I know it is hard to believe but for some reason those two words strike fear into the hearts of most mortal men.  When it comes down to it, it may be for one simple reason: fear of failure.

For those with strength, this is simply another one of lifes challenges.  Embrace it and give it every ounce of your being.

Dedication.  Devotion. Commitment.

I know I am a few weeks late on this one but I wanted to formally congratulate a great friend, coach and coworker of mine on a happy and healthy life with his new wife.  Congratulations Fendy and Nyja.

Now what does all that have to do with your lats?

Simply put, I see too many individuals of all fitness levels being lazy with their pulling exercises.  Mainly deadlifts.  Getting your back into the proper position is only half of the equation, you have to learn how to engage your lats.

What this basically means is getting those big slabs of muscle on your back and under your arms nice and tight.  This will both help you lift more and prevent injury.  Not only that but you will stand up taller and not look so much like a caveman.  Here is an example of not using your lats (not to mention a few other things):

A few other things to notice:

  • The bar is too far out in front
  • kyphotic curve in thoracic spine
  • neck is hyperextended
  • stance is a little wide

Lifting like this is going to make 135lbs feel like 635lbs.  I also think it is safe to say that each time he pulls, he ends up with a sore back.  All back and no lats is a recipe for disaster.  Here is a good setup with the lats engaged:

Tony G gettin' at it

Get tight, stay tight.  Note the position of Tony’s shoulders over the bar, neutral spine, packed neck, and long lusterous hair.  Setting up like this makes deadlifting big numbers as easy as pumpkin pie.

Benefits of Engaging the Lats

The most obvious is injury prevention since the bar will stay close to your center of gravity so you don’t risk pulling with and/or rounding your back.  The fact is that the lats connect to the spine as one of it’s major stabilizers.  After all, a deadlift is all about spinal stability.  And a strong hieny of course.

How to Recruit Your Lats

Now that you understand the importance of utilizing this muscle, how the hell do you “activate” them?

The truth is that they are probably activated, just not engaged enough to provide any benefit.  One of the cues that I use with my clients that works very well is “keep your shoulder blades tucked back and down and squeeze your armpit like you have someone in a headlock.” For anyone who has never put someone in a headlock, you gotta try it.  Just sayin’.

Iron Shiek. Boom.

Basically just squeeze your armpits and focus on keeping your shoulders “in the socket”. Go ahead, if your still reading this then give your lats a good squeeze or two.

Once you have manned up and got engaged the next step is to naturally commit.  This should be the easy part.  Get tight, stay tight, and commit to the lift.

Now go tie the knot and pick up the bar ya crazy kids!

Written by Steve