One of the most impressive aspects of the bodybuilder’s physique is the infamous “V” taper. You know, the type of shape that makes it look possible to jump off a cliff, spread your lats, and do a little hang gliding. Think about the physiques of some of the most massive Mr. Olympias... Lee Haney, Dorian Yates, Ronnie Coleman, and Jay Cutler. They all shared one thing in common... backs so wide that each lat had its own zip code!
The thing is, truly wide lats are a rare commodity. Although there always seems to be a long line of trainees toiling away on the lat pulldown machine, serious “stop-and-stare” wings remain uncommon.
So where does the problem lie?
Smart money says the hold-up is due to neglected lower lats (highlighted in red, above). Most lat exercises emphasize the upper lat, up near the armpit – but a simple look at the anatomy makes it clear the lower lat is where all the meat’s at.
Increase recruitment of the lower lats and you'll grow a set of wings that would make Archangel jealous.
The Low Cable “Behind-the-Back” Lat Lever
* Drop the cable to the lowest setting and get into the “deadlift” style stance pictured above.
* Cable in hand (one side at a time), keeping the elbow straight: rotate the arm backward, past your torso and squeeze the hell out of that lat.
* Don’t hunch. Keep the back straight, just as you would during a deadlift.
* Don’t swing, use momentum, bend the arm, or rotate the hips. DON’T CHEAT. Keep it all lat, just like a Lat Press Down.
Lat pull downs, pull ups, and lat-isolation exercises such as the straight arm cable press down all suffer from a range of motion issue – the bar hits the center-line of the trainee’s body, preventing contraction of the lats past that point.
In the case of pull ups/pulldowns, the range of motion stops when the bar hits the chest.
With the straight arm cable press downs, the party stops at the waist or quads. Great for isolating the upper part of the lats… but the lats have more squeeze left in them. They can contract past the center-line. Not taxing the lats fully prevents their muscle fibers from growing to their full potential.
The Standard Lat Press Down, noting where range of motion stops (X) -- before the center-line.
As the graphic above depicts: If the pesky torso wasn’t in the way, the lats could continue contracting.
Try standing arms out in front, like a zombie. Lower them to your sides, where most cable press downs would finish. Now, keeping your arms straight, let them go further behind you, past your body.
Do it right, and you’ll immediately feel your lats contracting, even without any resistance. That final range of motion, as your hands pass your thighs and move behind the center-line of the torso, is where the lower lats contract the hardest – and the Standard Lat Press Down misses it.
The Low Cable Lat Lever hits the range of motion past the center-line to unlock new lower lat growth.
Hit the entire lats from top to bottom: add the Low Cable Lat Lever as a finisher at the end of your next back workout.
And of course, if you're building a better back, don’t forget to deadlift.