It is the broadest muscle in the human body. This muscle is of paramount importance to all athletes whose sports involve using the upper limbs, and most especially, pulling.
It often moves in synergy with the other internal rotator shoulder muscles, such as the teres major, the pectoralis major and the subscapularis.
Some of the sports that can benefit the most from a training programme focused on strengthening the back muscles are: swimming, climbing, canoeing, rowing, gymnastics, cross-country skiing, wrestling and rugby etc.
Highlighting the latissimus dorsi muscle
Anatomy of the latissimus dorsi muscle
The characteristic fan shape of the latissimus dorsi muscle (or the broadest back muscle), reveals the multiplicity of movements for which it is responsible.
It originates in a broad aponeurosis, attached to the spinous processes of the last 6 or 7 thoracic vertebrae and lumbar vertebrae as well as the intermediate sacral crest and laterally from the posterior third iliac crest. Fibres also originate from the last four ribs and the inferior angle of the scapula.
This fan-shaped muscle converges at the upper insertion, at the front side of the humerus. Its course proceeds from the rear to the front of the body, ending at the bicipital groove.
The latissimus dorsi muscle internally rotates, adducts and extends the arm.
By locking your arms (for example, as you do when you are suspended on a pull-up bar), the muscle raises the torso and also tilts the pelvis to the side, and forwards. By symmetrically aligning the torso underneath your arms on the frontal plane, the muscle extends and hyper-extends the spine, lumbar and dorsal region and rotates the pelvis forwards. If the arms are in front of the torso and at a fixed point, for the latissimuus dorsi to symmetrically contract, it becomes a spine flexor.
Due to its rib insertions, under certain conditions, the muscle can also intervene in the inspiratory movement.
A comprehensive training programme in the gym that includes strengthening the dorsal area, should include exercises such as: the pulley, the lat machine, pull-up bars and the rower etc.
Low-pulley exercise that strengthens the dorsal area
Before you start working with the weights, we have devised a specific warm up, that involves using the rower.
The particular strain placed on the latissimus dorsi muscle and the other arm extensor muscles when using this piece of gym equipment, is also ideal for building speed and stamina.
Be careful when strengthening muscles
A typical stance which does not involve too much stretching, for athletic individuals with large powerful backs, is the standing position with palms facing backwards and elbows slightly lowered.
Those who have excessively strengthened their latissimus dorsi, without undertaking adequate balancing and stretching exercises (muscle stretching), can encourage incorrect posture in the shoulders and rachis of both the lumbar and dorsal region.
It is evident that when strengthening muscles, you always need to well balance and integrate this with stretches, mobilisation exercises and postural reeducation, in order to avoid muscle and joint problems.
If someone has a reduced latissimus dorsi extendibility, when they are lying on their back with their knees flexed and feet being supported, they will struggle to completely bend their arms, and bring them above their head, with their elbows still touching the supporting surface, whilst simultaneously keeping their lower back on the ground.