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In this article, I will be talking about how to activate the lats. This can oftentimes be a difficult muscle group to get engaged. Working on activating them has the potential to both help performance and your mind-muscle connection with them.
With that being said, I will be giving you 3 techniques for you to try that may be able to help activate your lats! Without further ado, let’s get into the article!
Getting a Pump:
Getting a pump is one of the most basic but effective ways to help get a muscle to fire and feel it working. You achieve this by doing targeted exercises towards that muscle group. The blood flow that travels there allows you to get a feel for the muscle being worked and where its located.
The other thing this does is pre-fatigue the muscle a bit. This is beneficial for when you go into your main movement because it will be the lats that get exhausted first, thus ensuring they are being properly worked. This is a great way to ensure your biceps don’t take over the movement. This is a specific training strategy and not one I would suggest using as your primary training method.
There are a couple of different exercises you can perform to achieve this. One of them would be a kneeling cable pull down. This exercise is unilateral so it allows you to focus on one side at a time. It also allows for a super strong contraction since it follows the direction of the lat muscle fibres and uses the primary function of the lats to perform the exercise.
Another reason you would want to activate the lats in a more strength training focus rather than hypertrophy would be for the reason of getting the muscle to fire properly so it can effectively contribute to a lift. An example of this would be in the deadlift, you need your lats to stabilize the weight. One way to work on this prior to the lift would be through muscle activation. You are priming the muscle to function optimally for your main movement, like the deadlift.
An awesome exercise for this would be the straight arm pull down. This is because your arms are straight, much like a deadlift, therefore, having great carryover. It does a great job of using the lats heavily so they are actually being primed. However, the biggest benefit of this exercise is how it requires tremendous stability from the scapula and lats to keep the arms straight in order to actually move the weight. If you pause at the bottom, you are actually forcing the lats to stabilize the weight in a very similar position to that of a deadlift.
With this exercise engaging the lats in regards to range of motion and stability, as well as the highly relative aspect of it to a deadlift, it makes for a great exercise to help prime the lats for a main movement such as the deadlift. This is especially beneficial for the goal of strength training.
Feeling The Muscle:
Lastly, if you were to do an exercise such as the kneeling cable pull-down, but actually put one hand on the muscle to feel it activating, this may be beneficial for you as well. This is especially true for beginner lifters who find it difficult to have a mind-muscle connection with one that is both hidden and cannot move a weight by itself. It needs the help of other muscles such as the biceps to actually perform an exercise.
When you put your hand on a muscle while it’s moving, you get a sense of where it is and how it works. This can also help with signalling to your brain to aid in developing a mind-muscle connection while lifting.
Mind muscle connections are not the most important thing while lifting, however, they certainly have benefits. The first one is that they can contribute to greater levels of hypertrophy. The second reason is if you focus on the mind-muscle connection, it may mean you need to reduce the weight you’re using. Since we can get similar levels of hypertrophy with equated volume while using a lighter load, it can have its benefits when thinking of reducing the stress we are putting on a joint.
Within this article, we talked about 3 different techniques to help activate your lats. All 3 of these techniques had a slightly different focus from a hypertrophy, strength and help for beginners standpoint. All 3 can be beneficial, especially when used in specific applications.
If you have trouble activating your lats, give these techniques a try if you feel they are right for you! Thanks for checking out the article! As always, if you have any questions or comments please do not hesitate to leave them below and I will be sure to reply!
Until Next Time,
Please refer to my liability disclaimer to ensure you know who is responsible for use of this information after reading.