T Nation

Can't Feel Lats


No matter how hard I hit my lats, I can't feel it/don't feel sore the next day. I'm 17 and have been training for a couple of years. All my muscles have developed great, but my back is lagging in my view.

I've tried slow contractions and holding it each rep. I've tried goin hard'n'heavy, and also lighter weight for higher reps. None of it seems to work. Concentrating on my back for a mind/muscle connection doesn't seem to do anything either.

Is it normal to not feel any soreness?
Any suggestions to improve this?


What movements have you been using?


Have you tried 1/2 ROM lat pulldowns? Drop to about 50% of the weight you are used to using. The motion starts at slightly past where your elbows are at 90 degrees and ends with the bar pulled entirely into your chest. It is not explosive. Think slow, and meticulous until you actually feel your lats firing and taking most of the action. This is a great check to see if you are effectively firing your lats during the last half of the concentric phase. You eliminate overuse of your arms during the first part of the pull...i.e. no "cheating." If these are done correctly, you will feel it almost immediately after your set.


I think it is more of an issue that he pulls from his hands as opposed to focusing the pulling motion from the elbows. Also you need to keep your back tight and arched to really engage the back in the movement. Once you get the strict form down - arched back and pulling from the elbows - some momentum from the hips isn't entirely bad and can really force you through sticking points on the heavier sets. Just be wary that I'm talking about hip momentum, not leg drive!

  • Focus on pulling from the elbows, not your hands.
  • Keep back arched and tight.

Just to reiterate.



Thibs lat pulldowns worked for me. Use the straps for hanging leg raises


Using wrist straps may halp aswell. Keeps you from worrying about your forearms/grip and allows you to concentrate more on just contracting your lats


Again, What lifts are you using?


Care to elaborate more on the difference between pulling from the elbows instead of hands?


I had a similar problem. I found that jskrabac has a good idea with the lighter pulldowns, but I initiated a hold at the bottom of the movement for between 5 and 10 seconds, driving your shoulder blades back and down as you perform the hold. This is harder than it sounds; you have to stay tight across the upper back and don't let your shoulders shrug.

Another specific movement that really helped with feeling the lats are biker rows. Set up on a cable row with a shoulder width, overhand grip. Get into the regular position(I'm assuming you know how) but then pitch your entire upper body forward from the hips(keep glutes and back VERY tight) so your upper body makes about a 45 degree angle with the floor(kind of as if you were riding a bike). From there, maintain that upper body position and pull to the lower chest, keeping the back tight. This exercise helps to emphasize the back tightness teledin was referring to. And 'pulling with your elbows' can help, too.



This article on lower back position may help, too.


Try it. You should notice immediately that you pull much more with your lats than you do your biceps. Basically takes the biceps out of play.


Use straps so that you dont have to squeeze for grip, and consciously make the force for the pull come from your elbows, not your hands, you will feel your lats engage a lot more


A lot of people can't activate their lats (or upper back for that matter) because their focus is to initiate the pulling motion from the wrist joint. What this does is actually makes the individual place more emphasis on using his/her biceps/forearms to move the weight as opposed to using their back. It gives you a much better MM connection with your back.

Straps rectify this problem to an extent, but not completely. The focus still needs to be to initiate the pulling movement from the elbows.


I've got a similar problem. No matter how hard I hit my wife, she doesn't feel sore the next day.


Back so soon?


I find NOT wrapping my thumbs around the grip helps, and a hammer grip attachment goes a long way too.


OP: For me, lats have always been the hardest major muscle group to feel working. For the past six months however, my lats have been responding really well.

A trick that I picked up on one of these forums is the following: on lat pulldowns, use a narrow V grip, set up with your back arched, you should feel your lats stretch while in the top position. Pull your elbows down into your ribs, your hands should be in front of your face. After a steady diet of these I've tried working other grips into my pulldowns and can now feel my lats working using other variations.


I've tried every back workout in the book: Regular Lat-pulldowns (or w/ V-grip), Low V-grip rows, T-bar rows, dumbell rows, pullovers, etc.

I will try the lower half of the ROM, seems logical.

And pulling from the hands may be a problem as well, as my forearms burn when doing these exercises, even when I've tried straps.


Oh, and thanks a lot to everyone for the advice.


Definitely take the suggestions here but also consider a superset:

Because many people's biceps take over any lat-pull down movement it can be hard to visualize pulling from the elbows. Or, if you can "see" the process, it can still be hard to feel it. So, take a page from Christian Thibaudeau's play book and perform a superset as follows:

1st) a lat movement that does NOT involve the arm flexing--ie: no biceps. Something like a straight arm cable pulldown, or machine pullover, or similar

2nd) immediately follow that with a "regular" lat movement while your lats are still pumped. Stick to the part of the motion you can feel the lats the most on.

Personally I always feel the lats the most in the 1st half of a pulldown (the stretched position to the halfway position). But to each their own.

Also worth consideration is the way you START the motion of a lat pulldown. First, set the seat low enough that you have to stand to reach the bar. In other words when you are completely relaxed and stretched out the bar is NOT hitting the machine top so you still have the weight in your hands. I have long arms so sometimes depending on the machine i have to sit on the floor.

Second, get as much of a stretch as possible before starting to contract. Literally try to elongate your torso while holding onto the bar with straps. Third, when you start the motion, MOVE YOUR SHOULDER BLADES FIRST. Not your arms. Contract your shoulder blades down to start the motion. It is a little difficult to describe if you can't see it, but it definitely helps keep you from starting the pull with your arms, which most people--myself included--have been guilty from. I used this technique to break my habit.