Train Your Lats, Run Faster
I know your all going to look at me sideways for this one but it ties in with my last post on diaphragmatic breathing. And yes, I spelled diaphragmatic right on the first try (no spell-check for this 2nd grade spelling bee champion). The truth is though, that we operate as a single unit so there is no magic bullet or special area to focus on that will enhance your training without training the body as a whole. In other words you are only as strong as your weakest link.
Whether you are an athlete or fitness junkie or just someone who wants to look good nekkid, there are particular areas that you want to work on. People want to work on what they are good at or what they believe will help them improve in their activity. Runners in particular want to focus on, you guessed it: running. What they don’t realize is that a little bit of strength training will go a long way and keep them in the game much longer and the same goes for pretty much any human being.
So what does training your lats have to do with running anyways?
Well for one, your lats are one of the largest muscles in your body which serves many different functions including movement of not only your humerus but also your hips and vertebra. It attaches on your scapula, vertebra(T6 down to your sacrum), lower ribs, pelvis, and humerus. Without getting too much into anatomy, basically we have a large muscle that aids in a variety of movements and has attachments throughout your entire core. With that said, your lats effect more of your performance than you think.
Without getting too much into the fact that people don’t train enough of their posterior chain muscles (lats, glutes, hams, etc.) anyways, I will say that training your lats will improve all areas of your training. If you are a power lifter, this includes benching, squatting, and deadlifting. If you have terrible posture and experience a degree of the upper crossed syndrome which I discussed in my last post, this will help correct some of that imbalance. And if you are a runner or endurance athlete then training your lats will enhance your performance as they assist in cross sectional movement throughout your torso as well as aid in breathing. Have you ever tried to hold your breath and run really fast? Go ahead, try it.
Actually, the lats directly impact diaphragmatic breathing as the anterior fibers impact expiration and the exterior fibers impact inspiration. If these muscles are well conditioned, you will be able to perform longer and more efficiently. You will also be able to stabilize and transfer force more readily when it comes to not only running but lifting as well. If you are having trouble “belly” breathing after testing yourself like I described in the last post then one step towards improving your breath is to train the lats. I am an advocate of pullups and for those who are unable to begin with pullup negatives and/or band-assisted pullups. I will get more into these variations later this week in the exercise of the week.
There is also a deep connection between your lats, core, and glutes which will effect the way you perform and move as a weakness in one end will hinder the other end. Your lats are connected diagonally to your thoracolumbar fascia (TLF) as are your glutes. Thomas Myers in his book Anatomy Trains talks about myofascial lines (soft tissue stuff) and more specifically in this case the “spiral line” which connects the shoulder to the opposite hip down to the ankle. Now I know I’m getting a bit nerdy on you but I just want you to understand the connection that occurs throughout your body. A tightness or dysfunction at one end will impede performance at the other end. In other words, if your lats are weak and tight then your run is going to suck. Simple solution: foam roll/soft tissue work, stretching, and strength training the lats.
Notice how this sprinter’s right arm is extended which shortens the lat and opposite (left) leg is extended which shortens the glute. This connection is directly related to how fast and efficient she moves. It creates a cross-sectional transfer that creates stored energy to aid in her propulsion. A weak link in the chain would not allow her to move as quickly. For many runners and sprinters, that weak link may very well in fact be the lats.
Side note: conversely, ankle and hip mobility training can fix shoulder problems. Foam rollers are your best friend.
The takeaway: your lats do more than just assist in pullups and pulldowns. Train them properly to improve your strength, size, performance, posture, breathing function, and running performance.
Other side note: I chopped my veggies for the week this morning and that includes fresh garlic which no matter how many times I wash my hands it seems to linger for several days. This happens every week, does anyone know a good way in lieu of wearing gloves to not get stuck with the scent?