How Do You Target Your Upper and Lower Lats? - The Muscle PhD

How Do You Target Your Upper and Lower Lats?

Back muscles are probably some of the most sought after muscles in the bodybuilding industry. Just looking at somebody flexing their lats will instantly confirm that this person definitely put in the hours at the gym!

In reality, training your lats is extremely difficult, and what you see on professional athletes on stage has been cultivated through years of effort. However, there are a few tips you could follow in order to walk in their shoes and grow your lats.

Where Do Your Lats Originate?

Your lats consist of an upper and lower section and originate all along your spine and even your ribs. They partly originate where your glutes insert, as well, and then insert on your arm.

That means that your lats have movement from the arm, which is a great way to activate your upper and lower lats. Higher up on your body, the fibers on the lats are more horizontal, going side to side. Lower down on your body, the fibers of your lats are more vertical.

Bodybuilder showing upper and lower lats

How Do You Target Your Upper Lats?

What does that mean? This means that the orientation of the muscle fibers in the lats determines where your arm goes. If your arms are outstretched to your side, think of yourself as if you’re waving at someone far away. Since your upper lats are going horizontally, they’re going to move your arm in, or to the side.

You can target your upper lats by doing what’s essentially called an adduction, where you’re pulling your arm back to the body. Franco Columbu, a legend in the bodybuilding sphere, once said that the wider you go on pull-ups, the wider your back’s going to be, and he wasn’t wrong.

In other words, the way to target your upper lats is through wide grip pull-ups, or wide grip lat pulldowns. Wide grip pull-ups involve bringing your arm in a full range of motion into your body. That’s going to fully target those upper lats and is how you’ll be able to get that sought-after V-shape to your back.

However, what if you’re not interested in that aesthetic V shape? Well, you could target your lower lats a bit more!

How Do You Target Your Lower Lats?

Doing chin-ups to target lats

Your lower lats are more vertical than your upper lats, and that means that you can target them by moving your arm back, in what we call an arm extension. The best way to target your lower lats is by isolating your arms and doing straight-arm pulldowns. This is going to extend your arm underweight.

You could also target your lower lats by doing dumbbell pullovers, extending your arm underweight or loaded, as well as close grip pull-ups (such as chin-ups). When you’re working on the vertical plane (imagine a wall extending out in front of your body), you’re targeting the lower lats, since they are vertical fibers.

Optimizing the Upper and Lower Lats

Since the upper and lower lats of your body are so huge, they actually originate all over your spine and even your ribs, intersecting with your glutes as well as your arms. So, when you’re doing arm extensions where you move your arm backwards, you’re going to target the lower lats. However, if you want to target your upper lats, you could do what’s called an adduction, where you’re adding your arm back to the body after extending it.

For your upper lats, we recommend: doing wide-grip pull-ups and wide-grip pull-downs.

For your lower lats, we recommend: doing more close-grip chin-ups, straight-arm pull-downs, dumbbell pullovers, barbell pullovers, and single-arm rows.

You’ll be able to accurately target your upper and lower lats this way! We’ll see you again in the next article.

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