I just have one question regarding lat pulldowns for back width. When I perform lat pulldowns I feel the movement most noticeably in the muscle(s) of the lower part of my scapula, which to me seems as though I might not be working for lat width like I am trying to do.
I keep my torso vertical throughout the whole motion and really try hard to feel it lower where I think I should be feeling it, but it just occurs in the same place - just beneath my shoulder blades. Is this "correct", or is there some other place I should ideally be working?
Sorry about the vague descriptions; I'm not knowledgeable about anatomy, but hopefully I'm clear enough.
all about "mind-muscle" connection. Have to really focus on using your lats to pull the weight down, takes some practice. I suggest picking a weight well below what you'd normally do and do a few LPs where you strictly use your lats, internally "visualize" using your lats and complete a few reps that way. then move on to heavier weights trying to do the same.
Don't allow your elbows to pull all the way down and behind your torso. A lot of people do this thinking about achieving 'peak contractions' which isn't bad, but it does result in your targeting more of your mid back muscles instead of keeping tension on your lats. Personally, I like to use a close grip (usually a V-Handle), and attempt to keep my elbows as close as possible during the ROM, while also not coming down past my chin. This keeps a constant stress on the actual meat of the lats instead of shifting it around like most people inadvertently do.
in short - stimulating the upper back, above the lats vs hitting the lats more directly.
in long - There is a thread from a while ago in t-cell discussing theory and truth about wide grip for a wide back. it's titled why is bob cicherillo is a s asshole or something like that...it's my old thread.
the back needs to be hit from a myriad of angles addressing width and thickness, horizonal vs vertical plane movements and variances in between those two angles.
in agreement w/ stu wherein it's not so much the width of the grip but what individual choice movement pathway allows each individual to address and maximally stimulating the lats and above e.g. upper back -rhomboids and teres major, these muscles create width along the upper back.
speaking of that, learning to properly retract the scapula and then spread your lats and back just like a bodybuilder would in a rear lat spead, this is a great way to help w/ back training. if you cannot flex and control your back you'll have a more difficult time determining the gray areas of different back training exercises and/or knowing when one muscle group is taking over a movement intended for another muscle group. this occurs commonly with rear deltoids.
wide grip movements shorted the range of motion and cause more stimulation in the center point of the upper back. wide grip while hanging creates the stretch feeling in the back, which is good but often mistaken for what it is not - a contraction. a stretch and contraction are felt but in different places.
the bottom line, w/ variance in exercise, and the slight to great variance in form, limb size, bla bla bla, the back grows wider and thicker. it isn't pulldowns for width and rows for thickness absolutely, but staple movements create the lion share of growing.
illustration of the point - i've never seen anyone w/ huge triceps who got them by doing kickbacks as the their primary mass builder.
Hi CB Some suggestions from a former physio First, learn some anatomy Second, the lats can't activate from using a wide grip (it's more scapular rotation which is caused by the rhomboids, which sounds like what you're training) so use a medium/narrow grip. A neutral grip (Vbar) is best for putting the arm flexors (biceps, etc) in their strongest position, so they don't give out first
Third, forget about trying to maintian an vertical posture. Just whack on some weight and pull. Get a full stretch and a good contraction. Try to progress to Chins/pull ups as these are much better. The reason they are better is that in the stretch position you just have to hang on with your lats/shoulder structures. In pulldowns you can hold on with almost any muscle as your legs are fixed under the bar.
I'm not disagreeing with stu here because I had a lot of success feeling my lats more when I used a close grip. However lately (last 6 weeks) I have gotten noticable growth and really felt my lats working hard with a medium grip overhand pulldown.
The key for me was, as stu said, not to allow the elbows to pull back behind the torso. Still pull all the way down but retract you scapula all the way and externally rotate your arms so that your elbows point straight down and are close to you torso at the bottom. Keep your vertical body position IMO, if you lean back too much you will use the muscles of the upper back more so than your lats.
I have really liked doing this with a rep scheme where I alternate between a full rang of motion rep and a bottom half rep throughout the set. You will need to use less weight.
Also I encourage you to get a basic anatomy book, learning about anantomy will help you a great deal wih visualisation and mind muscle connection as well as exercise selection.
^Where your elbows end up (and torso positioning) is key to what area of your back comes into play. I just prefer the closer grip because it allows me a much better stretch at the top portion of the ROM.
Well, I think my back is decently wide. I do pulldowns with a medium grip (I put my hands right before the bar bends straight). I do the first few reps with good form and constant tension, when I can't get any more I let my arms slack for a good stretch at the top and use a little body english to squeeze out a few more reps.
I think this has a lot to do with the elbows, as many have said here already.
Don't think about pulling the bar down with your hands, think about bringing your elbows as far down as possible and trying to touch them to the floor. When I think about any pulldown movement like that, regardless of whether or not I'm utilizing peak contractions, extended negatives, or looser form, I feel them a lot more. This is one major reason why Thibs' Pulldown is an effective movement.