Not-So-Gross Anatomy: Lats & Upper Back

Last known photo of founder, Don Bahneman, without a shirt on.

Last known photo of founder, Don Bahneman, without a shirt on.

Pop quiz:

Question #1 - What is the only muscle that attaches the pelvis to the humerus?

3....2............1......................we will need an answer.

Latissimus Dorsi.

We. Have. A. Winner.

Question #2 - What muscle, when properly engaged can help the deadlift, the squat, the bench press, and improve your chin up/pull up strength?

Did you say "the lats"?

That is correct! Johnny, tell 'em what they have won!

Final Question - How's your posture right now reading this from a mobile device or sitting on a chair (be honest)?

-Did you say my head is tilted down, shoulders are forward, slouching just a weeeee bit?

We will keep the last question on the honor system, but effectively training the lats & upper back muscle is paramount to help keep whatever heights God has blessed you with staying upright.

This week's installment takes a quick look at anatomy of the major muscles of the upper back. After that we look at mobility patterns for this important group of muscles. And lastly, we will show a few movements that are near and dear to b3's hearts that will strengthen these lovely skeletal muscles!

Ready to get this going?



The "Lats" are the glorious muscle that got this undergrad time in the cadaver lab with the graduate students waaaaay back in the day. Whew, I am thankful for that opportunity because muscles in 3D are a whole lot better that 2D to learn from. The lats run along the illiac crest, sacrum, thoracic spine, lumbar spine, the ribs, and finishes at the humerus. Now that is a helluva journey - quite similar to some commutes for you possibly, but I digress. This fan-like muscle covers a great deal of territory and extends the arm, adducts the arm, and medially rotates the arm as well. The lats are also considered a "core" muscle and helps stabilize the torso.

The rhomboids are a group of muscles (rhomboid major and minor) that are located along the spine and connect to the scapulae (shoulder blades) along their medial border. Their primary job is to allow the scapulae to retract. Think about trying to draw your shoulder blades back while keeping the shoulder down. That is by way of the rhomboids. Thank them for their efforts.

Now try that movement again but allow the shoulders to elevate as you attempt to drive the shoulders back. That transitions oh so nicely to the trapezius muscles. This is a superficial muscle group and originates up and down the spine and base of the skull and inserts along the lateral end of the clavicle (collar bone), the acromion process, and the spine of the scapulae. The traps have several movements that are critical for daily function. They extend the neck, laterally flex the neck, elevate, depress, and retract the shoulder as well.

Rear deltoids (back part of your shoulder) are included here as well. Wait, what? This is not about shoulders today....I know but the function of the rear deltoids fits more into aiding the upper back and their movements than the other two heads of the delts.

The last muscle for today is the teres major. Its junior, teres minor, is one of the four that make up the rotator cuff. Teres Major aides the Lats as a medial rotator and adductor of the humerus. Rowers, swimmers, bodybuilders, and anybody with a wide "V" taper to the upper body likely has great lats and teres major helps add a wider and thicker look to the back. Now that may not be appealing to all readers, but all the same, the teres major muscles are very important to have efficient functionality with for all activities of daily living.

Let's see how we can get these muscles ready for a workout with some mobility work.


Consider this an appetizer of some of the ways we warm up the body in an integrated fashion at b3.



Again, this is a sampling of just a few movements that train the lats and upper back. And how these movements are applied is when the rubber meets the road in getting results. 

Now, finish reading this, turn off the phone, push away from the computer and correct your posture. Then head to gym and get these muscles working!

Until next time!


Be fit. Be fueled. Be full of life.

b3 Wellness

Don Bahneman

p.s. -The energy club is where these picture were shot at and you must stop by if in the NOVA/DC area!

p.p.s. - yes I love chin up/pull up, use a lat pulldown on occasion and even a seated row - but we are trying to get "outside" the normative tools.

p.p.p.s. - I sure hope the Nats can get Scherzer some run support immediately!  

Effective nutrient timing is a MUST for a good lift. Do not do this!!! Donut judge me, either. (shameless pun)

Effective nutrient timing is a MUST for a good lift. Do not do this!!! Donut judge me, either. (shameless pun)