T Nation

I Can't Seem to Hit My Lats

Whenever I do lat pulldowns or military presses I just can't seem to feel it in my back. I get an amazing bicep pump from the pulldowns and sore biceps and shoulders from military presses. I'm 100% sure that I'm doing the exercises right with good form.

Currently my program is:

Leg Press - 3x15x450
Lat Pulldown - 3x15x110
Tricep Pressdown - 3x15x110
DB Military Press - 3x15x30 (30 pound dumbbells)
DB Bench Press - 3x15x35 (35 pound dumbbells)
DB Bicep Curl - 3x15x25 (25 pound dumbbells)

Why are my biceps getting an amazing workout and my back feeling untouched? Are my lats even supposed to feel sore? I assume they should... Any ideas plz?


thats weird, i would say that i can "easily" do 3x15x110 lat pulldown, but tricep pressdown 3x15 i would say probably 65 max or so

maybe try down the pulldown behind your head rather than in front of your head, that usually makes me feel like im using the muscles i should

or just increase weight, sets, reduce reps


something against barbell rows? do them real wide and you'll hit them.


Try to use your arms as hooks and think about pulling down with your elbows not with your hands. Lighten the weight up till you feel your back doing the work(swallow your ego) and build up from there.


Lookup "Torso Solution" in the archives by Christian Thibadue


@lord - lol im a beginner, give me a break. I've never lifted before

@USNS - this is a program assigned to me by my weight lifting teacher and I have to stick with it for the time being. It's a basic beginner program though that covers the safe lifts lol. Nah we're not allowed to squat or BB BP just yet so until then...w/e

@scott - ty I'll try that on friday

Any other ideas anyone?


Great suggestion and try a false grip no thumb as well it does a lot of taking the upper arm out of it



k. Any advice on the military presses?


I just read somethng--can't remember where though. When you do pulldowns, or rows, or whatever, don't strighten out your arms. And always lead the movement with the back. Make it feel like the back is moving before the arms engage. Plus, when the weight is pulled back, give you lats a good squeeze (contraction) for a second or two.


I second both suggestions.

USNS's suggestion of changing up exercises, while not necessarily wrong (rows are great exercises), doesn't really address the problem. Like Scott and Phil alluded to, your problem is that you're pulling with your arms rather than with your back. This is most likely due to being a naturally arm dominant puller (meaning that basically you have better neuromuscular control/connections to your arm flexors than you do to your back muscles).

Now, as far as getting sore in your biceps while military pressing, that is strange indeed. What variation of military press are you performing?

Also, they're not a back exercise, they're a shoulder exercise. I'd suggest using the same method as suggested above and go back to square one with the military press and work on really just contracting your shoulder muscles against the resistance. Another tip is to once again try pressing leading with your elbows (meaning that you are trying to lift your elbows rather than to just focus on pressing the bar).

Both of those tips should allow you to get better at recruiting your delts and consequently improve the effectiveness of the exercise.

Hope this helps.



Yeah, look up the a human anatomy chart ha.

Military presses are a shoulder triceps and somewhat upperback movement, no lat involvement.

[Edited for two reasons, one that was sort of mean and two I put the totally wrong C word I was thinking of ha.]


if you are doing lat pulldowns and tricep pressdowns with the same weight something is wrong.


Chins? Pullups?
Do them really wide, I always feel my lats when I do those.


Just want to second the recommendation on doing pull ups, especially wide-grip pull ups. I heard someone else refer to them as the squat for the upper back, which seems a pretty good characterization to me. You don't have to do these in the weight room, just anywhere you can grab on to something.


Sounds like you just need to develop a mind muscle connection, it's the difference between just moving weight and hoping for the best and choosing which muscles you use for a certain exercise.

The stuff like pulling with your elbows etc. can help you to develop the connection but when you get it down you don't need external cues. It becomes a subconscious action like walking or sitting down, you'll use your lats simply because you want to.

Good luck.


I second that on the mind-muscle connection. Drop the weights for a little bit to get your form down. Try and bring your elbows forward some when you grab the bar and puff your chest out some. It should help you to target your lats when you pull down. I also recommend the false grip. It also helps to imagine which muscles you're targeting for the mind muscle connection.

This is something you should try and incorporate into all your lifts. I basically just imagine my target muscle(s) contracting during the lift. Pull-ups are much better for the back than lat pull-downs however. But for a real nice thick back, I'd say barbell rows and deadlifts when your teacher lets you.


Definitely need to establish mind-muscle connection. I too had hard time hitting my lats, esp doing lat pull downs. Few things that really helped me:

Keeping my torso upright or slightly leaning forward.
Using a neutral grip (palms facing each other) - don't grip tight, just enough to hold the device and pull down and squeeze with your elbows.
Keeping my elbows in front all the way through, instead of leaning back and flaring out the elbow.

Btw, Keeping all of the above will bring down your poundage considerably. Good luck


Well I didn't take time to read the replys but heres my bit on it. First make sure your palms are facing away and go as wide as grip as you can on the pulldown. And if that still doesn't work, then I'd recommend pull-ups. Those sound like noob answers but that's all I can think of. Just as wide as the bar can go is what I do.


I had this problem too. I fixed the problem by using hooks(not straps, hooks). I could never get a good pump in my back until I used the hooks for pull downs and pull ups. Now I only use them for pull dwns. I too noticed a greater deal of lat activity when I upped my pull up frequency.


Row, row, row, and row some more. Barbell, dumbell, cable. Mix them up with your pullup/pulldowns. And when you get bored with that, do t-bar rows.