"Look at how Lou's lats flare out at the bottom just standing there relaxed. Sensational!"
It was way back in 1958, my first time out of Idaho, I had just arrived in California to pursue an engineering degree. I was in heaven.
I had no more settled in to my apartment on Vine Street in Hollywood than I lit out for Bert Goodrich's club on Hollywood blvd. The place was packed with all kinds of big guys. I was so pumped I was dying to hit it. The guys could see I was a fanatic and having the time of my life.
Someone said, "Wait till you see Lou."
"Lou who?" I asked.
"Lou Degni! You haven't seen anything yet.
A few days later he arrived . . .
It was Lou Degni in the flesh. You had to see him to believe it. His whole package was incredible. His pecs were so thick you could bury your entire index finger before you hit rock bottom. His back and abs were sensational and . . . Good Looking! Besides a great face he had perfect teeth and curly white hair.
I hate to say it but . . . I almost worshiped him.
He was everything I wanted to be.
For some reason, Lou took me under his wing. I guess he was impressed with my determination. Anyway, he started teaching me things no one else was doing and even to this day, no one . . . I mean no one knows these things.
Especially secrets for building lats.
Yeah, there's some great backs around today but you gotta remember Lou was doing it clean. We didn't even know the word . . . steroids . . . then.
He showed me little ways to build lats so they came out like a heart at the bottom. Not just V shaped but heart shaped. It took your breath away to see those things. The shock value never left me. I never even came close to his back development but the things he showed me gave me a big edge.
Lou did a lot of unusual exercises. It was almost like he trained in a different world than the rest of us. There were some big guys there too. Gordon Scott who was playing Tarzan at the time trained there, but his program was a lot like ours. But not Lou's. You couldn't even figure out how to copy him . . . he did things so differently.
I guess a lot of it had to do with the strange equipment he rigged up. I can't tell you everything in this report but I'm going to tell you about his pull down bar. It was UPSIDE DOWN. It had chewed up cloth tape all over to keep his hands from slipping. It didn't look great but . . . who cared when you saw what it did for Lou's back.
A few of us fanatics . . . hung around after a workout . . . hoping we could just get a sneak shot of his back. It was awesome. The nearest I can describe it was . . . a big heart built out of muscle. Especially his lower lats, which almost hung down. It gave you a little funny feeling down around your tailbone to see 'em.
Like I said before I know all the Olympia winners and I haven't talked to anyone that knows what I'm about to tell you.
Not as good as Lou but notice how the lower lat comes all the way down.
It's from the tips in this article.
How to Build Incredible Lower Lats
It all focuses on scapula retraction. Lou would tell me, "Larry, you've got good arms but they're going to kill your back if you don't do something about it. You've got to get your arms out of the picture if you're going to build your back. Let me show you."
Then he hooked his upside down bar to the lat machine, chalked his hands and cranked out the most incredible looking pulldowns you have ever seen in your entire life. We couldn't keep from chuckling. His back was beyond inspiration. All you could do was shake your head, chuckle and be glad you got to see it. I can't tell you everything he showed me but I will tell you . . .
How to Build an Upside Down Bar
The bar has to be thicker than normal bars, so you can get your palm to stick to it rather than pull with your fingers. The secret to lat isolation is getting the palms high on the bar. The one inch bars with the rotating sleeves are all wrong. You definitely don't want the bar to rotate. Furthermore, turning the bar down on the ends is all wrong as well.
The bar should TURN UP about 10 degrees where most bars turn down and . . . it should be at least 1.5 to 1.75 inches thick with no rotating sleeve.
In fact, a plain old straight bar that's a little thicker is a lot better than the ones that turn down at the end.
You see, in order to get the scapula to go through their full rotation you have to get the little finger side of the hand higher than the thumb side Otherwise the scapula doesn't start in the fully abducted position. Furthermore, you end up working mostly biceps once your grip slips from palms to fingers. That's why you need the thicker bar and lots of chalk.
You can use exactly the same bar for a pullup bar. Just get a couple of hooks welded on to it. Then you just throw it over your normal chin bar.
Once you've got your bar in place then you're ready to build some incredible lats. Here's all you have to do.
First grab the bar out where it turns up on the ends, then, let your body hang down completely. Don't start to raise your body yet, first adduct the scapula. For those of you, like myself, who have a hard time remembering, just remember abduct means to take away. So abduction means to move the scapula away from the trunk. Conversely, adduction means to bring the scapula in close to the body. First adduct the scapula. That's right, bring them in as close to the body as you can. In other words, make yourself as narrow as possible before you even start lifting your body up to the bar. Now with the elbows held all the way back, arch the upper body and slowly lift yourself up to the bar. Try to touch your chest to the bar if you can. If you can't touch the bar, don't worry about it, just keep the body in an arched position with the scapula held in as tight as possible. Keep the elbows back. Now, right at the top. throw the scapula and the elbows forward.
Remember, if you don't keep your elbows back, you won't be able to throw them forward at the top. This is the crucial stage of the exercise. Throwing the elbows forward and the subsequent abduction of the scapula puts the back through its entire range of motion, which in turn causes the lower lats to develop so well.
This is how a pulldown or chinning bar should look.
The ends turned up and padded.
Be sure you don't lean too far back at the top of the movement or you won't be able to fully throw your scapula forward.
If you're having trouble, maybe this will help. Forget all about the scapula. Just think in terms of your lats. Right at the top of the movement, spread your lats as wide as possible. Then, still holding the lats our wide, slowly lower yourself back down into starting position again.
If you get this movement down pat, it will more than triple your results from pullups. You must learn to rotate the scapula through their entire movement. You see, the weight of the body is holding the scapula in a "neutral" position. The lats must be forced through this entire isolation maneuver in order to make them grow.
Most of the time when we do pullups we are working biceps and some incidental lat work. When we concentrate all our energy on the scapula while doing pullups we are forcing the lats to do most of the work.
I would urge you to practice this rotating scapula movement in your training. You will feel the difference right away in the pump you get. The turned up bars make it a lot easier. They're terrific.
Enjoy Your Lifting!