The Latissimus Dorsi, Scapulas and Core.
If you want to swim better and faster, if you want to lift heavier and be an all round stable and strong athlete, you need to appreciate one of the biggest and most critical muscles in the body for performance and that’s the LATS.
The latissimus dorsi (lats) is often overlooked for the more “sexy” muscles aka the glutes, abs and biceps. However, the lats play a huge part in many movements be it for day to day activity, swimming and lifting and they play a major role in overall shoulder, spinal and core stability.
To unlock your lats and help improve your swimming, lifting and especially get you to that 1 amazing pull up (or to squeeze out even more reps) take a look at my 3 videos below.
These movements will help increase your awareness and ensure proper engagement of the lats. I assure you it will make a huge difference to your training, day to day life and overall strength.
1. SCAPULA CONTROL AND PULL DOWNS
First work on your awareness and positioning of your scapulas (shoulder blades) to enable the full use of one of the most powerful muscles you use in swimming or for safe and strong lifting - your lats. In simple terms, with minimal tension on the band, start with your arms straight and shrugging your shoulders (upward scapula rotation). While keeping your arms straight depress your shoulders (or lower shoulders away from your ears i.e. downward scapula rotation). This lower position is where you should be at the start of your pull up, any rowing movements or when deadlifting. Repeat 10-15 reps for 2-3 sets
Follow these upward and downward rotations with full pull downs, ensuring you engage your lats first (pull down those shoulder blades) before pulling the band down keeping your elbows close to your body. 10-15 reps for 3-4 sets.
2. Straight arm pull down
Hinge back very slightly and pull your belly button in to keep your core strong and ribs down. Pull the band down and back towards your hips with straight arms keeping your shoulders away from your ears (downward rotation of your scapulas). Repeat 10-15 reps for 3-4 sets.
3. Shoulder tap plank
You may wonder why this is here but it is great for shoulder stability, scapular control and strengthening your core. All of which is important for a strong position in the water for swimmers and a safe stable base for weight lifting, pull ups and daily life. Keep your feet wide in the plank position and focus on minimal rocking of the hips. Alternate tapping your shoulders and aim for 10-20 total reps for 2-4 sets.