The latissimus dorsi, often referred to as “lats,” is the broadest muscle in your back that plays a pivotal role in upper body strength and posture. The Latin term Latissimus refers to broad and dorsi to the back. And broad it is! This large reversed triangle attaches to a number of places in the upper and lower body. So it plays an important role in connecting your lower and upper body and in posture and upper body strength.

If you step into the gym, exercises are often targeted to bulk and streamline the lats, so whether you’re pulling off a set of awe-inspiring pull-ups or diligently working on lat pulldowns, these muscles deserve your attention for a well-rounded physique and a good spinal back health.

Where is the Latissimus Dorsi?

This remarkably large muscle emerges from just below the midsection of your middle back to your sacrum or tailbone. If you place your hands on your hip, the curved bone below your thumbs are the iliac crests where the lats attach on both sides. It then rises from your lower ribs and connects the tips of each shoulder blade under the inside of your upper arm (humerus) around to the front.

Importance of Latissimus Dorsi

The lats are for more than just show, your latissimus dorsi are responsible for several movements you often take for granted, for example:

  • At your shoulder the lats draws your humerus (upper arm) backwards, toward the side of the body and twists inwards.
  • Allows you to pull your shoulder blades backwards and downwards towards your spine.
  • Stabilises and supports our spines as we lean to the side, twist, bend forwards and backwards and as we straighten up.

As a result, research shows that strengthening the lats can help prevent back and pelvic problems and help relieve pain where the middle and lower back meet.

This large muscle contributes to a strong pull—think about pulling yourself out of a swimming pool or lifting a heavy object or even pushing yourself up from a chair—and play a crucial role in stabilising your spine. Neglecting or weakness in these muscles means risking imbalances, weaker support, and potential for injury. It’s no surprise that activities such as swimming and rowing strengthen the lats.

What does an injury to the Latissimus Dorsi feel like?

Latissimus dorsi pain can be hard to differentiate from other types of back or shoulder pain. When you injure your latissimus dorsi, you might feel pain in your lower back, mid-to-upper back, along the base of your scapula, or in the back of the shoulder. You may even feel pain along the inside of the arm, all the way down to your fingers. The pain will worsen when you reach forward, extend your arms, or reach overhead.

The latissimus dorsi muscle is used the most during exercises that involve pulling and throwing. Pain is usually caused by overuse, using poor technique, or not warming up before exercising.

Poor posture can also lead to pain in the latissimus dorsi if you tend to slouch.

In rare cases, your latissimus dorsi can tear. This is rare and more likely to happen in professional athletes, but a serious injury can cause it as well.

Injury prevention and Rehabilitation

Even the mightiest muscle is susceptible to injury. Because all muscles contract and relax, they can become tight. Stretches can help relieve tension. Our chiropractors in Kingscliff can help with specific stretches and exercises and hands on treatments that can help prevent and repair your lats. We help identify weakness and imbalances and work with you to correct, strengthen and build.

Exercises and Tips to Strengthen The Latissimus Dorsi

If you’re injury-free and have been shown how to utilise the correct technique, then to develop your lats, integration of the basic following skills and exercises into your workout regime can help:

  • Proper Form and Technique: Sloppy form leads to diminished returns and higher risk of injury. Ensure your technique is on point with a full range of motion on each rep.
  • Progressive Overload: As with any muscle, the lats respond well to progressively increasing the load they must move.
  • Exercise Variation: Mix up your work-outs by exchanging between different types of pull-ups, grips, and angles to keep shocking your muscles into growth.
  • Pull-ups: The humble pull-up is one of the most effective ways to work the lats. Start with a wide grip for maximum activation.
  • Lat Pulldowns: For those who need to build up to pull-ups, lat pulldowns are a machine-assisted way to target the lats effectively.
  • Rows: Whether you choose barbell, dumbbell, or cable, or a stationary ergo (rowing machine) rows work wonders for developing a strong back.

Whether your goal is a chiselled back, staying injury-free, or simply improving your musculoskeletal wellbeing by exercising and staying fit, dedicating time to strengthen and keep your lats supple is important. Make them a cornerstone in your upper body workouts and including them in your recovery and stretching routine, and you will experience the functional strength and physique benefits they have to offer.

For more information about how to treat, rehab and exercise your latissimus dorsi effectively, contact us.