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Lat Activation – Research Review

In this short post I’ll summarise the findings of a study which investigated…


…𝙇𝘼𝙏 𝘼𝘾𝙏𝙄𝙑𝘼𝙏𝙄𝙊𝙉 – 𝙋𝙪𝙡𝙡𝙙𝙤𝙬𝙣𝙨 𝙑 𝙍𝙤𝙬𝙨 by @tommaccormick

🌎Everyone does wide grip lat pulldowns for lats, right?
❗️Well it seems everyone might be wrong.
👉This study is just another example of the fact that wide grip pulldowns might not be the lat builder we were all led to believe.
🔙As I posted up a few days ago, MY FAVOURITE LAT exercises is a “lat-focused” row where you initiate by thinking about driving the upper arm down to start the movement (do it on a machine or cable station). This will help you build a really good mind-muscle connection with the lats as well as training them really hard. I also like supinated/“reverse” grip pulldowns.

🤷‍♂️If you’re struggling to develop your lats or just want to be more efficient in your workouts this may help you. Many people think that the further the weigh travels from the muscle the better the “stretch” and activation of the muscle. The stretch part is true but the muscle activation is not, you actually create a opportunity for other muscles to perform work and move the weight instead of the target muscle. ⠀

🚨This study found that seated rows with a focus on retracting (pulling the shoulder blades back) caused the greater lat activation when compared to other pulldown and row variations. When most guys do cable rows they let their shoulder blades roll forwards and use momentum from their lower back to create momentum. This might allow you to lift more weight but isn’t necessarily placing more tension through your lats. In this study they found that keeping the shoulder blades pulled back created more activation of the lats…

⚠️I don’t think this tells the whole story! And for optimal shoulder health and lat activation becoming fixated on pulling your shoulder blades back and down is NOT ideal (more on that topic in another post). Instead allow your shoulders to protract (“slack” forwards) a bit and initiate the movement by driving your upper arm back & down. This means you can train shoulder extension (a primary function of the lats) across a full range of motion. Focusing on locking the shoulder blades down and back the whole time is more likely to create dysfunction and increase injury risk long-term. Allow the shoulder to move naturally through it’s full range and you’ll get stronger across the entire range.

🔑The key point is to realise that the lats can be trained very effectively with rows and that limiting your lat training to just regular wide grip pulldowns will limit your overall lat growth.

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