So, you're looking to build a strong and impressive back, right? You've probably done the classic pull-ups and rows, but if you really want to take your back game to the next level, you've got to focus on those lower lats.
I’ll share some killer exercises that'll help you sculpt and strengthen your lower lats, giving you that full, well-defined back you've always wanted.
Here are the 8 best lower lat exercises:
- Straight-arm pulldowns
- Close-grip seated rows
- Decline dumbbell rows
- Single-arm cable rows
- Underhand barbell rows
- Rack pulls
- Inverted rows with underhand grip
- Kneeling single-arm cable pulldowns
Beyond just a list of new exercises to hit those lower lats, I’ll comprehensively describe the lower lat muscles and their function, break down the best exercises to target them, and walk you through the benefits of strengthening these often-neglected back muscles.
I’ll also provide a sample workout routine, warm-up tips, and bonus advice to help you achieve the back you've always wanted.
What Are the Lower Lats and What Do They Do?
Let's talk about your lower lats, which are a crucial part of your back muscles. They're essential for a well-rounded, strong physique and play a significant role in various movements.
Anatomy of the Lats
Think of the latissimus dorsi (or “lats” for short) as a large, flat triangular muscle covering a big portion of your back, stretching from your lower back to your armpits.
The lower lats are part of this muscle that's closer to your lower back. When you see someone with a well-developed back, that distinctive V-shape gives them that powerful look. The lower lats help contribute to this V-shape, making them important for overall back development.
Functions of the Lower Lats
The lower lats are vital in several movements and help stabilize your body during specific exercises. Some of their primary functions include:
- Shoulder Extension: Pulling your arms down towards your body, like during a pull-up or a lat pulldown.
- Shoulder Adduction: Bringing your arms closer to your body's midline, such as when you're doing a rowing movement.
- Internal Rotation: Rotating your shoulder inward is essential for various sports movements like throwing a ball or swinging a bat.
- Spine Stability: The lower lats help provide support and stability to your spine, making them important for maintaining proper posture and avoiding back injuries.
By understanding the anatomy and functions of the lower lats, you can better focus on targeting them during your workouts and improve your overall back strength and aesthetics.
8 Lower Lat Exercises
So whether you care about the functions and anatomy of your lats or not, here’s a list of 8 awesome lower lat exercises you can include in your training routine, complete with details on how to perform them correctly, and provide some pro tips and programming recommendations to maximize your gains.
1. Straight-Arm Pulldowns
Straight-arm pulldowns are an isolation exercise that primarily targets the lats, focusing more on the lower lats. This exercise is excellent for improving your mind-muscle connection and can help enhance your overall back development.
How to Do Straight-Arm Pulldowns
- Stand facing a cable machine with a straight bar attachment set at the highest point.
- Grasp the bar with an overhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart.
- Stand with a slight bend in your knees, feet shoulder-width apart, and hinge at the hips slightly.
- Keeping your arms straight, pull the bar down towards your thighs.
- Slowly return the bar to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of reps.
Focus on keeping your chest lifted and shoulders down throughout the movement to prevent your upper traps from taking over. This will help you better engage your lower lats during the exercise.
After completing your compound lifts, perform 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps with a moderate weight near the end of your workout.
Want more lat pulldown alternatives? Read the full article.
2. Close-Grip Seated Rows
Close-grip seated rows are an excellent compound exercise that targets your lats, with an emphasis on the lower lats. It also works your biceps and forearms.
How to Do Close-Grip Seated Rows
- Sit on the bench of a seated row machine and place your feet on the footrests.
- Grab the close-grip attachment (V-bar) with both hands.
- Keeping your chest up and back straight, pull the handle towards your abdomen.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the end of the movement.
- Slowly return the handle to the starting position and repeat.
Aim for your belly button instead of pulling the handle towards your chest. This will help target your lower lats more effectively.
Perform 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps with a challenging weight. Include this as an accessory exercise after your primary compound lifts in your workout routine.
Want to learn more about how close grip vs wide grip lat pulldowns can help your lower lats? Read the full article.
3. Decline Dumbbell Rows
Decline dumbbell rows are a unique variation of the traditional dumbbell row, specifically targeting lower lats. This exercise also engages your middle back, rear deltoids, and biceps.
How to Do Decline Dumbbell Rows
- Set up a decline bench at about a 30-degree angle.
- Holding a dumbbell in each hand, lie face down on the bench, with your chest supported.
- Let the dumbbells hang straight down, palms facing each other.
- Pull the dumbbells up towards your waist, keeping your elbows close to your body.
- Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position and repeat.
Initiate the movement by driving your elbows up and back, focusing on squeezing your lower lats at the top of the movement.
You may need a more elevated or specialized decline bench than normal in order to fully extend your arms below you without hitting the floor.
Perform 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps with a weight that challenges you. Include this exercise towards the end of your workout, after your primary compound lifts.
Want more dumbbell lat exercises? Read the full article.
4. Single-Arm Cable Rows
Single-arm cable rows are a unilateral exercise that targets your lats, allowing you to focus on each side individually. This can help address any imbalances and improve overall back development.
How to Do Single-Arm Cable Rows
- Set up a cable machine with a single handle attachment at chest height.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and hinge at the hips.
- Grab the handle with one hand, palm facing inward.
- With a straight back and engaged core, pull the handle towards your side, keeping your elbow close to your body.
- Slowly return the handle to the starting position and repeat. Complete the desired reps on one side before switching to the other side.
Keep your shoulder down and avoid shrugging it up during the pulling motion. This helps ensure that you're engaging the lower lats instead of relying too much on the upper traps.
Perform 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps per side with a challenging weight. Include this exercise after your primary compound lifts in your workout routine.
5. Underhand Barbell Rows
Underhand barbell rows, also known as reverse grip rows, are a compound exercise that targets your lats, emphasizing the lower lats. The underhand grip allows for increased lat activation and range of motion.
How to Do Underhand Barbell Rows
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a barbell with an underhand grip, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width.
- Hinge at the hips and bend your knees, keeping your back straight and chest up.
- Pull the barbell up towards your lower chest, driving your elbows back and squeezing your shoulder blades together.
- Slowly lower the barbell back to the starting position and repeat for reps.
Focus on pulling your elbows back rather than lifting the barbell with your arms. This will help ensure that you're targeting the lower lats instead of relying on your biceps.
Perform 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps with a challenging weight. Include this exercise after your primary compound lifts in your workout routine, somewhere in the middle of your workout.
6. Rack Pulls
Rack pulls are a partial deadlift variation that emphasizes the upper portion of the movement, targeting the lower lats and overall back musculature.
How to Do Rack Pulls
- Set up a barbell on a power rack at knee height.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and grip the barbell with an overhand or mixed grip, hands shoulder-width apart.
- Set your back by engaging your lats and pulling your chest up, creating tension in your upper back.
- Drive through your heels and extend your hips, lifting the barbell off the rack.
- Once standing fully upright, slowly lower the barbell back to the rack and repeat.
Engage your lats before initiating the lift by pulling the barbell against the rack. This helps activate your lower lats and ensures proper back positioning during the lift. Powerlifters may refer to this as “getting tight” before you pull.
Perform 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps with a heavy load. These should be done just after your heavy deadlift sets near the beginning of your workout when you are fresh and energized to perform heavy sets without risking injury due to fatigue.
7. Inverted Rows with Underhand Grip
Inverted rows are a bodyweight exercise that targets the lats, with the underhand grip emphasizing the lower lats. This exercise also works your biceps, rear deltoids, and traps.
How to Do Inverted Rows with Underhand Grip
- Set up a barbell in a squat rack or Smith machine at waist height.
- Position yourself under the bar, gripping it with an underhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart.
- Straighten your body and lift your hips, so you're in a straight line from head to heels, resting on your heels.
- Pull your chest up towards the bar, driving your elbows back and squeezing your shoulder blades together.
- Slowly lower yourself back to the starting position and repeat.
Elevate your feet on a bench or box to make this exercise more challenging. To make it easier, bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the ground.
Perform 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps, adjusting the difficulty as needed. Include this exercise towards the end of your workout, after your primary compound lifts.
8. Kneeling Single-Arm Cable Pulldowns
Kneeling single-arm cable pulldowns are unilateral exercises specifically targeting the lower lats. This exercise allows you to focus on each side individually, helping to address imbalances and improve overall back development.
How to Do Kneeling Single-Arm Cable Pulldowns
- Set up a cable machine with a single handle attachment at the highest point.
- Kneel on the ground, facing the cable machine with one foot in front of the other, in a split-kneeling position.
- Grab the handle with the opposite hand of the front leg, palm facing forward.
- With a straight back and engaged core, pull the handle down towards your chest, keeping your elbow close to your body.
- Slowly return the handle to the starting position and repeat. Complete the desired reps on one side before switching to the other side.
As you pull the handle down, focus on driving your elbow down and back, keeping your chest up and shoulder down. This will help ensure proper lower lat engagement during the exercise.
Perform 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps per side with a challenging weight. Include this exercise towards the end of your workout, after your primary compound lifts.
Benefits of Strengthening the Lower Lats
Developing strong lower lats is essential for a well-rounded, powerful physique. But it's not just about aesthetics; there are several other benefits of strengthening the lower lats that can improve your overall health and fitness.
Here are some of the top benefits you can expect from focusing on this crucial muscle group.
Increased Strength and Performance in Compound Lifts
Strong lower lats are crucial in powerlifting and other compound lifts, such as the deadlift, squat, and bench press. These muscles help stabilize your torso and maintain proper form during heavy lifts, allowing you to generate more power and lift heavier weights.
For powerlifters, strongmen, and strength athletes, this is easily the biggest benefit!
Well-developed lower lats contribute to that desirable V-shape in your back, giving you a more powerful and athletic appearance. If you're looking to improve your physique, strengthening the lower lats is essential for achieving an impressive, well-rounded back.
Enhanced Performance in Sports and Daily Activities
The lower lats play a significant role in various sports movements, such as swimming, throwing, and rowing. Strengthening your lower lats can improve your performance in these activities and make daily tasks, like lifting heavy objects or carrying bags, easier and more comfortable.
Strong lower lats can help maintain proper posture by providing stability and support for your spine. Good posture not only helps you look more confident, but it can also reduce the risk of back pain and muscle imbalances.
For anyone who’s not too worried about specific sports or performance, your overall health and posture will benefit greatly from these exercises.
Better Stability and Balance
A strong lower back, including the lower lats, is essential for overall stability and balance. This can translate to improved performance in other exercises, such as squats and deadlifts, and reduce the risk of injury during both sports and everyday activities.
Reduced Risk of Injury
By targeting the lower lats in your training, you help maintain balance and stability in your back muscles. This can prevent muscle imbalances that might lead to injury and ensure that your entire back is strong and healthy.
Sample Lower Lat and Back Workouts
Here are some sample lower lat and back workouts designed to help you target these crucial muscles effectively. Each workout focuses on different aspects of training, such as strength or hypertrophy, allowing you to choose the one that best aligns with your goals.
Lat Workout for Strength
This workout is designed to help you build strength in your lower lats and back muscles. It incorporates compound movements and heavy loads to stimulate muscle growth and improve your overall powerlifting performance.
- Rack Pulls: 4 sets of 6-8 reps
- Underhand Barbell Rows: 4 sets of 8-10 reps
- Close-grip Seated Rows: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Kneeling Single-arm Cable Pulldowns: 3 sets of 10-12 reps per side
Lat Workout for Hypertrophy
This workout targets lower lat and back muscle hypertrophy, focusing on higher rep ranges and moderate weights to increase muscle size and endurance.
- Decline Dumbbell Rows: 4 sets of 10-12 reps
- Inverted Rows with Underhand Grip: 4 sets of 10-15 reps
- Single-arm Cable Rows: 3 sets of 8-12 reps per side
- Straight-arm Pulldowns: 3 sets of 12-15 reps
Lat Workout for Muscle Balance and Stability
This workout focuses on unilateral exercises to address muscle imbalances and improve overall stability in your lower lats and back.
- Single-arm Cable Rows: 4 sets of 8-12 reps per side
- Kneeling Single-arm Cable Pulldowns: 4 sets of 10-12 reps per side
- Inverted Rows with Underhand Grip: 3 sets of 10-15 reps
- Decline Dumbbell Rows: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Choose the workout that best suits your goals and incorporate it into your training routine to see significant improvements in your lower lat and back development. Remember to adjust the sets, reps, and weights as needed to challenge yourself and ensure consistent progress.
From there, take the things you like about it and that help your specific goals and make your own variations of these workouts.
How to Warm Up the Lower Lats
Warming up your lower lats is essential for preventing injury and ensuring optimal performance during your workout. A proper warm-up will increase muscle blood flow, improve mobility, and prepare your body for the exercises ahead.
Here's a simple, yet effective warm-up routine specifically targeting the lower lats:
Start with a light cardio warm-up to get your heart rate up and increase blood flow throughout the body. You can choose any low-impact activity, such as brisk walking, cycling, or jumping jacks, and perform it for 5-10 minutes.
Scapular retractions help activate the lower lats and other back muscles, improving muscle engagement and stability during your workout.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms relaxed at your sides.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together, focusing on engaging your lower lats.
- Hold the contraction for 2-3 seconds, then slowly release.
- Perform 10-15 reps for 2-3 sets.
Using a resistance band, band pull-aparts can help activate your lower lats and warm up your shoulders and upper back.
- Hold a resistance band with both hands, palms facing down, and arms extended in front of you at chest height.
- Pull the band apart by moving your hands outward, squeezing your shoulder blades together.
- Slowly return to the starting position and repeat for 10-15 reps for 2-3 sets.
Shoulder circles help improve mobility in the shoulder joint and warm up the surrounding muscles, including the lower lats.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and extend your arms out to the sides.
- Perform small circles with your arms, gradually increasing the size of the circles as you go.
- Do 10-15 circles in each direction for 2-3 sets.
The cat-cow stretch helps improve spine mobility and activate the lower lats.
- Start on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
- Slowly arch your back, dropping your belly toward the ground, and lift your head to look forward (cow pose).
- Reverse the movement by rounding your back, tucking your tailbone under, and dropping your head (cat pose).
- Alternate between these two positions for 10-15 reps for 2-3 sets.
You may find one or all of these warm ups work for you, so find a combination that works and use it any time you are ready to train your back.
Bonus Tips for Training the Lower Lats
In addition to the specific pro tips provided for each exercise, here are some general tips to keep in mind when training your lower lats. These suggestions can help you get the most out of your workouts and ensure consistent progress.
Establishing a strong mind-muscle connection is crucial for targeting the lower lats effectively. Focus on engaging the muscles throughout each exercise and visualize them working as you perform the movements. This mental connection can lead to better muscle activation and growth.
Quality Over Quantity
When training the lower lats, prioritize proper form and controlled movements over lifting heavier weights or performing more reps. This approach will ensure you're targeting the muscles effectively and reducing the risk of injury.
To continue making progress and avoid plateaus, implement the principle of progressive overload in your training.
Gradually increase the weight, sets, or reps you're performing, or experiment with more advanced variations of the exercises to challenge your muscles and stimulate growth. For instance, you can add set tempos to slow the movements, pause during muscle contractions, or use resistance bands or other forms of resistance to increase the difficulty.
Include Compound Movements
While isolation exercises are great for targeting specific muscles, don't neglect compound movements, like deadlifts and pull-ups, in your training routine. These exercises engage multiple muscle groups, including the lower lats, and can lead to greater overall strength and muscle development.
Recovery and Nutrition
Proper recovery and nutrition are essential for muscle growth and progress. Ensure you get enough sleep, eat a balanced diet, and include adequate protein to support muscle repair and growth. Additionally, consider incorporating stretching and foam rolling to aid in recovery and maintain flexibility.
Consistency is key when it comes to achieving your fitness goals. Stick to your workout routine, and be patient with the process. Over time, your dedication and consistency will pay off, and you'll see improvements in your lower lat development and overall back strength.
Want more tips on how to active your lats during pull-ups? Read the full article.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Hit Your Lower Lats?
To target your lower lats, focus on exercises that require pulling movements, such as underhand rows, single-arm cable rows, and kneeling single-arm cable pulldowns. Maintain a strong mind-muscle connection and prioritize proper form.
Do Pull-Downs Work the Lower Lats?
Yes, pull-downs can work the lower lats, especially when using a narrow, underhand grip. This grip position helps engage the lower lats more effectively compared to a wide, overhand grip.
Do Underhand Rows Work the Lower Lats?
Underhand rows are an excellent exercise for targeting the lower lats. The underhand grip allows for better activation of the lower lats, leading to improved muscle development and strength.
What Is the Best Pull-Up For the Lower Lats?
The best pull-up variation for the lower lats is the close-grip, underhand pull-up. This grip position engages the lower lats more effectively and promotes better muscle activation compared to other variations.
Can Deadlifts Strengthen Lower Lats?
Yes, deadlifts engage various muscles, including lower lats, which help stabilize the spine and maintain proper form during the lift. Incorporating deadlifts into your routine can strengthen your lower lats and improve overall back development.
How Often Should I Train Lower Lats?
Training your lower lats 1-2 times per week is generally sufficient for most individuals. Ensure you're allowing enough time for recovery and incorporate other back exercises to promote balanced muscle development.
Are Lower Lats Important for Posture?
Lower lats play a crucial role in maintaining proper posture by providing stability and support for the spine. Strong lower lats can help improve posture, reduce the risk of back pain, and prevent muscle imbalances.
So there you have it! We've covered the ins and outs of lower lats, including their anatomy, functions, and a bunch of awesome exercises to help you target these key muscles.
By adding these exercises to your workout routine, you'll be well on your way to building a strong, balanced lower back that'll help improve your posture and boost your performance in compound lifts.
Just remember, focusing on good form, keeping that mind-muscle connection, and taking care of your recovery and nutrition will all play a big part in your success. Stick with these tips and advice, and you'll soon see some impressive gains in your lower lat development.
Keep up the great work, and happy lifting!
About The Author
Adam Gardner is a proud resident of Utah, where he lives with his wife and two kids. He has been competing in powerlifting since 2016 in both the USPA and the APF. For the past three years, he and his wife, Merrili, have coached beginning lifters to learn the fundamentals of powerlifting and compete in their first powerlifting competitions.