T Nation

'Lower' Lats?


I've heard this term used often, separating "lower" and "upper" lats. The latissimus dorsi is one muscle, so what constitutes "lower lats"?

I know there are movements that can make you feel the "burn" in your attachment more, but doesn't your lat still contract and grow as one muscle?

Same question goes for "lower" and "upper" abs, seeing as the rectus abdominis is also just one muscle that I always see separated.

Any info on this subject would be much appreciated.


The 'upper lats' I'm guessing are the latissumus dorsi combined with the teres major, whereas the 'lower lats' are just the lats alone.

Not sure about the upper/lower abs though.


To the best of my knowledge it comes down to which specific fibers are being used, as they are the ones that will grow. Different angles of resistance will be countered by different parts of the muscle.
Take for examples the traps, being a single muscle group much like the lats. Traps are actually the only muscle group that can pull in two opposite directions, and serve many functions as I'm sure you know. Also, when it comes to abdominals, can you not flex/move your upper and lower abs independently? At least to a point I mean.

Long story short, I think fiber length, direction and placement within a large muscle group like the lats will allow different places to contract and be worked to different degrees.

If you need any more specific examples I'll be happy to try to explain better.


Two schools of though here.

One: You can only recruit the whole muscle along its entire lengths, therefore isolation is impossible.

Two: The angle between the load and the insertion points changes that mechanical stress on the muscle, making more development in that area possible.

For 'upper' or 'lower' lats, that might be the difference beween pulldowns and, say, one-armed pronated to supinated pulldowns where you pull the elbow into the hip or one armed pulley rows leaning forward, again pulling into the hips.

I've never gotten sore from pulldowns at the base of the lats, but from the other two, rack pulls and t-bars, yhes.


I think it comes down to where the negative stress is being exerted on the muscle as muscle damage is mostly occuring on the negative...

for ex...On EMG, rope pushdowns actually recruit the long head better than OH extensions....However, in reality, OH extensions place more negative stress on the long head and that does't show up on EMG...and from personal experience, I've only got apparent long head growth when i did Overhead extensions with a negative emphasis...

the same goes for lats....chin ups may fire the entire lat...but, t bar rows or meadow rows with negative emphasis will put more eccentric stress on the insertion...imo, t-bar rows or 1 arm t-bar rows are a better lower lat builder than close grip pulldowns...


This about sums it up.

The lats are really big muscles. All of the fibers (from top to bottom) do not need to contract with maximal force to complete a lot of movements. Hence the need to do things that emphasize the contraction in the lower area.


You kinda answered your own question, but not quite. Why would an exercise make you feel the burn more at the insertion point if it didn't work that area of muscle more? Especially with a lighter amount of weight for the same reps?

Also, to illustrate the point that Bonez made; go to a mirror, and flex your triceps (preferably the dominant arm). Now flex it again, but slowly. If you do it right, the muscle will contract from the bottom up, not all at one time.

In the thread I posted that spurred this one, if you'll click on the link to the LiveSpill and read the comments, I posted that it seems to work the entire muscle from top to bottom. We're just more accustomed to feeling the top portion contract, so the contraction at the bottom grabs your attention. And it gets sore because it's used to being left out of the fun.

And I apologize for not giving you a more direct answer in the other thread. I thought that trying the exercise would answer your question. I was not trying to be short with you.


What would you do to emphasize the lower lats?


Neutral close grip pulldowns. Underhand grip seated rows to the belly button with a straight bar. Amongst other things.


Old school Tbars, standing a bit more upright, rowed into your upper gut/bottom of your rib cage works pretty well for me.

(Yes I just had to mimic the motion in my cube at work to describe it, lol.)


The lats are the more superficial muscle. Like you say, the teres major along with the teres minor, serratus, etc(deeper muscles)... all can add to the flare of the upper and lower lats when flexed.


This. close grip pulldowns work so well for me.