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Get a V-Taper With Lat Pulldowns

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The somewhat elusive “V” shape taper is one of the hallmark characteristics of an outstanding athletic physique. This taper arises from a wide upper back that narrows to small, tight and narrow hips and waist. Most of us are not gifted with such a structure, but with some concentration on the upper back, it is still possible to achieve this V-taper, even if your hips are not particularly narrow.

V-Taper Muscles

The fibers of the latissimus dorsi muscle extend from the lower thoracic vertebrae and the iliac crest of the hip, to converge on the upper portion of the humerus bone of the upper arm near the shoulder. The fibers in the latissimus dorsi muscle have several different angles of pull, depending on which part of the bones the fibers attach. When they act together, the latissimus extends the humerus by pulling the upper arm backward and adducting the humerus by bringing the arm toward the center of the body. The lower part of the latissimus dorsi muscle has a direct line of pull when the shoulder is flexed and the upper arm is raised to above a line that is parallel to the floor. Working with the arms directly over the head tends to activate the middle and lower parts of the muscle more effectively.

The teres major muscle provides most of the width of the upper back near the axilla (armpit). It begins on the inferior angle of the scapula (shoulder blade), and it is anchored on the humerus bone very near the attachment site of the latissimus dorsi. Similar to the latissimus dorsi, it extends the humerus when the arm starts in a flexed position (i.e., with the arm forward). Because it begins on the scapula (shoulder blade), it is more completely activated with the arms stretched directly overhead. Therefore, the wide-grip pulldown is perfectly suited to activate this muscle.

The teres minor is really one of the rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder, but it makes up part of the upper back musculature. It is located just above the teres major muscle and provides the last bit of width in the axilla, just below the shoulder joint. The teres minor begins on the upper part of the lateral border of the scapula bone. It anchors on the inferior part of the greater tubercle of the humerus (the larger bump near the head of the humerus). Contraction of the teres minor rotates the humerus laterally, and similar to other muscles in the rotator cuff, the teres minor helps to stabilize the shoulder joint. Finally, it helps to pull the arm backward into extension, which is its primary role in wide-grip lat pulldowns.

Wide-Grip Lat Bar Pulldowns

Pulldowns on the lat machine stress the extension and abduction functions of the humerus. The extension of the humerus activates the latissimus dorsi and the teres major, teres minor, as well as part of the pectoralis and deltoid muscles.

1. Take a wide, pronated grip (palms facing away from your face) on the lat pulldown bar. Each hand should be about six inches wider than the corresponding shoulder. If you choose an even wider grip, you will improve the stretch of the teres major and minor, and this may assist in developing some additional upper back width. Many studies have shown that muscle stretch under resistance will induce muscle hypertrophy and thickness, so having a wide grip is important. However, the latissimus dorsi may not shorten as much during each contraction with extremely wide hand positions. If you want a good upper back width and good tie-ins to the latissimus at the axilla, then stick with the wide grip; if you are after overall latissimus dorsi development, then a narrower grip may better suit your needs.

2. Sit in the chair of the lat pulldown machine and position the thigh-stabilizing pad across the anterior section of the middle region of both thighs, above the knees. The pad should fit snugly on the thighs and prevent your body from lifting from the seat when doing the exercise.

3. Pull the bar down to the top of the chest as you exhale. Make sure your head is pulled backward enough to avoid a collision of your chin with the bar. As the bar is approaching your chest, arch the upper back slightly while you draw your elbows back as far as possible. The extra arch will increase the elbow movement and this will more fully activate the teres muscles by increasing the range of motion.

4. Hold the lat bar at the chest level and squeeze the scapula together for two to three seconds. This position emphases the arm extension, and the squeeze (abduction) functions will fatigue the upper back muscles quickly.

5. Slowly return the bar to the starting position over your head as you inhale. Keep tension on the muscles by preventing the weight stack that you are lifting from touching the remaining stack at the top of the movement.

6. Pause two to three seconds at the top of the movement. The upper back muscles will be fully stretched in this position. Do not allow the weight to “jerk” your shoulders upward at the end of each repetition, otherwise you may overstretch the rotator cuff muscles and destabilize your shoulders. After this stretch-pause, continue to the next repetition by pulling the bar to the chest and repeat the rest of the set in the same manner.

The stretch-pause at the top of each repetition will quickly transform a good, basic exercise into a superb exercise for building upper back width. The wide-grip lat pulldown directly targets and provides greater width to the top part of your “V.” With persistence, your upper back will widen enough to force you to do some wardrobe shopping to properly fit your enhanced V-taper. And this summer, your new wider back-to-hip taper may cause more than a few heads to turn at the beach.

 

References:

Moore KL and AF Dalley II. Clinical Orientated Anatomy. Fourth Edition. Williams & Willkins, Baltimore, 1999 691-720.

Inoue T, Suzuki S, Hagiwara R, Iwata M, Banno Y, Okita, M. Effects of passive stretching on muscle injury and HSP expression during recovery after immobilization in rats. Pathobiology, 76:253-259; 2009.

Snyder BJ, Leech JR. Voluntary increase in latissimus dorsi muscle activity during the lat pull-down following expert instruction. J Strength Cond Res, 23:2204-2209; 2009.

Tanimoto M, Sanada K, Yamamoto K, Kawano H, Gando Y, Tabata I, Ishii N, Miyachi, M. Effects of whole-body low-intensity resistance training with slow movement and tonic force generation on muscular size and strength in young men. J Strength Cond Res, 22:1926-1938; 2008.

Lehman GJ, Buchan DD, Lundy A, Myers N and Nalborczyk A. Variations in muscle activation levels during traditional latissimus dorsi weight training exercises: An experimental study. Dyn Med, 3: 4, 2004.

Signorile JF, Zink AJ and Szwed SP. A comparative electromyographical investigation of muscle utilization patterns using various hand positions during the lat pull-down. J Strength Cond Res, 16: 539-546, 2002.

The post Get a V-Taper With Lat Pulldowns appeared first on FitnessRX for Men.

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3 Types of Stretching

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To stretch or not to stretch: That is the question.

Some trainers swear it’s essential; others argue that it’s worthless. Some say you shouldn’t even touch a weight until you’ve thoroughly stretched every muscle; others warn that preworkout stretching is counterproductive, even dangerous.

Don’t roll up your mat just yet, though — there’s a reason for the confusion.

“When most people think ‘stretching,’ they think of a runner putting their foot up on a railing, and holding it there for 15 seconds before they run,” says trainer and injury-prevention expert John Rusin, DPT, CSCS, PPSC. But there’s a lot more to flexibility training.

Simple as it sounds, stretching can cover a broad range of activities, Rusin says — from powerful, explosive moves to slower, more soothing ones. And they all play a role in optimizing your fitness, no matter your preferred sport or activity.

Static Stretching

  • This is the type that comes to mind when most people think of stretching: You assume a position that elongates a muscle or set of muscles — by reaching for your toes, for example — and hold the position for 30 seconds or more. Restorative yoga is an example.

Dynamic Stretching

  • This approach consists of powerful, repeated movements, performed with an extended range of motion, often incorporating athletic movements like reaching, running, or jumping. Think front and high-knee kicks, arm circles, walking lunges, and many other moves familiar to field athletes.

Targeted Mobility

  • Probably the least familiar modality to most gym-goers: You get into a stretch and systematically contract areas around the stretching muscles to enhance function and strength. As the name suggests, most moves focus on mobilizing a single joint, and sometimes a single movement in one joint. Variations include proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, functional range conditioning, and many physical-therapy treatments.

By incorporating the right stretching techniques into your routine, you can ensure steady progress in mobility, athleticism, and range of motion — all essential components of an effective and balanced fitness program.

This was excerpted from “Stretch Your Fitness” which was published in the April 2021 issue of Experience Life magazine.

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Bring on Summer: Week 1 Workouts

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Welcome to week one of our three-week Bring on Summer program workouts. If you’d like to view the full complimentary program, which also includes additional workouts, meal plans and recipes, and other healthy-habit tips, you can do so here.

The Workout

This workout is comprised of three circuits. Complete all exercises in a given circuit consecutively, one set each, and then take your rest before moving onto the next circuit. Continue until you’ve finished all sets. Repeat the full workout a total of three times throughout the week.

Circuit A

Sets: Three

Lunge

Reps: 15 (each side)

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Step forward with one foot and gently touch your opposite knee to the ground.
  • Push through the ground with your front lunging foot to return to your starting position.

Dumbbell Front Raise

Reps: 15

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Hold the dumbbells in front of you with your arms down, gripped so your palms are facing the side of your thighs.
  • Brace your abs.
  • Lift the dumbbells upward to shoulder height, keeping your arms straight, before lowering back to the starting position.

Glute Kickback

Reps: 15 (each side)

  • Position yourself on your hands and knees, placing your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips.
  • Keep your spine straight and contract your abs prior to movement.
  • Keeping your knee bent at 90 degrees, extend one leg up, contracting your glute until the back of your foot is facing up and your thigh is slightly past parallel to the ground.
  • Return to the starting position without touching your knee to the ground.

Circuit B

Sets: Three

Glute Bridge

Reps: 15

  • Lie down on the floor on your back. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the ground. Lay your arms at your side with your palms facing down.
  • Push your feet into the ground (focus your push in your heels) and lift your hips off the ground until your knees, hips, and shoulders are in a straight line.
  • Squeezing your glutes, hold the top position for two seconds, then lower to the starting position.

Triceps Kickbacks

Reps: 15

  • Stand with dumbbells gripped in both of your hands.
  • Keeping your back straight, bend forward, roughly 45 to 55 degrees from your hips.
  • Keeping your arms next to the side of your body, bend them 90 degrees at your elbow.
  • Extend the lower part of your arms until they’re straight, squeezing your triceps at the top for a quick second.
  • Return to the starting position.

Plank

Reps: 30 seconds

  • Lie on the floor face down. Place your hands flat on the floor, just below your shoulders.
  • Contract your abs and glutes prior to starting the movement.
  • Push through the ground with your forearms, hands, and toes, slowly raising yourself up until your body is in a straight line. (Try to lift your entire body off the ground at one time.)
  • Hold the top position for 30 seconds.
  • If you feel it in your lower back, tighten your abs more. If the feeling continues, reduce the time and do multiple sets until you have held the top position for a total of 30 seconds.

Circuit C

Sets: Three

Pushups

Reps: 15

  • Position yourself on your hands and knees, placing your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Lift your knees off ground and bring your feet back until your body is in a straight line.
  • Keeping your elbows slightly below your shoulders, lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor.
  • Push through the ground to lift yourself back to starting position.

Dumbbell Bench Row

Reps: 15 (each side)

  • Place a dumbbell on the floor next to a flat bench.
  • Bend forward at your hips, keeping your back straight, and place one hand and one bent leg of the same side on a flat bench.
  • Keeping your arm straight, grab the dumbbell on the floor, keeping a neutral grip (palms facing your body).
  • Focusing on pulling your elbow up, bring the dumbbell toward the lower part of your chest, squeezing your back at the top.
  • Slowly lower the weight until your arm is straight.

Side Plank

Reps: 15 (each side)

  • Lie down on your side with your feet together, one elbow directly below your shoulder, and your forearm flat against the ground.
  • Contract your glutes and abs.
  • Pushing through the ground with your forearm, raise your hips and knees off the ground until your body is straight.
  • Hold at the top for one second. Return to starting position.

The post Bring on Summer: Week 1 Workouts appeared first on Experience Life.

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