Back workout: fly through pull-ups with these lat-strengthening exercises

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Strong Women trainer Emma Obayuvana demonstrates how to strengthen your lat muscles to help you do a pull-up in this quick 10 minute workout. 

Pull-ups are arguably one of the toughest bodyweight exercises known to (wo)man. But if there’s one body part that can help lift your chin over that bar, it’s your back – more specifically, your lats. These muscles, also known as ‘wings,’ are located on either side of your torso, underneath your armpits.

“Learning to contract your lats and keep the muscles engaged is the first step to nailing a pull-up, but it’s something a lot of us struggle with,” says our Strong Women Collective trainer Emma Obayuvana. While you might not be able to practise pull-ups at home (unless you managed to snag a bar before they sold out), this workout helps to engage the same muscles. “Performing pulling motions with a resistance band or a dumbbell will target the same body parts and mimic the posture that you use when doing pull-ups. Plus, it will help you establish that mind-to-muscle connection with your lats,” Emma adds.

Here, she demonstrates three exercises to strengthen those so-called wings, so that you can fly through your pull-ups when gyms open their doors again this week. 

SINGLE ARM UNDERHAND BENT OVER ROW

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Back workout: Strong Women ambassador Emma Obayuvana demonstrates single arm underhand bent over row in this quick 10 minute workout
  1. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Hinge from your hips to lean your torso forward  – sending your bum back and keeping your back flat.
  3. With your arms down and parallel to your legs, twist your right hand so that your palm is facing away from your body.
  4. Row your right arm back by bending your right elbow towards the ceiling – keeping your arm close to your body.
  5. As you lift, keep your shoulders down and away from your ears while you squeeze your back.
  6. Lower your arm back down to the starting position.  

Do 10 reps per arm

DUMBBELL PULLOVER

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Back workout: Strong Women ambassador Emma Obayuvana demonstrates dumbbell pullover in this quick 10 minute workout
  1. Lie down with your feet on the floor (close enough to your bum so that you can touch your heels). 
  2. Tuck your tail bone under by tilting your pubic bone towards the ceiling. You should feel your spine touching the floor.
  3. Take one dumbbell in both hands and hold it above your chest, with arms straight and reaching up towards the ceiling.
  4. With a slight bend in your elbows, lower the dumbbell down to the floor (making the shape of a rainbow arc – so that the weight taps the floor above your head.
  5. Pull the dumbbell back up to the starting position (above your chest with arms stretched towards the ceiling). 
  6. Keep your abs engaged the entire time. 

Do 10 reps

BANDED LAT PULL

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Back workout: Strong Women ambassador Emma Obayuvana demonstrates banded lat pull in this quick 10 minute workout
  1. Kneel on the floor with your toes tucked under. 
  2. Bring your hips forward slightly so that you aren’t arching through your lower back.
  3. Hold a short-loop resistance band over your head with both hands, while keeping your shoulders down and away from your ears. 
  4. Tuck your ribs in.
  5. Pull the band apart with your hands as you lower it down, bending your elbows so that the band comes to just above your chest.
  6. Take the band back up to the starting position. 

Do 15 reps

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