Performing lat pull-downs is the most ubiquitous exercises on the planet. Whether you train in a hardcore dungeon style gym with no windows or a purple-clad Planet Fitness you will most likely have access to a lat pull-down machine.
This back-day mainstay isn’t difficult to do right but a lot of people use poor technique. It is possible to injure yourself doing this exercise incorrectly, although the real problem is that bad technique means different muscles will be used, so if you are trying to build your lats and not your rhomboids, biceps, traps or lower back then it is a good idea to learn to do the exercise properly, use these simple guidelines to get the most out of your exercise:
Less Weight For Better Results
Often people use the lat pulldown machine with weight that is way too much, you can see that it is too heavy because in order to get the bar past their chin, they have to rock their torso back and forth as the load is far to high to just pull down.
The purpose of a lat pulldown is to widen your lats and strengthen your serratus. Rocking your body is a problem as it engages the wrong muscles and lowers the stress placed on the muscles you are supposed to be working. Doing the exercise incorrectly will not help you build a bigger, stronger back.
So the first rule of a successful lat pulldown is to lighten the load.
Nailing The Right Position
If you find that you rock a lot, after you have lightened the load by a few kilos it is time to get into the proper position. Before even grabbing the bar, adjust the seat so that you fit into the machine correctly, you should be able to sit up straight and your bum should be completely on the seat and the pads on your quads, your feet on the ground, everything should be tight.
After grabbing hold of the bar, engage your lats before even pulling, keeping your traps and upper back pulled down. Your head should stay slightly tilted back and your torso bolt upright, similar to doing a seated pull-up. Pull your elbows to the ground with your back not your biceps.
As you pull down, keep your upper back shifted down. As you fatigue, your traps will want to jump in and help your lats, the sole purpose of this movement is to train the lats so try avoid recruiting other muscle groups.
Pull the weight down slowly, squeeze and release it just as slowly, the only parts of your body that should ve consciously moving are your elbows. Leaning back will start to recruit your rhomboids so stay upright.
Once you can handle the weight with perfect form then it is now time to increase the weight a bit. If at any time you start to move your torso or feel your traps rising up, you know you’ve gone a little bit too heavy.
So remember, performing lat pull downs correctly is crucial to not only making sure that you get correct exercise for the muscles you are trying to work but also to avoid possible injury as well.