T Nation

Lats Exercises Specific to Oly Lifting

Hey Thibs,

What is your recommendation on how to strengthen your lats for the purposes of Olympic lifting? Heavy rows? Front lever work? Straight arm pull downs?

I remember you discussing a snatch grip “lever deadlift” some time ago… would you still recommend this exercise? Could you describe the mechanics of that lift?

to be honest, besides general strengthening such as pull-ups or some rows here and there, the best lats exercise for olympic lifts… is to actually tighten up your lats during the lift. if you do this on every rep, it is really all you need. A lot of people will tend to stay too loose in the entire back during the lifts which is a mistake. Let your arms hang like hooks but keep back and lats tight and the bar will stay a lot closer.

Well, I see lat work for olympic lifting as both a general strength issue and a specific strength one.

Specifically lat STRENGTH is a general thing. It should be developed and maximized via “general exercises” which means that you do not have to use exercises that are highly specific to the olympic lifts to build up your lats strength.

That’s why you see Chinese lifters do a decent amount of chin-ups, pull-ups and barbell rows (chest supported and unsupported, clean or snatch grip).

I believe that if your lat strength is lagging then these are the movements you should use to build it up.

Then you have specific strength… this basically is the capacity of a muscle or group of muscle to apply force in a specific movement. In the case of the olympic lifts we’re talking about sweeping the bar in toward the hips during the pull.

So once your lats are strong, you can do exercises focusing on strengthening the “sweep function” of the lats. But these aren’t use to build strength in the lats (pull-ups, chin-ups, rows are used for that), they are used to “learn” to use as much of your lat strength as possible in a sport-specific movement.

The exercise I like for that purpose is a deadlift with a slight variation: when you pass the knees you actively sweep the bar toward the hips, not fully straightening the legs. The end of a rep will have the bar in the hip crease, the shoulders above the bar and the legs still slightly bent… you can simply think about sliding the bar on your tights, up to your hip crease. This can be done with a snatch grip or clean grip… in the later case the bar will not end up all the way to the hip crease because of the narrower grip.

Sure front levers and straight-arm pulldowns work that sweeping motion, but it has no skill transfer to the olympic lifts and since we are using the “specific strength” movements to learn to apply force in the olympic pull motion, not to build up the muscles and their strength, then these are inferior exercises for that purpose. They can be used, but they shouldn’t be your main strategy.

[quote]PB Andy wrote:
to be honest, besides general strengthening such as pull-ups or some rows here and there, the best lats exercise for olympic lifts… is to actually tighten up your lats during the lift. if you do this on every rep, it is really all you need. A lot of people will tend to stay too loose in the entire back during the lifts which is a mistake. Let your arms hang like hooks but keep back and lats tight and the bar will stay a lot closer.[/quote]

Correct

Thanks CT.

When performing the lever deadlift, what tempo should I be using? Am I going slow from the floor, fast above the knees, etc?

[quote]rmull61 wrote:
Thanks CT.

When performing the lever deadlift, what tempo should I be using? Am I going slow from the floor, fast above the knees, etc?
[/quote]

No, pretty much the same speed throughout… but as I mentioned this is NOT the exercise to use to strengthen the lats… general exercises are. This is to learn to apply the strength into the proper pulling action.

PB Andy is correct though, simply actively using the lats during your olympic lift practice should be enough to develop your capacity to use lat strength in most cases. And as I mentioned in my post chins, pull-ups and rows are what will build lat strength.

I’m mentioning that because most people will read what they want to read in a post: for example if you wanted some “magic movement” that will give you an edge you will only focus on the “lever/sweeping” deadlift forgetting that I said that it is NOT the movement that you should use to build lat strength, but that general strength exercises should be your choice.

I’m a bit worried because from your comeback question I get the feeling that it’s what you did (focus on the wrong lift) because you asked a question about it instead of about chins and pulls (e.g. how much volume of the general pulling exercises).

The answer is rarely (almost never) an unknown/secret exercise but rather smart work on the basics.

[quote]Christian Thibaudeau wrote:

[quote]rmull61 wrote:
Thanks CT.

When performing the lever deadlift, what tempo should I be using? Am I going slow from the floor, fast above the knees, etc?
[/quote]

No, pretty much the same speed throughout… but as I mentioned this is NOT the exercise to use to strengthen the lats… general exercises are. This is to learn to apply the strength into the proper pulling action.

PB Andy is correct though, simply actively using the lats during your olympic lift practice should be enough to develop your capacity to use lat strength in most cases. And as I mentioned in my post chins, pull-ups and rows are what will build lat strength.

I’m mentioning that because most people will read what they want to read in a post: for example if you wanted some “magic movement” that will give you an edge you will only focus on the “lever/sweeping” deadlift forgetting that I said that it is NOT the movement that you should use to build lat strength, but that general strength exercises should be your choice.

I’m a bit worried because from your comeback question I get the feeling that it’s what you did (focus on the wrong lift) because you asked a question about it instead of about chins and pulls (e.g. how much volume of the general pulling exercises).

The answer is rarely (almost never) an unknown/secret exercise but rather smart work on the basics.[/quote]

Thanks CT.

I definitely intend on focusing my efforts into the “general” exercises that you mentioned. I was planning on doing 3-4 sets of 5-8 reps on bent over rows, deadstart rows and weighted chins, etc. Do you think that is a solid plan? I didn’t think anything fancy was necessary… just do more work at a higher intensity than what I was previously doing.

This whole issue started when I started training at my local Crossfit box, and they do not program any heavy horizontal rowing at all. I wanted to attack my weaknesses during their open gym period.