Flip Side

In This Chapter

V Learning what is deeply felt and rarely seen > Finding that lats lift lots Hoisting away

If you've ever spent any time thinking about your back, as we have, it's rather funny what an overactive (and underused) mind comes up with. While there's nothing inherently funny about a back, it's a rather odd body part. Here's a large group of muscles that are integral to our strength and well-being, but we rarely get to see it and consequently think about it far less than we do our chest, shoulders, and abdominals. Latissimus dorsi (or lats) are what gives us that "V-shape"—that rear-view bystanders get to admire while we stare straight ahead. The lats are broad muscles that span the area from just behind each armpit to the center of your lower back. These muscles are key for hoisting yourself up while rock climbing, rowing, and performing pull-ups—to name just a few.

For men, large lats provide that wide expanse of muscle that resembles the top of a manta ray. Many women who weight train notice that well-developed lats offer the illusion that their waist is narrower. In fact, it's not; it only appears that way, but few women we know complain about this complimentary illusion.

Just above the lats are the traps or trapezius muscles (traps). These powerful muscles run from just below the back of your skull, to the edge of your shoulders, and down through the center of your back. When you shrug your shoulders you're using your traps. (As we mentioned earlier, former heavyweight Evander Holyfield has traps like a Brahma bull; in fact, his entire back looks like an anatomical chart.)

What else is going on in that back of yours? The rhomboids—major and minor—span the area between your spine and your shoulder blades. Along with your traps, the rhomboids retract or squeeze your shoulder blades together. The rhomboids are shaped like a Christmas tree and are attached to the innermost part of the shoulder blades (scapula). Any exercise that brings the shoulder blades together will work these muscles.

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