Q: I don’t feel my lats when I do pull-ups, just my biceps. What should I do?
A: First, use a palms-forward grip, with your thumbs not wrapped around the bar but tucked in next to your fingers.
Second, keep more weight and tension on your little and index fingers than on the middle and index fingers.
Third, start each pullup by “tightening your armpits.” Ask your training partner to give you a couple of light karate chops to your lats so you understand what “tightening up” means.
Finally, instead of curling, visualize driving your elbows down. Near the top try to pull your elbows to your ribs, which is what Charles Staley recommends in his excellent book The Science of Martial Arts Training.
The mind-to-lats connection is not an easy one to develop. Plan on spending months or even years finessing it. In the interim, don’t settle for a mullet lat routine of pulldowns and cable rows.
Q: Should I arch my back when working lats?
A: Arching recruits the scapulae retractors, or midback muscles. You should do it most of the time to develop them and to ensure good posture.
Some round-back lat work, however, will do your wings good. Watch a professional arm wrestler when he’s backloading his opponent. His back is rounded. If you look in an anatomy textbook, you’ll see that the lats assist in extending the spine. Round your back, and you’ll pull on their origins, thus stretching and loading them.
The safest exercises for round-back lat training are the one-arm dumbbell row and kettlebell row. Plant your other arm solidly on a bench to unload your spine. IM
Editor’s note: Beyond Bodybuilding is available at www.Home-Gym.com.