The Ultimate Lat Pulldown Guide: Technique, Benefits, and Variations

2021-12-30 07:10:25 By : Mr. Edmend Tang

The lat pulldown machine is one of the most popular gym equipment. It has the glam and macho appeal that draws in the fitness newbies and experienced lifters alike. 

Be it a motivational YouTube training video, or a snippet of Rocky Balboa training for a big fight, it will probably feature the star performing a set on the lat pull-down machine.

Almost every gym around the world has a  lat pulldown  machine, and yet most lifters fail to make the most of it. The ultimate lat pulldown guide will ensure you do not leave gains on the table. 

Pull-up is an incredibly effective exercise for building upper body strength and muscle mass. But there is a catch. Performing a pull-up is no joke, and performing 30+ pull-ups in a workout will test your mettle. 

Performing a pull-up will fire up every muscle fiber in your back, arms, and shoulders. While nailing this exercise could prove to be a lifesaver sometime in the future (if you find yourself hanging from a building or a chopper in the event of an alien invasion), most people usually give it a pass for its friendlier sibling – the lat pulldown. 

The lat-pulldown involves a similar movement to the pull-up, challenging your mid and upper-back muscles, trapezius, arms, and grip. The exercise is a god-send for beginners or people who cannot perform a bodyweight pull-up.

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The lat pulldown machine gives you more control over how much you lift and the rep tempo as compared to vanilla pull-ups. You could perform a new variation of the lat pull-down every week just by switching up rep tempos. 

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Forget Red Bull, lat pull-downs give you wings that make you look like you can fly. It targets the latissimus dorsi – the large, flat muscles across your mid-back. A strong and wide back is also vital for a  Superman  chest . The more you work on your lat pull-downs, the better equipped you’ll be to go big on the bench press.

The cable-operated machine ensures constant tension on your muscles throughout the movement pattern – even on the eccentric part of the lift. Unlike the pull-ups, lat pulldowns also put less tension on the secondary muscle groups during a set. 

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By working the muscles in your back, lat pulldowns can improve your posture. You will rarely see a person with solid V-taper suffering from a bad posture. On top of this, lat pulldowns can improve your performance during other compound exercises that use your back muscles like pull-ups,  deadlifts , and good mornings.

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The lat pull-down machine is usually swamped – especially during rush hours at the gym. Listed below are the most common lat pulldown errors:

Partial reps are a sign that you have more weight on the cable than you can lift. If you cannot pull the bar down to your chin level, you are letting your ego get the better of you. 

Once you have the bar at your chin level, you need to contract your lats and shoulder blades. If you cannot perform this step, you are leaving gains on the table. 

Also, make sure you are not pulling the bar using your forearms. Focus on contracting and relaxing your lats as you move the weight.  Tip:  Activate your lats by pulling down from your armpits.

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While you might be able to lift a few extra pounds by arching your back as you pull the bar down, it can put unwanted tension on your lower back and expose you to an injury. Sit upright and keep your chest lifted while performing the exercise. 

This is a rookie mistake, and it can stem from both – lifting too light or heavy. Pulling the bar past your chest and almost in line with your stomach takes away almost all the tension from your lats and back. Keep your chest lifted and stop when you reach chin level. 

Most lifters make the mistake of swinging back and forth while performing lat pulldowns. It is yet another case of ego lifting. While using a jerking motion might help you pull down the weight, it takes away the tension from the primary muscles and increases the odds of an injury. 

Sit upright, keep your chest lifted throughout the exercise and perform the pulldown with control. Utilizing rep tempos and contracting your back with every rep ensures optimal muscle fiber recruitment. 

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In bodybuilding, your results depend on how well you perform an exercise, and your diet and recovery programs. Follow the steps below to nail the first part of the equation:

Bored of the good old lat pulldown? Use these variations to keep your muscles guessing:

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Depending on your experience level, you could use the following exercises to train your back optimally:

We are sure you are not surprised to find pull-ups on the list. Once you develop enough strength to perform pull-ups with the correct form, you should make them a constant in your back training regimen.

If you are a beginner, negative pull-ups are a great exercise to build strength for the orthodox pull-ups. It involves performing only the lowering, or eccentric phase of an exercise. 

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This variation of the lat-pull down works each side of your back individually. It is great for fixing muscle imbalances and improving symmetry. If you do not have access to a unilateral lat pulldown machine at your gym, you could use the standard lat pulldown machine with a D-bar handle attachment. 

Next Read:   The Benefits Of Unilateral Training & Why It Matters

The straight arm lat pulldown is a great exercise for building a V-taper. It also avoids over-using your arms which is the case with the standard lat pull-downs. 

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Bent-over barbell row work your lats and multiple back muscles. 

Lat pulldown is suitable for lifters of all experience levels, and most gyms have the machine. While the lat pulldown is a part of most back training routines, it is essential to be following the correct form to get the most bang for your buck. 

You should also try new variations and alternatives to keep your muscles guessing and avoid hitting a plateau. Things as small as switching up the number of reps, sets, and rep tempos can do the trick and get you that much sought-after V-taper. 

Which is your favorite lat pulldown variation? Let us know in the comments below. Also, be sure to follow Generation Iron on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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