Bodyweight Lat Exercise (THE HUMAN PULLOVER!)

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If you are training without equipment, finding a good bodyweight lat exercise can be difficult to pull off. This is because most good back exercises require things such as dumbbells or pullup bars. Not this one. This bodyweight back exercise makes a great addition to any home back workout and can be made easier or more difficult depending on your ability level.

To begin, it is helpful to look at the mechanics of the dumbbell equivalent of this exercise, the dumbbell pullover. Here you can see that the arms will move on a fixed torso. With the dumbbell positioned over your chest, you move it back over your head and keep your trunk and torso in place on the bench or on the ground as I demonstrate in the clip.

The shoulder joint is moving from flexion into extension and adduction. Of course, the shoulder never gets into true extension behind the torso, but it is the act of extension from a flexed position combined with the adduction that activates the lats.

Understanding relative motion, we can flip this around and instead of doing this exercise with our arms as the moving part and the body fixed to the floor, we can keep the arms fixed and move the body instead. To set up for this you want to get your body in position to do a dragon flag. Now whether or not you can do a dragon flag is irrelevant to your ability to do this human pullover exercise for your lats.

In fact, if you don’t have the core strength necessary you can simply bend your knees and lift your butt off the ground instead of having to lift both your butt and the weight of your legs. The key either way is that the lats will initiate the lift off and not the abs or hips. Start by anchoring your arms against something heavy enough so as not to move. If you are performing this at home you can hold onto either a banister, piece of furniture or something equally sturdy. If you are doing this bodyweight lat exercise in a gym you can use a piece of equipment like I’m using.

Start by pushing your hands as hard as you possibly can into the fixed anchor point. This should elevate your torso off the ground and bring your hips closer to your shoulders. Essentially, you are extending and adducting your arms without having to move them. By moving the hips towards the arms you are still creating the relative motion and therefore engaging the lats heavily.

Extend your legs straight out if you are looking for an additional core challenge. By doing this, you are making the weight of the legs “heavier” and demanding that your abs do more of the work to hold them up at the top of the move. Remember however, this is a lat exercise and not meant to be a primary core exercise so don’t confuse the goal.

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