Friday, November 28, 2014

the lats get all the fun

This is another of the exercises I was given as part of my prescribed treatment at London, UK. Scoliosis SOS clinic.  Of course not everyone received this exercise and those that did were given various modifications according to their curves, but what was common was a good ol' lateral muscle workout on an unstable foundation.

First, a wee primer on the whys and wherefores of that particular muscle group.

The latin name latissimi dorsi is commonly known to its friends as the "lats".  Favoured by body builders, the name can be translated as "the biggest muscle in the back" (or, when it is sore, as "the biggest pain in the back", but I digress)

Here is a description of what the lats do by Wikipedia:
The latissimus dorsi is responsible for extension, adduction, transverse extension also known as horizontal abduction, flexion from an extended position, and (medial) internal rotation of the shoulder joint. It also has a synergistic role in extension and lateral flexion of the lumbar spine.

And here is a description of its function by
The Latissimus Dorsi is a large "fan-like" muscle that covers those dozens of muscle that I mentioned earlier, it is therefore called, superficial. Its place of origin, or where it starts, begins at the middle of the back at the vertebrae T5-T7, the lower three ribs of the rib cage, the iliac crest (the hip), and the inferior angle of the scapula. That's a big muscle! And the whole thing runs to one single spot.

And yet another description by NYU's Langone Spine Center:
Flexion of the spine is defined as movement that produces forward bending, such as bringing the chin toward the chest or bending forward at the waist as if to pick up an object....Trunk muscles (latissimus dorsi) also participate in flexion of the vertebral column, shoulder or head movements, or arm movement. (These) trunk muscles, unlike the abdominals, attach to the spine.

Did you find that the explanations got clearer and easier to understand? Me too!  For once, Wikipedia confused the heck out of me.  But all three descriptions (and thousands more) were backed up with consistent visuals (even if artistically skewed towards specific demographics):

The Scoliosis SOS clinic talked a lot about lats, but so does my pilates teacher who says they need one of the largest percentages of work given the tasks they are expected to do, and for those with scoliosis their work is that much harder.

So the exercise I was given was all about the lats. In fact, nothing else much moves, except what is generated by the lats.

The work is more valuable when carried out on an unstable foundation (no, I do not mean my deranged childhood years!), as they have to work that much harder. In this case, that unstable surface takes the form of a large exercise ball, on which I sit.  In my case, I also have a beanbag placed under my left butt cheek (see that cute little thing in the photo?), so that my two hips are more even in elevation off the floor. I must also, of course, sit in my corrected position, with my rib cage lifted up and to the right. My knees are also bent at a 90 degree angle, with my heels directly under my knees, which means I end up with my shins pressed against the bars.  It took me a few days and many shin bruises (I am a slow learner!) to figure out that a small mat over the bars might not be such a bad idea!
In front, I hold the ends of two therabands that have been fastened to the gym bars at roughly waist height. My arms are held at a 90 degree angle, my chin is tucked, and the back of my head is stretched up as if someone was pulling a string attached to it.  Then I squeeze my lats together, trying to draw my should blades together. In so doing my arms move back and I hold the position for a slow count of 6 before releasing them back to the start point.  By the end of a set of 12 I can sure feel my back!  (A good counter stretch in between sets is the cat.)  Then I repeat for a total of 3 sets.  After which I am so aware of my lats that I feel I must go out and have a latte!

1 comment:

  1. Hi
    This is great info. I know you have a lumbar C curve, but can you recall - those with classic S curves, did they also work both lats or just one side?