. We get a nice forward lean, keeping that nice neutral spine. And then I simply keep my elbow straight and pull that band down to my hips. By keeping the arms straight, we ensure we are hitting that lat muscle by performing that shoulder flexion all the way to end range. And in this upward position, we are hitting that end range position of the lat overhead when it’s fully lengthened like we would see at the bottom of a pull-up. A way that I progress this for individuals is by adding hip movement or combining that shoulder flexion with hip extension. Because as we extend the hips, we change the length of latissimus by letting the thoracolumbar fascia can relax a little bit more, contract a little bit more, and we get up to the top. This movement is called a lat prayer. Again, I don’t know who named it, who comes up with the names of it. It’s simply what I know it as, a lat prayer. And what that looks like is a very similar setup. I am here in this forward flexed position, hips back, arms at that end range. As I pull down on that band, I am bringing my hips up towards that band and come into a full contracted position of the lats. as I descend back down, I’m going to that fully lengthened position once again. So it’s just a combination of movements. We can do this both as a smooth kind of movement, all occurring at once, or we can segment it as a pull to the hips with that straight arm pull down, and then a stand, return to the hinge, and then come back up. So that is your straight arm lat pull down. dosing that with some good amount of volume right this is just a a rogue blue band i think it’s like a half inch or a quarter inch band, but it’s got a nice amount of tension on it. I can do anywhere between like 15 to 20 reps, really feel that nice active muscular pump as I’m doing it, and it creates a lot of awareness in that shoulder. The lat is huge when we think of pull-ups. When we’re doing kipping pull-ups, chest-to-bar pull-ups, butterfly pull-ups, whatever it is, we wanna have proficient strength in the lats to be able to maintain a stable shoulder and protect us from injury when we’re dropping down to the bottom. So number one, again, straight arm pull down or lat prayer. However you want to do that, you can dose it out in different ways.

Number two is a unique one in which we use a kettlebell and then a band anchored to the rack or a rig. Here, we take that band and we put it around the handle of the kettlebell. It can also be around our wrist or something like that, or you can actually like attach it onto the kettlebell itself. Easiest way for me to set this up for my athletes is just to have it right around the handle there. And then we set up in the same way we would do a bent over row or a single arm row. So it can either be supported on a bench or a box. It can be in this kind of double leg hinge position here, or we can be in just our standard staggered stance position here. From here, forearm goes on the knee, take a hold of that kettlebell, pick it up. We then row back towards our hip. So I’m here and I’m pulling back to my hip and then letting it pull me forward. So the motion is more of a J. So I like to think of it that way. It’s a J back up to the hip and then bringing it back down. So more of a curved motion of that row versus the standard kind of straight vertical row. or I guess you could say horizontal row. What this does is because it is now anchored, as I do that row, it’s not a simple horizontal row where I’m just doing a little bit of an upright motion there. I am now getting a bit of a vertical pull force as well, where I have to actually pull against that band, up to my hip, and then back down. Up to my hip, and then back down. This is a really nice one because you can load it different ways. You can load it with a heavier kettlebell going 35, 45, 53, whatever weight you want to use for that weight. Or you can make it much tougher by going with a much heavier band. This is like the Rogue quarter inch band. This is I think like 15 pounds, 20 pounds of force, stress. But you can go much heavier attention on that band, make it much tougher. There, maybe you probably are bracing on something so you don’t get pulled over. But this one, if you’ve never done it before, if you’ve never prescribed this for your athletes before, this works wonders. It hits that so much better than anything else you’ve seen. And it feels great. I think it feels really good. It’s a very strong movement there. So that is a banded kettlebell row. Again, think of a curved pull towards the hip rather than a straight vertical row. And you’re going to get much more of that lat activation as you come back.

The final movement, because we know that the lat is responsible for much more than just doing vertical pulling, It’s also responsible for maintaining tension on the bar when we’re doing deadlifts, Olympic lifts like the snatch and the clean. We want to make sure we’re also training it to do those things. So this here is my favorite exercise for those athletes who struggle to find their lats, to find that armpit squeeze, that pinch, and we can cue it with something called a sweeping deadlift. This here is just a five pound kids bar, it’s my daughter’s, but we can also use a PVC pipe or a dowel, anything works fine. we take that bar or that PVC pipe, it goes in the band as well. So again, once again, it’s anchored on a rack or a rig, something that’s not gonna fall over on top of you. We move back away from that anchor point, so now we have some tension on that band. We then pull that bar towards our hips, and then we begin our movement. So here I’m going to bring my hips back, maintaining tension the whole time, bend at the knees, down to the bottom, And then as I come back up, I am maintaining tension, so I’m scraping my shins to my thighs, pulling through, and maintaining that tension there. And back up. We can obviously do this with different grips, right? So this would be more of like my deadlift or clean grip. I can go much wider, as wide as this bar lets me go, and go with more of a snatch grip, and then really focus on more of a snatch setup, or more upright torso, and really think, of going through that first and second pull as I come there, as I come here, getting tall with it, and continuing to use that tension to train how that should feel when I’m pulling that bar towards my body. So there it is, right? A nice recap. Three movements that I love to give my athletes who are struggling either with getting pull-ups or with shoulder pain because the lats might be weak and they’re kind of dropping and crashing down in their kipping pull-ups or their butterfly pull-ups. One here, that straight arm pull-down, pulling down to the hips, keeping the elbow straight. Can I add in some hip motion to just really increase that tension and that full range of motion for it? that banded kettlebell row with a vertical and horizontal pull that’s working together at the same time to really hit that lat musculature there. And then that sweeping deadlift for maybe my athlete that just really struggles to understand what it means to use their lat to be able to hold that bar close to their body to create more tension through their spine, through the thoracolumbar fascia to maintain a neutral spine when deadlifting, Olympic lifting with the clean, the snatch, et cetera. So there again, three movements that I love to prescribe out to my athletes for that there.

If that was good, if you enjoyed learning those, or you’re like, oh my gosh, I’ve never seen those before, never heard of those before, and you want to learn more, please join us on the road, please join us online. We have a number of courses coming up. We have our next course of Clinical Management with a Fitness Athlete, Level 1 course, or what used to be known as the Ascendant Foundations. That kicks off on January 29th. We would love to have you join us there. We do all things squat, front squat, back squat, deadlift, press, pull-ups. We learn how to program for CrossFit. We understand what it looks like to do a Metcon. It’s a great experience, great course, especially if you’re new to this area and you want to get more involved in the fitness athlete realm. And then our live courses, we have a handful coming up. Next week, we’re going to be in Portland, Oregon, January 10th and 11th. We’re going to be in Richmond, Virginia, February, I said February 10th and 11th, February 24th and 25th down in Charlotte, North Carolina, so hitting that East Coast. And then in March 23rd and 24th, we’re going to be out West in Meridian, Idaho. So if any of those are near you, if you’ve been looking to take a live course, please head to PTOnIce.com, go to our live courses, check that out. And if you have taken these courses, and you’re interested more in kind of just the exercise prescription realm, what do movements look like, these ones right here, there’s a resource we have in our self-study courses section of the PT Honors website called the Clinical Management of the Fitness Athlete Exercise Library, over 150 exercises all different realms for deadlift, for squat, for pressing, for pull-ups, for gymnastics. Myself and Kelly Benfinger, the TA, worked really hard to send that out. We just came up with a new version 5.0, fully updated, that we’d love for you to use to help your athletes and have a really great resource for you. So gang, thank you so much for joining this Friday morning. Hope you have a wonderful weekend. And again, thank you for tuning in. We will catch you next week on the PT on ICE Daily Show.

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