T Nation

From Powerlifting to Figure


Hi everyone,

quick intro I used to be on the FA website, now I occasionally check in here…

I competed in state powerlifting in 2011 in the 56kg class where I deadlifted 140kg/313lbs, benched 57kg/127lbs and squatted 90kg/201lbs. There is video of this on my boyfriends youtube channel warrickbrant. I then went on to my best deadlift of 145kg/324 a year later. So with my weak squat and bench I decided that powerlifting was not for me, but decided to keep on training heavy and compete in figure, which I did last weekend. yay.

anyway my question to anyone who has a legit answer is… after all my training, heavy powerlifting, 10 years before that of weight training, and then trying to focus on building a wider back for figure comps; where are my lats? HOW THE HELL CAN I DEADLIFT ALMOST 3 TIMES MY BODYWEIGHT BUT BE MISSING LATS? WTF??? where are they? I thought my back was a strong point, until I cut weight to get on stage, and there is simply nothing there!

So beyond the “you have to make the mind muscle connection” blah blah, can anyone tell me what imbalance I may have or what I can do beyond the usual lat pull down, pull up and rows (yes of course I do all those) to correct this gross disfigurement? Thanks in advance,
latless bethaney. Oh yeah, I am the blonde in pink…

oh please fell free to move this if it’s in the wrong section, I just hoped the ladies would help me! ta

Row variation every workout and start each workout with a few sets of pull ups or chins.

Thanks Hara, it seems volume and frequency may be the way to go, it worked for other body parts, thank you so much.

Well deadlifting heavy is well and good, but strength and size while being correlated, are not always contingent upon one another. During a deadlift the lats are working pretty much isometrically to stabilize the spine. While this can build some size, it won’t build the mythic proportions people are looking for in physique shows.

Having high lat insertions also sucks, I’m in the same boat myself. My lats have lagged for awhile, despite doing pull ups, chin ups, heavy heavy rows of every variation faithfully for years.

The thing is, pull ups are great, but calisthenics are tough, and if the move is really hard its difficult to keep the tension where you want it, especially if you are arm dominant like myself, you brain will just try to accomplish the motion and use too much other muscles.

My lats did not take off until I regressed to more simple moves, most notable the basic lat-bar pulldown. Flex your upper back and keep it flexed the whole set, which you definitely can if you pull heavy, and go through the entire range of motion and let yourself stretch at the top. If you don’t feel a pump in your lats they arent getting hit right. I tend to do a heavy set of 10 or so then drop the weight and do 10 more with a slow slow eccentric.

Also an honorably mention goes to unilateral low cable rows, again its about slow speed and a big stretch.

Finally the pose is important too, I can’t tell entirely from the picture, but your upper-middle back muscles seem pulled together like your scapulae are retracted. What you really want to do is externally rotate your shoulders hard which flares your lats out. If done correct it appears as though your armpit is facing forward and your elbows might be jutted in front of the coronal (frontal) plane. Some good moves to get that down would be proper overhead squatting/ barbell snatches. Also bench pressing for big numbers requires that external rotation specifically to include the lats to provide a buffer for the humerus.

First of all, congrats on doing your first show!

I went a long time doing pulldowns, having a decent deadlift, and even being able to do pull-ups without really knowing how to activate my lats. I think once I finally figured how to use them, my back development really improved (it was actually a strong point in competition, but since I’ve improved my width even more).

To add to what CML said (I’m pretty sure that entire post should get a x2 from me), here are a few things I noticed…

Pull-ups do jack for development for me. I do them because I like to be able to do them, not because they accomplish something better than any other exercise.

Two exercises that really helped me learn to feel my lats were those weight stack pulldown machines (vs the typical cable or hammer strength ones) and single arm cable rows.vI like to treat the cable row as sort of warm up exercise. I do it light for moderate-high reps as a warmup and feel like it really helps me with the “mind-muscle connection”. The better I got at flexing my lats, the better I got at training them. The pulldown machine just happened to force me into a good position and learn to use my lats instead of letting other muscles take over. I absolutely love that machine (and also know people that get nothing out of it). If your gym has a variety of pulldown machines, I’d mess around with them and see which feels best.

My back was a focus prior to competing and I think training it at a higher frequency helped.

I <3 Meadows rows. And the seated chest supported row machine, especially with a nice stretch and a hold. And straight arm pulldowns, but only if I’m feeling good and “activated”.

I don’t use straps frequently, but sometimes they help me get my arms out of an exercise.

Have you tried Kayak rows? I feel that they have consistently helped develop my lats. I also do steady controlled slow pullups. I feel they too have helped. You look great though! Love the suit! :slight_smile:

I have always been in the same boat with the big three; my deadlift is much better then my squat, usually by 100+ lbs… The truth is that if you’re competing in figure you probably don’t even need the deadlift in your routine, and if you do choose to keep it, higher reps at the end of a workout is probably the best option. Rows are going to give you the most meat on the “lower lat” section of your mid back, and will still work the erectors in most cases, so you have to decide if your physique goals are more important than what you are comfortable/good at. Chances are, as long as you keep squatting, you won’t lose much if any strength on your deadlift.

My wife had good success with the traditional T-bar row, while I prefer “kroc” style dumbbell rows. as far as “back width” excercises (those on the vertical plane) I will agree with the previous comments that pull-ups are not necessarily going to give you the most size. Obviously, YMMV, but unless you can bang out sets of 10+ for 50+total reps with relative ease, the lat pulldown or Hammer Strength Hi-Row will most likely be better for your goals.