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A man working out on the Pendulum Lat Combo Pull

One of the largest muscles in the body in surface area is the latissimus dorsi, in the exercise world they are simply called ‘lats’.  The latissimus is fan-shaped and covers a significant portion of the back. Though a muscle of the back functionally it primarily acts as a muscle of the upper limb. At the shoulder the muscle contributes to rotation of the upper limb through adduction, extension and medial rotation.

The latissimus dorsi is an extensor and lateral bender of the lower back and moves the trunk forward and upward when the arms are fixed overhead such as doing a chin. The lats also contribute to our physiological system by being active during deep inspiration and forceful respiratory functions such as coughing and sneezing.

About 2/3 of the power capability of the latissimus dorsi musculature comes from the lumbar pelvis region, lower thoracic spine and the lower three to four ribs. This region comprises about 65% of the cross sectional area of the muscle, the physiological cross sectional area is a good predictor of  force generating capabilities. The latissimus becomes weaker if the spine is bent laterally to either side and weakest at the end of a lateral bend. The optimal position for training is a neutral spine.

Pendulum Lat Combo Pull

Training the ‘Lats’ – Latissimus Dorsi


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The Upper Back

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