Back training and the perfect latissimus dorsi workout with the lat machine

Training in the weight room has always existed, but times change and with them the available equipment, training programs and scientific research in the field of sport and exercise. Decades ago not everyone looked at technique, read books and studied before creating a training program, yet results were still achieved. It is probably for this reason that today, even though the correct information is easily available, there is still a lot of confusion and a lot of training techniques are handed down that are outdated and even harmful. If it has always worked, why should we change? In the weights room often more attention is paid to old bodybuilders than to current scientific evidence or correct notions.

Back training and exercises for the latissimus dorsi: two discussed topics, subjected to great mistakes.

The purpose of this article is not to denigrate everything that has been done in the past, but to clarify some issues that have become an integral part of the cultural baggage of many without going through the right filter, when instead they would benefit from scientific insights.

One of the topics most subject to great errors is the back  training, below will be clarified some of the topics most discussed on the execution of the exercises for the latissimus dorsi.

Back Training. Anatomy of the main muscles involved

Before starting, it is first necessary to identify the exact locations for the back muscles like latissimus dorsi in the body, many people think, for example, that Latissimus dorsi is a muscle that starts from the middle of the back and that extends with a large muscular belly up to under the armpits. In fact, its most distal origin is from the posterior third of the iliac crest, and its insertion is in the minor tubercle of the humerus. Synergy to this muscle is the teres major, which sees its origin on the lower corner of the scapula and the insertion of the humerus in the intertubercular shower. Both muscles have the task of adducing, extending and rotating the humerus.
Synergistic to the latissimus dorsi is the pectoralis major, for two functions out of three (adduction and intrarotation of the humerus) and the long head of the triceps (extension of the humerus). To this group of muscles must be associated a second group, of which it is necessary to know the action to be able to better understand the biomechanics of some exercises, this is the case of the adductors of the shoulder blades: rhomboids major and minor, middle and lower trapezius. By placing themselves on the scapula, their action is to bring it closer to the spine.

Lat machine and latissimus dorsi: thickness vs back width

The rule is simple: Wide grip to widen the back and narrow grip to thicken it. Reality or myth? We speak of a wide back when we do those exercises that make you feel discomfort just below the armpit, where the muscle belly of the latissimus dorsi leaves room for its myotendinous junction full of nociceptors, with the task of perceiving the pain caused by stretching and micro injuries due to overload. Associating pain in that area with the idea of the back that tends to widen intuitive but unfortunately, it is an indication of a poorly performed exercise that overloads a structure that is not appropriate for that job.
As far as the thickness of the back is concerned, it is attributed to using the lat pulldown machine with a narrow grip. Analyzing the movement it can be observed that the wide grip is an adduction movement of the humerus in the frontal plane. A narrow grip changes the working plane, becoming an extension movement in the sagittal one, this makes it possible to complete a scapular adduction with the activation of the muscles responsible for this role like latissimus dorsi, which are positioned in the center of the back. This gives the idea of increasing the thickness. It is not, therefore, a question of a different adaptation of the latissimus dorsi, but of the involvement of other muscles.

Latissimus dorsi and lat machine: Which width is the best?

Wide or narrow? What is the difference between one execution and the next?

With a wide grip, the humerus makes an adduction movement in the frontal plane that will stimulate the transverse fibers of the latissimus dorsi and the teres major, placed in the highest part of the trunk. With a tight grip, the muscular work moves into the lower and vertical fibers of the latissimus dorsi, in synergy with the long head of the triceps, some pec fibres, and the adductor muscles of the scapula.

At the level of activation of the latissimus dorsi, the literature provides conflicting data, it is therefore not clear which width of the grip is most stimulating for the latissimus dorsi. What seems to agree with both the studies and the practice in the field is that its greatest activation is by keeping the forearm prone, beyond the stance of the hands on the bar.

Supine grip

Although the shoulder is a joint with 3 degrees of freedom, at 180° flexion the shoulder has a reduced rotation capacity. It is for this reason that with the arms stretched overhead, it will be almost impossible to completely supinate the forearm, trying to notice the hands slightly rotated inwards. Forcing this movement creates tension in the soft tissues of the shoulder and elbow which, compensating for the required movement, could be injured.

Prone grip

It has already been clarified that this grip is the one that most activates the latissimus dorsi, even in doing so moves the insertion point of the biceps brachial that will no longer be able to perform optimally its flexor action. A prone grip that is too wide prevents the total ROM of the arm as the flexion of the shoulder will never reach 180°, making the back work in full extension and creating, in the long run, muscular imbalances.
It should be specified how the association between elbow flexion and forearm pronation, typical of the end of the concentric phase with this grip, will aggravate the tension present at the level of the muscles of the epicondyle.

Mixed grip

It guarantees a complete movement of flexion and extension of the humerus (from about 180° to 90°) respecting the joint physiology of the shoulder and allowing the use of good loads. It is a good compromise between the two sockets, recommended especially for beginners to respect the functional anatomy of the shoulder while using a good overload.
Ideally, you should work with untied cables that guarantee the correct rotation of the forearm in every degree of inflection/extension of the shoulder. If this is not possible, it is recommended for the advanced to vary the handle often, both to avoid overloading the various soft structures and to give continuity to the variation of the training stimulus.

At the forefront of motion biomechanics with Lat Machine Selection 900

In order to train latissimus dorsi it is important to use state-of-the-art equipment. The Selection 900 line sets a new standard in terms of biomechanics, ergonomics, design and ease of use. The Unity Mini console transforms into a virtual coach who guides you throughout the exercise, providing visual feedback thanks to the constant biofeedback strength pilot and allowing you to track your training. More immersive than ever, for better results with greater ease.
In particular, Lat Machine Selection 900 is the multi-purpose tool designed to measure that allows you to train safely and effectively the upper limbs and the great dorsal, while sitting. Thanks to the padded rollers that increase stability in case of training with higher loads, the tool is easily accessible to users of any size. In addition, the ergonomically designed traction bar provides a better grip and helps to position the hands correctly.

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