Dorian Yates, like Samir Bannout before him, displayed detailed striations on the lower back in what has become known as, the Christmas tree pose, but what is equally spectacular, especially on Yates, is the amount of mass carried on the lower back, which could be appreciated more in the standard rear lat spread. The Christmas tree pose is often done before transitioning into the rear lat spread, where you can better see the amount of spinal erector mass hanging off Dorian Yates’ lower back.
The spinal erectors are not as popular as the lats but a substantial portion of what’s perceived as the lats are the shapes of muscles underneath the lats, like aspects of the spinal erectors, the serratus anterior, and the teres major. For instance, this extremely developed teres major is part of what’s making this portion of the lats stick out wider. In anatomy charts, the spinal erectors appear as a set of long, thin, deep muscles running vertically down the back but it’s sometimes hard to visualize exactly how they contribute to a bodybuilder’s appearance because they’re underneath other muscles and, at least on bodybuilders, much more developed than, and therefore different looking than, the illustrated anatomy charts. In the Christmas tree pose, the underlying spinal erector muscles bow out creating tautness in the superficial muscles but the striations that are visible to the viewer follow the grain of the latissimus dorsi muscle and its fascia. The Christmas Tree look also must be influenced, to some degree, by the shape of the serratus posterior inferior, whose fibers follow the direction of the lats muscle fibers and the lats fascia fibers. The deep spinal erector fibers run upward and downward and the erector’s mass bows out front to back, creating more tautness when the lats are flexed, as well as additional dimensionality, seen here in the Christmas Tree Pose. But it’s the lats muscle and fascia that provide the diagonal direction of the striations. The lats fascia is on top of the spinal erectors, whose fibers runs up and down, not diagonally like the lats.
But when transitioning from the Christmas tree pose to the rear lat spread or other poses where the scapula protracts, or laterally rotates, the bulk, or mass, of the spinal erectors becomes more evident.
Frank Zane, was known more for his aesthetics than mass, but what about his spinal erectors? Look at this photo of Zane. Notice anything different in the back area? It’s been photoshopped to make a point. It may look normal, but a large mass of muscle has been softened in Photoshop. Here is the unaltered version. The massive highlight is light hitting Zane’s left spinal erector group and is unretouched here. This is the original photo but it looks like Zane has a thermos bottle implanted in his lower back. Once you see it, it’s hard to unsee it. But those are extremely developed spinal erectors, and muscles most people aren’t visually aware of. You might be able to identify several bodybuilders from their biceps alone but how many could you identify solely from their spinal erectors? Likely Franco Columbu. This iconic Franco Columbu rear lat spread image prominantly displays the spinal erectors, among other muscles.
Yates spinal erectors were so massive they hung off his back, kind of like how Arnold’s massive pecs hung off his ribcage.
Stay tuned for part two where we’ll compare other bodybuilders like Sergio Oliva, Lee Haney, and specifically Ronnie Coleman, who had hanging back mass like Yates, but more below the scapula.