7 Lat Exercises That Will Help You Tap Into More Running Power
Runners’ legs hog all the attention—which OK, fair: Your quads, glutes, calves, and hamstrings seem to be doing the majority of the work in moving you forward. But when it comes to your running performance, there’s a major muscle group you’re probably neglecting, and they’re actually in your upper body. It’s your latissimus dorsi, or your lats, and incorporating lat exercises into your training can actually help you on your way to a PR. Here’s why.
Your latissimus dorsi (which extends from the bottom of your shoulder blades to the top of your glutes) is the largest muscle in your upper body, and it should be working hard while you’re running. “The main role of the lats during running is to work alongside your abs and core to create rotational force and keep your torso upright,” explains Ben Lauder-Dykes, a NASM-certified trainer at Fhitting Room in NYC.
Think about how your hips and shoulders rotate in opposite directions when you run. That twisting motion helps absorb and release energy, sort of like how a coil tightens and then springs loose. The stronger your lats are, the more they help with that rotation, which helps you not just run more efficiently, but also tap into more running power so you can faster and longer.
“Your lats help keep your torso upright, with your head stacked over the rib cage and rib cage stacked over the hips; in this position, your foot will likely land underneath you, where it’s supposed to,” says Lauder-Dykes. If your lats are too weak or not engaged, “then your forward arm swing pulls your head in front of the pelvis, which forces the foot to land too far in front, which can place too much stress on the hamstrings, creating a lot more work for you and increasing your risk of injury.”
You know running is a total-body sport. And being an efficient runner is all about maximizing as much of your effort as possible. “If you’re lacking upper body strength and core control, the lower body has to work harder and you will lose some of the force generated from the legs as you run,” says Lauder-Dykes. And isn’t that just a kick in the face to all the other training you’re doing?
Get your lats in gear with these targeted exercises from Lauder-Dykes.
How to use this list: Incorporate 2 to 3 of these exercises into your cross-training schedule and perform for the number of reps and sets indicated. Each move is demonstrated by Jess Movold, Runner’s World coach, so you can learn the perfect form. You will need a dumbbell and/or a kettlebell and a resistance band with handles.