The latissimus dorsi, or lats, and rhomboids are important muscles in your back. The lats help extend your arms backward, pull them toward your sides from overhead and turn them inward, and the rhomboids elevate and retract, or pull back, the scapula bones in your upper back. Exercises for the lats and rhomboids require that you move through these ranges of motion in some fashion. Consult an exercise professional to determine how to best train the muscles based on your goals and needs.
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Performing exercises that target the lats and rhomboids strengthens the muscles and the surrounding bones and connective tissues, enabling them to perform their functions capably. Stronger muscles may also help decrease your risk of sustaining back injuries.
The bent-arm pullover targets the lats through a shoulder-extension range of motion. Lie on your back on a flat bench and hold one dumbbell behind your head with your elbows flexed and palms facing upward. Extend your arms until the weight is over your face, then return to the starting position slowly and repeat.
The pullup is a body weight exercise that targets the lats, especially when you grip the bar with your hands wide and your palms facing away from your body. Contract your lats to pull your elbows downward and toward your ribs during the upward-movement phase of the exercise and to control the speed of descent during the downward-movement phase. The lat pulldown is a similar exercise that you can perform instead, if desired.
The seated row targets the rhomboids, which retract your scapula bones during the concentric phase of the exercise and control the speed of movement during the eccentric phase. Sit on the floor and reach forward, grasping the handles of a cable row machine with your palms facing inward. Pull the handles toward your chest to lift the stack of weights, then return to the starting position slowly and repeat.
Warm up for at least five minutes before performing exercises for your lats and rhomboids, then choose one or two exercises for each muscle and do them two or three times per week. Complete a total of three to six sets of six to 12 repetitions during each training session. Progressively increase the weight for each exercise over time to build muscle and achieve strength gains. Check with your physician if any exercise causes pain other than slight muscle soreness.