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Curing Imaginary Lat Syndrome And Building True Lat Strength

Curing Imaginary Lat Syndrome And Building True Lat Strength

  1. Are you interested in building truly strong lats and back strength that is legit? 
  2. Are you wanting to avoid falling victim to ILS-Imaginary Lat Syndrome? 
  3. Are you optimizing your strength training in order to build a strong set of lats with the looks to match? 

My experience with the imaginary lat syndrome. So the other day I was walking down the aisle of the grocery store and witnessed a guy all of about 150 lbs. of pure skinny coming towards me with his arms flared out by his sides. His arms were wide enough that I thought he was trying to make an attempt to cover the entire aisle and shoulder bump me as he walked by.

Look, I work with plenty 150 lb. guys in MMA and they are plenty strong and show it. I’m not trying to make fun of the guy in the grocery store aisle, but I do want to talk about some things here in today’s article that can be of some help to him and perhaps you as well if you’re serious about learning how to build some serious lat strength.

 Signs Of Imaginary Lat Syndrome (ILS)

Some symptoms of ILS include guys and maybe even girls that are need to developing a strong set of lats and often substitute reality with an overly swelled posture flaring their arms out by their sides. They tend to walk around with the attitude that their lats are so big that they have to span out like the wings of a peacock or bald eagle! It’s kinda funny, but today I don’t want to make this a bashing session because that’s not my style. Instead, I’d rather talk about how you can make this situation better.

Description Of The Lats Or Lattissimus Dorsi Muscle…

Latissimus dorsi.png

Lattissimus means broadest and Dorsum means back or when put together the broadest muscle of the back. This is the imaginary wingspan of ILS victims. This particular muscle has many functions ranging from extension, adduction, and horizontal abduction. The lats are an incredibly powerful muscle group and can be leveraged for producing some serious strength gains when properly activated .

It also aids in the lateral flexion and extension of the spine (aka side bending).  This is a powerful pulling muscle which is usually thought of as one of the primary movers in the acts of doing pull ups, chin ups, and some form of a horizontal row. A strong powerful lat would be a great cure for ILS!

The Cure For Imaginary Lat Syndrome

To cure ILS you’ve got to develop some REAL lat strength and not just imagine it. Unlike the guy in the aisle at the grocery you’ve actually got to at least transform that 150 pounds of skinny into 150 pounds of muscle! Engaging the lats in a productive way means you’ve got to do some pulling and some heavy pulling at that. This takes consistency and planning.

As I mentioned earlier the lats are great for primarily aiding in the act of horizontal pulling, extension, adduction, and lateral flexion and extension. Developing a strong lat means you need to know how to engage this particular muscle when performing related lifts that are designed to help develop it and other major back muscles.

For instance, the deadlift is a wonderful exercise for pulling which engages the big dorsi when executing it with efficient technique. If you can imagine pulling the bar off of the ground during the deadlift you can see how the lat plays a major role if you really think about the breakdown of the movement.

For instance, right as you are getting ready to pull the barbell up off of the ground you’ve got your spine set in a strong neutral position, you strongly crush the grip, tighten the lats, and then extend your body straightening out the hips and knees.

The key is that when you grip the bar you almost want to act like you are trying to bend it between your hands while you are crushing the grip. As you perform the bending of the bar you’ll feel your lats contract in a hurry. You want to act as if you’re trying to bend the bar in a way to wrap the bar around your body during the ascent of the deadlift.

Of course executing pull ups, chin ups, and variations of horizontal rowing are great for engaging the lats, but deadlifts are also tremendous at hitting the major muscles of the back in a big way.  This is how you will obtain some REAL lat growth and the strength to go with it. In order to grow and develop the strength of those lats you’ve got to learn how to activate them during these big pulling movements.

Curing Imaginary Lat Syndrome: Strong Lats Mean Strong Pressing!

Folks don’t generally think of the lats aiding in the act of pressing, but ILS victims don’t generally think about their lats at all. In fact most of them are too busy imagining they have them rather than actually trying to improve them for real! Anyways, once you work on increasing the mobility and strength of of your shoulders you will experience how the lats truly aid in the act of pressing weight as well.

The reason for this is that whenever you are handling a load overhead or out in front of your body you want to make sure that you are properly packing your shoulder.  Once again, the lat aids in this action by both depressing the shoulder girdle and retracting the shoulder blade. During the act of pressing such as during the barbell bench press you will again want to act like you are trying to bend the bar between your hands during the pressing movement. This is what reinforces the external rotation at the shoulder head placing your shoulder into a stronger and more stable position.

Curing Imaginary Lat Syndrome: The Takeaway

Remember that the lats are not imaginary parts of your body. The lats are very real and very effective in helping you to build a super strong body while helping you to crush some big strength PR’s on some major lifts such as deadlifts and benching.

Are you training to build super strong lats? 

Do you currently suffer from imaginary lat syndrome? 

What training are you doing to optimize function and strength of your back muscles? 

Post up and share below in the comments! 

Also if you want to learn how to tie this all together then make sure you check out my brand new 120 Day Functional Fitness Training Program right here below! I guarantee it’ll get you into the best shape of your life, or I’ll give you your money back no questions asked.


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I'm a Certified Strength And Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and author. I have had over 17 years experience in MMA fitness, strength and conditoning, and athletic performance for most every sport. As an author and specialist I've written close to a million words on fitness and strength. I'm also a Muay Thai practictioner and enjoy helping others to reach their peak potential through fitness and performance.

This Post Has 3 Comments
  1. I am going to need you to not have me laughing this hard at work. I have witnessed ILS first hand when I used to go to the gym and yes it is quite a disturbing sight. And the worst part about it is that these guys are so serious about their disease. 🙂 It’s like, dude, you are so skinny that I can feel your heart beat through your back (gross). So since we are talking about syndromes, what about the dudes who do nothing but upper body workouts, and really do have big lats and super huge arm muscles, but then have these chicken legs to try to support that gigantic upper body? The medical term for this condition would be: Thoracioabdominodorsalitis CLS (pronounced: thor-ass-cee-o-ab-dom-ih-no-dor-sul-eye-tis) CLS stands for “Chicken Leg Syndrome”. The abbreviation would be TADICLS which is pronounced like “testicles” but remove the “test” and replace it with “Tad”. The common term would be WJS (Water Jug Syndrome). I don’t know which one is funnier to watch: the joker walking around flaring his nonexistant lat muscles or the other joker who walks around looking like a big water jug 🙂 And don’t let the joker have a small peanut head. They need to invest in doing some kettlebell swings using Big Red with their head to get that junk caught up with the rest of their upper body. But that’s another conversation. The lesson for today: An unproportioned body is not sexy on a man or woman 🙂

    1. @Karis, I must say you have introduced another masterful observation! Chicken Leg Syndrome CLS could be a whole other post to address. These guys are likely to build up enough upper body to collapse their lower body at some point and time. You never cease to impress me with your creativity! I appreciate you bringing this very serious matter to my attention! ;-). I am looking forward to hearing more of your input in the very near future. See you on Thursday!

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