Exercise the Lats in the Sagittal Plane

TAGS: frontal plane, dumbbell pullovers, latissimus dorsi, sagittal plane, lat pull-downs, lats, pullups, posture, Elitefts Info Pages

Mark Dugdale is an elitefts™ sponsored bodybuilder.  When he is working his back, his latissimus dorsi need a pump, which leaves him with just two options: pullups and lat pull-downs.

Not to knock these exercises at all — in fact, pullups are one of my top three favorite exercises (but then again, I am 180 pounds and have always enjoyed calisthenics workouts.) Heavier lifters, nearly all power lifters, gravitate more towards the lat pull-downs.  Again, this is a great multi-joint exercise that targets not only the lats but other assistance muscles (upper back and biceps).

Working your lats out on a lat pull-down every back day may incorporate a large group of muscles, but it doesn't lead to much variation.  Lat pull-downs and pullups are both exercises that occur in the frontal plane.  This where you can implement the dumbbell pullover, which occurs in the sagittal plane. Mark demonstrates below.


In the dumbbell pullover your lats are more nearly isolated.  Your biceps don't play an assisting role during this exercise as opposed to pullups or lat pull-downs.  Your lats are a very important postural muscle, along with other muscles of the back, can ward off the excessive kyphotic curvature of the spine, keeping you from looking like the hunchback of notre dame.  Their muscular action is to adduct the humerus.  It is imperative that  baseball players, especially pitchers; boxers; and quarterbacks have exceptional strength in their lats.  Boxers to bring their punches back quickly in preparation for a block or throwing more punches.  Pitchers and quarter backs need to engage their lats in order to effectively slow down their arms safely after releasing the ball.  When you throw something as hard and as far as you can, your shoulders create and experience a ton of force.  Inefficient strength in the lats can lead to serious shoulder problems or injuries.

Typically both the general and athletic population have excessive anterior and inferior rolls of their shoulders (a hunched over look).  This is due to more frequent chest workouts compared to back workouts which leads to:

  • disproportionate strength in anterior torso in comparison to posterior
  • tight pectoralis major and minor
  • can't naturally or comfortable extend arm overhead

You can incorporate this exercise into your back routine using just a dumbbell and a flat bench.

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