Why You Need To Do The Lat Pulldown Perfectly
There are a few equipments I would advocate in a strength training schedule and lat pulldown is one of them.
Lat pulldown mimics the movement of pull-ups. And most beginners lack the strength to do pull-ups with a proper form. So, lat pulldown becomes the best option they have to strengthen the back muscles in the vertical direction.
Which muscles does lat pulldown work?
Lat pulldown is a compound movement. It involves your shoulder and elbow joints.
This exercise primarily targets the Latissimus Dorsi (lats) – the largest back muscle. It also works your teres major, middle trapezius, biceps, rhomboids, and posterior deltoid.
To get the maximum benefits, you need to know how to do the lat pulldown perfectly and what are the mistakes to avoid.
How To Do Lat Pulldown Perfectly?
- Start by adjusting the leg pad so that your thighs are firmly fixed under it.
- Stand and hold the bar slightly wider than your shoulder-width with a full thumb grip. Sit down holding the bar, with the knees tightly locked under the leg pad.
- Now lean back just a little and depress your shoulders to lock the shoulder blades in position. Keep your chest out and back in a neutral position.
- Now take a deep breath and pull the bar towards your body. Your elbows will be pointing down.
- Pull down the bar till it hits your sternum – upper chest.
- Bring the bar back to the starting position in a controlled manner. There should be no jerky pause at the top.
- Wedge yourself securely under the leg pad. It will prevent weights of the lat pulldown from raising your body off the seat. Also, a strong and stable base helps you generate maximum power to lift weights properly.
- How to breathe in a lat pulldown – Take a deep powerful breath at the top of each rep. The air will fill your lungs and stomach. This will provide additional stability to keep your body in proper position.
- Which grip is best for lat pulldown – The wide-grip overhand pulldown is best for building a wider back.
- Sitting should be such that the bar is directly above your head. This sitting arrangement allows the cable to travel straight down.
- Aim to hit the upper chest. Anything lower than this will be too low, putting stress on your rotator cuff muscles. And anything higher than this will not be a complete range.
- If there is a jerk at the top after each rep, then that means you are letting your muscles loose and allowing the weights to pull the bar up. This reduce the effort of the muscles to control the weight.
So, what are the benefits you get when you do the lat pulldown perfectly?
Benefits of doing lat pulldown
1. Lat pulldown strengthens your back muscles
Lat pulldown mainly targets your latissimus dorsi (or lats). This is the largest muscle of your back. It originates from the ribs and lower spine and inserts in your humerus.
It’s a fan-shaped muscle which gives your back the aesthetic ‘v shape’. Strong and well-developed lats not only adds strength to your upper body but also gives you an appealing look.
It also strengthens your upper back muscles – rhomboid, teres major, middle-fiber of the trapezius.
2. Lat pulldown works your biceps
The pulling down movement of the lat pulldown recruits your bicep muscles. The function of the biceps is bending your elbows.
When you bring your elbows down to your sides at the bottom of the movement, you are effectively loading up your biceps along with your lats.
3. It makes your shoulders strong
Lat pulldown also helps in strengthening your shoulder muscles. Most notably it works the posterior deltoid at the back of your shoulder, plus the rotator cuff muscles – teres minor and infraspinatus.
4. Lat pulldown helps you with pull-ups
Lat pulldown mimics the movement of the pull-ups and works on the same muscles as in pull-ups. This helps you develop the pulling strength of the muscles in the vertical direction.
As you start getting stronger with lat pulldowns you can advance to pull-ups.
To do the lat pulldown perfectly and get all these benefits, you have to avoid the following mistakes.
7 Worst Lat Pulldown Mistakes
1. Gripping too wide
There is an old myth – and I have seen many experienced lifters falling for this – that gripping too wide will give wider lats.
People who think this is true, have no understanding about the basic human anatomy, the function of the lat muscles, and how the muscles grow.
Gripping too wide will reduce the range of motion and the lat muscles will not engage effectively. Thus, gripping too wide won’t help you develop wider lats.
2. Leaning back too far
Leaning back too far in every rep creates a momentum, which allows you to pull heavier weights.
But, people lifting this way will never be able to bring the bar up in a controlled way. It will always look as if they are trying to play see-saw with the weights. First, they try to pull the weights down, then the weights try to pull them up.
Here momentum will be doing the work instead of your lat muscles.
3. Pulling the bar below the chest level
If you are pulling the bar below the sternum – upper chest, then you are using your shoulders instead of your lats. This type of movement will be less effective for the lats.
Also, it will put unnecessary stress on the shoulder joints, beating the whole purpose of this exercise.
4. Not having a proper range of motion
Doing something half-heartedly will never produce great results. Similarly, doing partial range will never give you good muscles
In order to train the lats perfectly, you have to bring the elbows down and squeeze them into your sides. When you are not bringing the bar all the way to your sternum, you are not recruiting your lat muscles completely.
Hence, the lats will not get enough stimulation to grow.
5. Pulling the bar in front of your body
This is a mistake commonly done by beginners. Pulling the bar in front of your body will cause anterior gliding of the humeral, putting stress on the shoulder joints.
Also, your elbows will be going forward which will reduce the recruitment on your lats.
6. Rounding of the back
Rounding of the back may happen towards the end of the set when the weights start to feel heavier, but you want to somehow finish the designated number of reps. So you round your back and let your chest drop.
There is no point in doing these kinds of reps. You will not only lose the tightness of lats but also, put additional stress on your spine.
7. Behind the neck lat pulldown
Never do this variation. It doesn’t produce anything other than increased risk for shoulder injuries. Read the article – 5 popular exercises you should never do – to know why you should not do this variation.
You will avoid most of these mistakes if you know the main purpose of this exercise.
What is your purpose of doing lat pulldown?
Is your purpose to lift as much weight as possible, without giving a damn about form and technique? If so, what’s the reward of lifting heavy weights with such a poor form – ego satisfaction?
If lifting heavy weights is your target, why not try pull-ups instead of lat pulldown.
So, why exactly are we using this exercise for?
We are doing this exercise for strengthening the back muscles. The proper form allows the recruitment of the back muscles in the best possible way.
Your target in this exercise is not to lift as heavy as possible. The target here is to lift the maximum weight without losing the proper form.