What is a Lat Pull-down?

What is a Lat Pull-down?

The Lat Pull-down is a phenomenal exercise for working the upper back muscles and even the abdominal wall in the background, building strength in a large part of the back muscles, back of the shoulder, between the shoulder blades and arms depending on the grip.

It’s performed on a work station with adjustable resistance, and although it may seem like a very simple exercise, mistakes are frequently made when performing it…

But… don’t worry! In this article, we’ll tell you the most effective and safe way to do it.

How do you do a lat pull-down?

The lat pull-down has a wide range of motion and is an excellent exercise as long as you follow the steps below to perform it correctly.

  • Starting position: Adjust the load to the amount of weight/plates you can lift, as well as the bar so that you can almost completely stretch your arms and lower triceps to the side without leaving the seat.
When taking a seat, your feet should remain firm on the ground so that they form a 90-degree angle between legs and calves.
  • Concentric phase: Hold the bar with a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip facing forward and with the torso upright to work the lats fully.
Retract the shoulder blades and pull the pulley down so that the forearms are vertical and a slight bend is created near the lower back.

How to do the lat pulldown?

The correct movement is to keep your elbows pointing downwards, as if you’re pulling the bar with your elbows and your hands are simply gripping the bar.

  • Eccentric phase: Stretch your back to stretch the muscles more and bring your arms up, but without stretching them completely
Avoid lifting the glutes too much when carrying the bar up.

What muscles are being worked?

This exercise works several muscles of the upper body simultaneously:

  • The main muscles involved in this movement are the latissimus dorsi, teres major, and biceps brachii.
  • The secondary muscles are the pectoralis major (lower and external), triceps and biceps longus, teres minor, rhomboid, brachioradialis, trapezius (lower) and deltoid.

What muscles does the lat pulldown work?

The lat pull-down focuses on working the latissimus dorsi muscle, which is the “the broadest part of the back”, demonstrating the power of the exercise to strengthen the back as a whole.

Benefits of the lat pull-down

Among the benefits of doing this exercise are:

  • Strengthening the shoulder muscles.
  • Improving strength and increasing the size of your back muscles.
  • Correcting body posture.
  • Preventing back pain.
  • Compensating for imbalances between the front and back of the body.

Mistakes to avoid when performing a Lat Pull-down

There are some common errors when performing the lat pull-down that not only make the exercise ineffective, but can also lead to neck or shoulder injuries.

Here are some of the most common mistakes:

  • Pushing the bar forward with your arms, rather than pulling the pulley down with your back muscles: do not push your hands down with your elbows pointing backwards once the bar is down by your chest.
This prevents the latissimus dorsi from getting involved as it should and puts pressure on the shoulders and forearms.
  • Using momentum to pull the bar down, rather than in a slow and controlled manner: using momentum to pull the bar down often shortens the range of motion, which reduces the effectiveness of the latissimus dorsi.
It can also cause injuries if the back begins to arch during the lat pull-down, so the best thing to do is execute the pull-downslowly to make the most of the exercise.
  • Pulling the bar to the chest: some people don’t have the flexibility to pull the bar to the chest, and that’s fine. If you pull the bar to this height against your flexibility, you’ll be lowering your arms too far (the forearm won’t be vertical).
This movement can result in an internal rotation of the shoulder, which can be harmful.

Types of pull-down grips

  • Prone grip: When the hands face forward. We can also find two types of variants: wide or narrow.
  • Wide grip: The wider the grip, the more the latissimus dorsi will have to be worked during the exercise. This is a prone grip with the hands at a width greater than that of the shoulders (it can be up to the ends of the bar).
  • Narrow grip: In this prone grip, there’s less separation between the arms and the hands are closer to the body in the concentric phase.

Chin pulldown grips

Chin pull-down with a wide grip.

  • Neutral grip: Hands facing inwards. The bar is replaced by the triangle (allows pulling with a neutral wrist grip). In this grip, we also need to lean slightly backwards so that the shoulder sockets point slightly upwards, which will allow us to better activate the lats.
  • Supine grip: We place our hands facing us. Through this grip, it’s possible to pull further downwards, achieving a greater range of movement and maximising contraction of the ridges in each repetition. It can improve on the prone grip in certain respects.
If you want to find out more about different kind of grips, we recommend checking out this this post.

Other recommendations

Some people have difficulty controlling the shoulder blades, and this essential to mastering the pull-down technique.

We suggest asking your personal trainer for advice on how to perform scapulae movements to effectively execute the lat pull-down.

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About María José García
María José García
María José has been linked to sport since she was a child when she entered and even competed in various sporting disciplines, such as skating, swimming and gymnastics.
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