Having a hard time bringing out those lower lats? For simplicity, speed and effectiveness, hanging scapular rotations are hard to beat.
“Larry” said my friend Russ one day at the gym, “I notice you have a distinct shelf on the bottom of your lats. How did you get that? I get the width I want in my back, but I feel shallow right down at the bottom. Do you know of anything that will hit this area of the back?”
“Sure,” I replied, “I’ll show you something you’re going to love. First, finish your lat work so the lats are completely exhausted. This little trick won’t work unless your Lats are completely tired out.”
“You got it,” said Russ, a former Mr. Utah and holder of innumerable regional titles, proceeding with his lat routine.
“Now let me show you something that Lou Degni showed me over 20 years ago,” I explained when Russ was ready. “I have never seen anybody besides Lou who knew anything about it. If you can get the movement right, it will bring out the lower lats
just one set.
“First, before you begin, justt so you can see how trendously it will pump your lower lats, I want you to take off your shirt and look closely right here,” I said, pointing to the exact spot that was going be worked. We both looked in the mirror to where I was pointing.
“I see it,” said Russ.
“This is the area that is going to get pumped,” I said. “You will be able to place a finger under the lip of the extra size right after you do two or three sets. The movement is called the hanging scapula rotation. You are trying to get the scapula to rotate, which is the actual movement of the back when the lats are working.
“The bending of the arms is incidental to working the lats,” I continued. “If a person could get the scapula to rotate without bending the arms, he could work pure lats and not arms. That’s what we are trying to do here, bending the arms as little as possible, hardly at all in fact.
“So get your chinning straps and, with the palms facing forward, get up on the bar with your hands just a little wider than shoulder width. On second thought, Russ, your shoulders are so wide perhaps you ought to get a grip at about shoulder width. (Russ has won more best shoulders trophies than anyone in the area.)
“All right, now comes the difficult part,” I told my friend. “I want you to raise your ribcage as high as possible without bending the arms. That’s it. Higher. You have to raise it until it hurts. No, don’t bend the arms, just raise the ribcage. Now, at the same time draw the scapulae in as much as you can. Look in the mirror, Russ.”
“I don’t know what you mean by drawing in the scapulae,” Russ complained.
“You are trying to get the scapulae to rotate as much as possible through their entire range of movement,” I said. “So you have to start by getting them in as far as possible at the top of the movement because you are soon going to have them out as far as possible on the bottom of the movement. Look in the mirror and try to make yourself as narrow as possible while you have the ribcage raised. That’s it.
“All right, now slowly lower the ribcage about halfway down and flip the scapulae through hard. No, you have to really throw them through.”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“Try to make yourself as wide as possible,” I answered.
“Try it again, Russ. Start at the top and slowly lower yourself. All right, now! Right there. Throw the lats forward. Yes, that’s it. Now don’t come down. Stay right there.
Slowly lower the ribcage with the lats flattened hard against the back. The harder you can hold the lats against the back and keep them there as you lower the ribcage, the more that lower section of the back is going to work. Try it again. Only this time do it slower.”
After a few reps, Russ started to get the hang of it. Still a little awkward about throwing the lats forward at precisely the right time, but improving.
After a couple of sets, I said: “All right, Russ, look at the lower section of your lats. See how they are pumped?”
“Man, that’s great, Larry,” he said. “That’s a killer. Wow, you are right! I can really feel it. This is terrific. I am going to do a few more.”
“Remember,” I reminded him, “this exercise will only be good for about a week and you will start to go stale on it. It doesn t mean the exercise is no good. If just means the body has finally figured out what it is you are doing and it doesn’t need to secrete any more growth hormone in response. So drop the exercise for a few weeks and then come back to it. You will find it is just as good as the first time. You should always do it at the end of your back workout. If you use it in this fashion, you will be able to add the elusive heart shape to your lower lats.”
Hanging scapula rotations are a lot of fun. Granted, they do hurt, but to see that shelf stick out on the bottom of the lats makes it all worthwhile.