How To Perform A Lat Pulldown
The lat pulldown is a basic exercise to develop the major muscle groups of the back, and will also help you sculpt a fantastic looking rear view. At the very minimum, having a strong back is essential for lifting objects safely and maintaining proper posture. I want to be able to lift my little girl up in the air for as long as possible, so maintaining a strong back is a focus of my workout program.
As a benefit, developing the back muscles creates the illusion of a narrow waist. A well-developed back is typically wide and full at the top, making the waist appear smaller.
And guys and girls both look amazing when they’ve got the “V-taper” going on!
Watch the video above to see how I do it, and then read the remainder of this article directly below for precise instructions on how to perform this exercise.
The main muscles involved in this exercise are the “lats” (latissimi dorsi); the large set of back muscles that are located underneath the shoulders and extending to just above the waist.
Varying the grip on this exercise will recruit other muscle groups, such as the biceps (upper arm) when using an underhand grip, but the main movers are the lats.
The exercise is performed using a cable stack (or lever machine) where the you can select the appropriate weight for your strength level, so it is typically performed in a gym (or with higher-end home gym equipment).
All individuals can perform this exercise—beginner through advanced, all levels.
Although the exercise works the large muscle groups of the back, it is a fairly simple exercise to execute because it is performed on a machine, and not with free weights (i.e., barbells, dumbbells).
Description of action:
- Sit facing the weight stack on the cable pulley. At most gyms, you will have the option of sliding the tops of your thighs under the restraint pads of the machine so your butt stays glued to the bench.
- Grasp the handles with a shoulder width, overhand (palms downward) grip. (starting position).
- Pull the bar down towards your upper chest with your back arched slightly (as is shown in the video). As you bring the bar down, squeeze your shoulder blades down and back. Hold that contraction for a second.
- Extend your arms to return to starting position.
I like to perform this exercise for 8 to 12 repsAdd a Tooltip Text, and complete 3 sets. Rest one minute between setsAdd a Tooltip Text.
- Do not swing your torso during the exercise. If you need the momentum to move the weight, you’re lifting too much.
- Try not to use excessively wide grips; this puts undue strain on your wrists and elbows.
- Do not bring the bar down behind your neck. This variation can cause neck and shoulder injuries.
- Control the ascent of the bar back to the starting position—do not simply relax your arms.
- Keep the wrists strong throughout the movement (i.e., do not rotate them about the bar), as this can stress the wrists.
- Keep the torso tight and the abs braced. With your torso tight and abs braced, lifting your chest will come more naturally. Remember, the bar is being pulled to your upper chest, so think: “big chest!”
One of the biggest mistakes I see with this exercise is using too much weight. With too much weight on the stack, you’re may not be pulling the bar fully to your upper chest. Good technique=nicely developed back. Yanking and half reps, not so much.
Variations On The Lat Pulldown:
You can (and should) vary the grip and use different pulley attachments to target different muscle groups.
To vary your grip, you can…
- space your hands closer or farther apart.
- use an underhand (palms upward) grip.
Different attachments you can use include…
- parallel grip pulldown barAdd a Tooltip Text
- V-handleAdd a Tooltip Text
- stirrups (can be done with one arm or both)Add a Tooltip Text
- kinetic bar attachmentAdd a Tooltip Text
- straight bar attachmentAdd a Tooltip Text
The muscle-mind connection in the exercise is another reason why I love this back exercise. I can really focus on the contraction during the movement and the reward is a fantastic-looking back.
Might as well look good leaving the room, right?