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Work your lats to keep your back strong.
Strong back muscles make everyday activities easier to perform and they help you look better in a backless dress. The latissimus dorsi is a smart muscle to work when sculpting your back because of its location on top of the other muscles. You may work the lats using your own body weight, which is quite challenging, or you may use added resistance from free weights and machines.
The lats are one of the most superficial muscles of the back, which means they lie toward the surface and are not buried beneath other muscles. The latissimus dorsi is a broad, flat, triangular muscle that runs from the lower six vertebrae, lower three ribs and the iliac crest of the hips up to the humerus bone of the arm. Because of its role in arm extension and abduction, the latissimus dorsi plays an important role in bringing the arm down with a powerful stroke, which is necessary in swimming, hammering and rowing, for example.
Body Weight Exercises
Body weight exercises are generally considered less challenging than resistance training exercises, but when it comes to the lats, that's not the case. Some of the best exercises for developing the lats are chin-ups and pull-ups -- two exercises that many women find very difficult and even impossible to perform. If you find this to be true, try assisted pull-ups until your upper body strength is sufficient enough to lift your body weight unassisted. To perform a chin-up, hang from a fixed bar with an underhanded grip and your arms extended. Pull yourself toward the bar until your chin is above the bar. A pull-up is performed the same way but with an overhanded grip.
The lats can also be worked using the added resistance of free weights and cables. Pullovers and pull-downs are both exercises that use added resistance to target the lats. To perform a pullover, lie face up on a horizontal exercise bench and hold a barbell or dumbbell with your arms extended overhead. Keeping your arms straight, lower the weight behind your head until they are parallel with your torso and then return to the starting position. For pull-downs, simply sit at a cable pull-down machine, adjust the resistance and grasp the handle with an overhanded grip. Contract your lats to pull the handle toward your chest and then carefully return to the starting position.
You should work the lats like any other body part -- on three nonconsecutive days of the week. To increase strength in your lats, the National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends performing two to six sets -- six or fewer repetitions per set -- with resistance heavy enough that you can complete no more than six reps. If you're looking for increased muscular endurance, use lighter weights for two to three sets, with at least 12 reps in each set. With unassisted pull-ups and chin-ups, do two to three sets of as many reps as you can and try to increase your max number by one every week. Perform the resistance and body weight exercises in the same workout to really challenge your lats, beginning with the body weight ones while your muscles are fresh.