Do You Suffer From Imaginary Lat Syndrome (ILS)?

imaginary lats syndrome

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Invisible lat syndrome, affectionately known as ILS or imaginary lat syndrome, might sound like nothing more than a charming quirk to some, but it’s something that can be easily spotted in gyms around the world.

Quick Summary

Do You Suffer From Imaginary Lat Syndrome ILS invisible lat syndrome

Simply put, ILS is a condition in which individuals strut around as if they have massive lat muscles, causing them to hold their arms out wide like wings even when the muscle mass simply isn’t there.

It’s often a manifestation of a desire to appear more muscular than one actually is.

There’s more to ILS than meets the eye. While it’s easy to poke fun at the comical appearance of someone suffering from the condition, understanding the psychology behind this phenomenon can reveal some deeper insights into the human psyche.

Key Takeaways

  • Invisible lat syndrome involves pretending to have large lat muscles, causing the arms to be held out wide.
  • Though humorous in appearance, understanding the psychology behind ILS reveals deeper insights into human behaviour.
  • Exploring the reasons behind ILS helps those affected to overcome postural oddities and build genuine self-confidence.

Why exactly do people exhibit this behaviour? In an attempt to dive into these murky waters, we’ll explore the reasons behind this curious syndrome and how one might overcome such postural oddities.

What Exactly Is Invisible Lat Syndrome?


Invisible Lat Syndrome (ILS), also known as Imaginary Lat Syndrome, is a term describing a certain posture some individuals adopt to make their non-existent muscles appear larger.

You may have come across people in the gym or elsewhere who exhibit this behaviour, sticking their arms out as if massive latissimus dorsi muscles are forcing them apart.

Origin of the Concept

The term ILS likely originates from gym culture and bodybuilding circles, poking fun at those attempting to feign a muscular physique they don’t truly possess.

Whether serious weightlifters or casual gym-goers, you might have observed people afflicted with ILS, puffing out their chests and awkwardly holding their arms away from their bodies.

Why Imaginary Lats?

So, you might wonder, why do people develop this peculiar posture?

The answer lies in their desire to showcase a larger upper body and a sense of self-consciousness about their physique.

For some, ILS is a projection of their ideal self, and they want to convey an image of strength and confidence, even when they haven’t put in the hours or eaten right to attain real gains.

By understanding the concept of ILS and the motivation behind it, you would be in a better position to identify it and have a laugh when you spot someone suffering from this humorous affliction.

Just remember to keep your own lats in check and don’t fall prey to this imaginary ailment.

Imaginary Lats Syndrome Sufferer

“The awkward stance that some males take in order to swell their chest in a ridiculous attempt at make non-existing muscle seem present. Generally, the arms are lifted away from the body as if huge lat muscles were pushing them away.” 

Symptoms and Signs of Invisible Lat Syndrome

If your loved ones or even you yourself are exhibiting some odd behaviours and you’re wondering if it’s Invisible Lat Syndrome (ILS) or Imaginary Lat Syndrome?

Let me help you recognise the signs

1. Firstly, take a look at the stance.

Are the arms kept out and away from the body as if carrying two heavy shopping bags? If so, this might be a classic case of ILS, as the delusion of having gigantic lats makes it near impossible to return those arms to a normal position.

Don’t be alarmed if you find attempts to return the arms to the body futile, it’s a natural symptom.

2. Secondly, let’s gauge the level of unsolicited advice given at the gym.

A major symptom of ILS can sometimes manifest itself as being a person who frequently interrupts others while exercising to school them on proper form.

Remember, the invisible lats give a false sense of expertise and superiority.

3. Next, pay attention to the “pump.”

If after just a few minutes of lifting, you find yourself feeling inflated and unable to bring your arms to your side, you might be experiencing ILS.

The troublesome symptoms can leave you walking around like a human crab, attracting puzzled glances from fellow gym-goers.

imaginary lat syndrome

Now that you’re familiar with these signs, you can recognize if Invisible Lat Syndrome is haunting you or your friends at the gym.

But remember, awareness is the key to healing, so don’t forget to laugh and continue in the quest for actual lats, not imaginary ones. And, most importantly, stay humble.

Why Do Guys Do It? The Psychology Behind Imaginary Lat Syndrome

An ILS Sufferer In The Wild

Although there hasn’t been much research on the subject of imaginary lat syndrome, there are a few reasons that some experts believe that men suffer from ILS. They include:

  • Starved for attention: It’s not uncommon for ILS sufferers to open their arms wide and parade around the gym, usually with a weight lifting belt and gloves as accessories. These individuals attempt to make eye contact with everyone and to enhance the effect, he may stick his chest out as well.
  • Insecurity: The same reason some men puff their chests out before a fight, they want to look bigger and stronger to their opponent. In this case, the guy believes that everybody around him in the gym environment is an opponent in some way and he must show everyone that he is big and strong.
  • Paying homage to Ronnie Coleman: Ronnie Coleman is an eight-time winner of the Mr. Olympia title. His fans seem unaware that he relaxes his lats in real life and can bring his arms down to his side like a normal human being.
  • Searching for love: It is theorized that the primary reason that men use this posture is to impress or attract a mate. Another theory states that it may be used as a dominance or defence posture that gives the ILS sufferer the illusion of appearing larger to a threat or to intimidate rival males and scare them away from the beautiful, fit women at the gym. Much like a gorilla.
Do You Suffer From Imaginary Lat Syndrome ILS invisible lat syndrome

How to Overcome Invisible Lat Syndrome

Conquering ILS is achievable with some self-awareness, humility, and proper fitness education. Let’s dive into these effective solutions.

USEFUL VIDEO: Jeff Cavaliere demonstrating the proper way to work your lats

How Do You Get Your Lat Muscles to Fire?

In order to build your lat muscles the key is to focus on pulling movements. There are numerous exercises that build the lat muscles up, but before you do them, it’s important to activate the lats by doing some lightweight moves to warm up the area.

In order to get your lat muscles to fire, before you begin your pull-day exercises, get a lightweight barbell or dumbell and just do three sets of 12 reps of barbell rows, or even use the lat pull-down machine.

Work The Lats Properly

Instead of strutting around like you bench-press a mountain every day, channel some of that energy into learning how to build impressive lats for real. Here’re some fantastic exercises to turn your ILS into reality:

  • Pull-ups: The classic pull-up targets your lat muscles, transforming once imaginary lats into proper wingspan.
  • Deadlifts: Don’t let the name scare you. Done correctly, this powerful exercise works wonders on your back muscles.
  • Lat Pulldowns: This exercise done slowly and with proper form brilliantly isolates and develops your lats.

Remember, though, when you finally achieve your dream lats, don’t let it go to your head. Stay humble, keep learning, and always maintain a light-hearted approach to fitness, because who knows? If you play your cards right, you might end up inspiring others to bid farewell to their ILS too.

How I Discourage Imaginary Lat Syndrome

In my opinion, the best way to discourage ILS is to avoid making eye contact with sufferers.

There is a strong chance they are hungry for your attention and acknowledgement of their gains, withholding attention will make them realize it just isn’t working.

Another strategy to discourage in others ILS in loved ones is to face it head-on.

Below are some sample statements you can use to confront a person who may be overdoing it.

“Bro, your lats are not that big, stop it.”

“Just the two watermelons today then?”



Now that you’re well-informed about ILS, you can spot it easily in your local gym or, dare we say, maybe even recognize it in yourself. But don’t worry, there are many ways to cure ILS.

You can work on your real gains by engaging in targeted exercises for your upper body, fuelling your body with the right nutrition, and focusing on proper form while lifting weights. Say goodbye to ILS and focus on genuine muscle growth!

In the end, just remember that building muscle takes time, effort, and a solid workout regimen.

So, laugh off those imaginary lat syndrome moments and focus on your genuine progress. Your lats will thank you, and so will those around you struggling to understand why you’re walking like you’re carrying two watermelons. Happy lifting!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I cure my ‘air lat’ condition?

To cure your ‘air lat’ condition, you need to step back and reassess your workout routine. Put the focus back on your actual training and form instead of flaunting your non-existent lats.

As you start lifting correctly, your real muscles will develop, and your air lats will fade away.

Is there a treatment for puffed-up gym ego?

Yes, there’s a treatment for it! It starts with self-awareness and humility. Understand that everybody at the gym is on their own unique fitness journey.

Stop comparing yourself to others, and focus on your personal progress. If needed, seek the guidance of a trainer or a workout buddy to keep your ego in check.

What causes the wide-walk phenomenon in gyms?

The wide-walk phenomenon is often a result of Imaginary Lat Syndrome (ILS). This occurs when someone thinks their lats are so massive they need to walk with their arms out, like wings.

In reality, it’s an overinflated sense of importance combined with poor posture.

Are my imaginary lats holding me back from real gains?

Absolutely! Imaginary lats are rooted in ego, and an inflated ego can do more harm than good.

Worrying about how you look while working out can hinder your form and progress. Focus on your technique and actual muscle development to see real gains.

Why do some lifters feel the need to spread their wings?

Lifters with ILS feel the need to spread their wings to show off their “massive” lats. They want to emphasize their muscular presence.

However, this behavior is often a facade hiding insecurities and a lack of real progress. Overcoming this need to “spread their wings” requires a shift in mindset to prioritize real results over appearances.

Are unearned ‘gymwings’ a widespread epidemic?

While it’s hard to determine the extent of the ‘gymwings’ epidemic, it’s safe to say that it’s an issue that exists within gym culture.

The key to reducing this phenomenon lies in education, self-awareness, and focusing on personal goals and progress rather than seeking validation from others.


Avatar of Stuart Patrick
Stuart Patrick
Stuart Patrick is a health and fitness lifestyle journalist who writes for

“I've spent a lot of time trying to get in shape and change my body and I realised there are so many untruths in the health and fitness industry that can slow down or stop your progress, so I share my knowledge and experience to help others to cut through the BS.”

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