Huge, flared lats are a symbol of a powerful physique. They also give you a V-taper, typifying the ideal upper body by improving your aesthetics. However, many people struggle to engage the lats effectively when working their back, which prevents optimal development.
The lower lats are particularly difficult for many people to engage because they fail to establish a mind-muscle connection with the target muscle and cannot contract it with every rep.
To develop this muscle group, you should do lower lat specific exercises. This article lays out five of the best lower lat moves for building a dense and wide back.
What are Lower Lats?
The latissimus dorsi is a fan-shaped, broad, and flat muscle occupying most of the lower posterior thorax. It stretches to the sides, behind the arm, and is partly covered by the trapezius on the back near the midline.
When we talk about the lower lats, we are referring to the group of fibers that insert into the lower third and fourth ribs where it interdigitates with the external oblique muscle and inferior angle of the scapula and the iliac crest of the hip bone.
Notably, it is not possible to fully isolate the lower lats while training. That’s because all latissimus dorsi muscle fibers have the same insertion point on the upper arm. So, when you do a lat exercise, all lat fibers are working together. However, you can better activate the lower portion of the lats by modifying your exercise form and training technique.
5 Best Lower Lat Exercises
The five exercises that follow will work your entire lat muscle. Follow the cues provided to place more emphasis on the lower lats.
1. Lat Pull-In
The Lat Pull-In is a unilateral variation of the lat pull-down that does a better job of engaging the lower lats. Unilateral exercises are great for fixing muscle imbalances and establishing a mind-muscle connection.
- Place a bench in front of a cable pulley machine and adjust the pulley to its highest setting.
- Grab the handle in your right hand and sit in a position so that your right side is facing the pulley machine.
- Pull the cable down and in towards your hip.
- To get a full lower lat contraction, touch your elbow to your hip bone.
- Contract the lower lat in this position.
- Slowly return to the start position, allowing the lats to fully extend.
- Repeat for reps before switching sides.
2. Dumbbell Row to Hips
The dumbbell row to hips is a variation of the single-arm row. By adjusting the direction of your upward pull, you are able to target the lower lats better. Rather than rowing the dumbbell up, you should pull back in an arc-like motion.
The dumbbell should start under your shoulder and finish at your hip—just like in the previous exercise. That allows for a full lower lat contraction.
- Stand alongside a bench with a dumbbell in your right hand. Place your left hand on the bench for support and step your left leg back in a staggered stance. In this position, your torso should be at a 45-degree angle.
- With the dumbbell hanging directly below your shoulder, row the weight up and back to touch your hip. Be sure to keep your shoulders down and your chest up as you row. Hold the contraction for a second.
- Slowly return to the starting position and repeat for the required reps.
3. Seated Band Row
The seated band row is a variation of the cable seated row that doesn’t restrict you to the predetermined path of the machine. You won’t be able to use as much resistance when using the band, but if you place this exercise third in your routine after the two just described, your lats will already be pre-exhausted.
Doing the seated row with a band keeps your lats under constant tension. To keep the emphasis on the lower lats, be sure to externally rotate your shoulders with your scapula slightly depressed and your chest up. While you’re doing the exercise, think about engaging the lower lats rather than the trapezius.
- Sit on the floor with your legs extended. Place a loop resistance band around your mid feet, holding the other end with both hands in a neutral grip. In this position, your hands should be at knee level. Maintain an upright torso and a neutral spine.
- Row your arms back, keeping the elbows tucked in at your sides until the hands are at hip level. Hold for a second as you contract the lower lats.
- Slowly return to the start position and continue for the required rep count.
4. Straight-Arm Lat Pulldown
The straight-arm lat pull-down does a good job of stretching out your lats in the starting position and bringing them to a fully contracted lower position. The key to engaging the lower lats is to squeeze them as you hold the bottom position for a two to three-second count.
- Set the cable pulley to its highest setting and attach a short handlebar to the cable.
- Grab the handle with both hands using an overhand grip.
- Take a couple of steps back so your arms are angled at about 45 degrees with the floor. Lean your upper body forward slightly and keep your arms straight throughout the movement.
- Keeping the shoulders down and the scapula slightly depressed, pull the bar down and into your hips. Hold the bottom position for two to three seconds as you contract the lower lats.
- Slowly return to the start position. Repeat for the required rep count.
5. Underhanded Bent-Over Barbell Row
The underhanded bent-over barbell row is a variation of the standard barbell bent-over row, in which your hand position is reversed. It allows you to depress the scapula and keep your shoulders down, which helps better engages the lower lats.
This exercise also places more emphasis on the biceps than the standard barbell bent-over row.
- Place a loaded barbell on the floor in front of you. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
- Hinge at your hips to reach down and grab the bar with a shoulder-wide underhand grip.
- Depress your shoulders and squeeze the shoulder blades together as you row the bar up to your ribs. Hold the top position for a second and contract the lower lats.
- Lower the bar until your arms are fully extended, and repeat for the required rep count.
Lower Lat Workout
Now that we’ve identified five effective lower lat exercises, let’s put them together into a workout. This 16-set workout will hit the entire latissimus dorsi. However, following the abovementioned cues will help focus on the lower lats.
- Lat Pull-In: 4 sets of 30/15/10/8 reps
- Dumbbell Row to Hips: 3 sets of 12 reps
- Seated Band Row: 3 sets of 15 reps
- Straight-Arm Lat Pull-down: 3 sets of 12 reps
- Underhanded Bent-Over Barbell Row: 3 sets of 8 reps
While you cannot totally isolate the lower lats, you can focus on them with the right exercises done in the right way. The five exercises covered in this article will help you engage and contract the lower lats. Perform this workout twice per week for the best results.