Bro Basics: Lat Pulldowns

Pulldowns are designed to work your back, abs, and arms. The major muscle groups targeted by pulldowns include the latissimus dorsi (back), including the lower lats; erector spinae (lower back); pectorals(chest) ; biceps brachii(upper arm); triceps brachii(upper arm).

The “lat pulldown form” is a body weight exercise that targets the latissimus dorsi muscle. It’s important to do this exercise with proper form, so you can get the most out of your workout.

Welcome back to Bro Basics, a series that tackles popular and effective exercises that are often performed incorrectly and purely for aesthetics, and demonstrates the exercises’ greater use and how to execute them right.

While we’ve already covered two free weight workouts — the bicep curl and the tricep extension — today we’ll look at an exercise that’s done on one of the gym’s most popular machines: the lat pulldown. 

While barbells are preferable than machines when it comes to the fundamentals of strength training, machines may be useful for accessory work — “smaller,” more isolated exercises that increase your ability to accomplish the primary lifts (deadlift, squat, shoulder press). The lat pulldown is one of these exercises. Plus, the activity is excellent in terms of improving one’s appearance, and it feels great while doing it. 

Matt Reynolds, my strength coach and the head of Barbell Logic Online Coaching, gave me some tips on how to execute the lat pulldown properly. 

What Muscles Are Targeted by the Lat Pulldown?

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The latissimus dorsi is the major muscle targeted by the lat pulldown. The wide, flat muscle that runs across the back of your torso and beneath your arms is known as the latissimus dorsi. Your lats serve to support your shoulders, improve posture, enable you to swim and rock climb, and even help you breathe. 

The exercise also targets minor muscles in your shoulders, traps, triceps, biceps, and forearms, in addition to your lats. 

In a nutshell, the lat pulldown is an excellent supplementary action for building upper-body strength.

What Are the Benefits of Lat Pulldowns?

If you can’t perform a pull-up or chin-up, this is a great alternative accessory workout. Accessory workouts like pull-ups and chin-ups are excellent. However, if you’re still working on being able to do those bodyweight exercises, the lat pulldown is a simple technique to engage the same muscles. In fact, it may assist you in achieving your goal of doing a pull-up or chin-up on your own. 

Begin with a weight that can be pulled 10-15 times. Each week, gain weight. You should be able to accomplish a pull-up/chin-up once you can do a lat pulldown with a weight that is close to your bodyweight. 

Directly contributes to the primary barbell exercises, especially the deadlift. When deadlifting, your lats are crucial for maintaining your back in extension and the bar near to your shins throughout the lift. If you find that your upper back is rounding or that the bar is slipping away from your shins, your lats aren’t performing their job and need to be strengthened. Pull-ups on the lats may assist with this. 

It aids in the development of a manly v-shaped torso. Lat pulldowns are most often done for this reason. The v-shaped torso — massive chest, shoulder, and back muscles that taper down to a smaller waist — undoubtedly reigns supreme among the physical characteristics that make men sexually appealing. You should train your shoulders, chest, and back to increase the size of the upper section of the v. Because your lats make up so much of your back, expanding them will give you a lot of bang for your v-shaped torso buck. 

 

What Is a Lat Pulldown and How Do I Do It?

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Matt’s lat pulldown equipment at his home gym.

You’ll need access to a lat pulldown machine to complete a lat pulldown. Almost every gym has one. 

You may purchase a pulley rig that you can connect to your power rack if you’re a garage gym fanatic and don’t have place for a lat pulldown in your garage. The Spud pulley system, which is available at Rogue, is what I use. The one drawback to the Spud is that you have to sit down on the ground to obtain the complete range of motion required for a lat pulldown, at least if you have a shorter rack like I have. It’s not a major issue, but it is inconvenient. 

Pick Your Grip. A lat pulldown bar may be gripped in a few different ways: 

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Overhand grip with shoulders shoulder-width apart.

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A large overhand grip is used.

  • Grip using the overhand. The top section of your lats is targeted more by the overhand grip than the underhand grip. It also gives you a better stretch in your lats than the underhand grip does. Stretch your arms out in a y-shape and grab the bar with your hands somewhat wider than shoulder width or wider. However, don’t grab the bar all the way to the ends, since this will make the exercise less efficient at exercising the lats. 

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  • Grip using your underhand. Your grip will naturally desire to move shoulder-width apart when you assume an underhand grip. It’s possible to get broader, but it’ll be unpleasant. The lower region of the lats is targeted by the underhand grip, and you’ll notice a greater contraction in your lats towards the bottom of the movement. Another benefit of the underhand grip is that it strengthens your biceps. 

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Obtain a Seat in the Machine. If you’re going to use a lat pulldown machine, become comfortable with it. Take a seat and adjust the knee pads to keep your legs firmly held down while executing the lift. Feet should be roughly hip-width apart and level on the ground.

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Pull the bar all the way down to your chest.

Elbows should be dragged down. Consider “pulling elbows down” as a signal for proper technique while starting the pulldown. Keep your elbows in line with your hips and press them against your ribs rather than letting them flare out; this will help you completely activate your lats, pull with greater force, and prevent shoulder impingement. 

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At the bottom of the pull, retract your shoulder blades.

Chest to Bar is a match made in heaven. Squeeze your shoulder blades back and down as you lower the bar towards your upper chest (not behind your neck or in front of your chest). Consider the phrase “meet chest to bar.” Make your chest as large as possible and meet the bar as it approaches.

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Don’t lean in too much. The most common error Matt sees with the lat pulldown is that folks lean far back when they pull the bar down. This makes the activity more like an inverted row, altering which muscles are engaged and allowing you to lose out on some of the lat pulldown’s advantages. “It’s OK to lean back a little,” Matt says, “but don’t do it too much.” 

 

Controlled Ascension Allowing the weight to pull the bar back up is not a good idea. Bring the bar back up in a controlled movement during the eccentric part of the workout to develop muscle. You are not need to be slow. Just keep everything under control. 

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At the top, there’s a big stretch. This is the most critical aspect of the lat pulldown action, and it’s also the portion that most people overlook. Get a good stretch in towards the end of the exercise. “This guarantees you’re training the lats at full range of motion, which means you’re working more of the muscle,” Matt said.

So, at the top, think “Biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii

How to Set Up a Lat Pulldown

As previously stated, the lat pulldown is an excellent complement to the primary barbell movements. On days when I bench press and shoulder press, Matt frequently incorporates lat pulldowns into an upper body circuit.

Matt like to program lat pulldowns with greater reps, such as 8-15. When I do them, I normally do three sets of ten.

As you gain strength, gradually increase the amount of weight you lift each week. Keep your reps between 8 and 15 each set. If you start pulling incredibly heavy, gradually reduce the volume until you’re doing three sets of five. Figure out what works best for you.

 

 

The “lat pull down machine” is a piece of equipment that allows you to perform lat pull downs. It’s used for a variety of exercises, but it’s best known for its use in the gym.

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