We like to train the body around certain pillars of movement to mimic how your body works: you push, pull, change levels up or down, move side to side and with rotation. We build workout programs based on these pillars so your fitness here in the gym is actually translated to everyday life activities.
One common PULLING exercise performed in strength training routines is the Lat Pull Down. This exercise primarily engages your latissimus dorsi (lats) or those muscles on the side of your back that give a nice V-shape, and your biceps, the muscles on the front of your upper arm. A strong back not only looks good but more muscle means a higher metabolism, better posture, and helps ensure the right muscles are firing when they need to outside the gym (ie – you don’t get hurt).
Here’s how to do a Lat Pull Down properly: Kneel on the ground or, if using a different machine, sit on the chair with the knees anchored under the pad and with an upright torso. Grab the handles or bar with a shoulder-width grip or slightly wider as long as it doesn’t cause discomfort with your shoulders. Pull the handles deliberately down until hands are armpit level or bar touches your upper chest, directly below your neck. Imagine pulling with your elbows and not your hands, which is a little mind trick to help engage the lats even more.
To get a little more umph out of the exercise, drop your shoulder blades “into your back pocket” – that is, drive them down as the first step of initiating the movement. This will help ensure the back is doing the work and you’re not curling forward using your chest in attempt to pull the handles or bar down.
A few no-nos:
1. Don’t pull the bar behind your head…this puts way too much strain on the tendons of the shoulder and the risk of injury doesn’t outweigh the benefit some think it provides.
2. Don’t scrunch forward when pulling down. If anything, “pop” your chest up and exaggerate the pull by using the shoulder blade trick mentioned above.
3. Don’t rock back at the hips. If you’re having to get the whole body involved, your form is compromised and momentum takes over, limiting the actual work the back is doing and making the exercise much less effective.
4. Don’t drive forearms down and flare elbows out. Elbows should lead the way the whole time, as if you’re bringing them to your ribs.
Watch these videos to see a version of poor form and a version of good form in action!
Lat Pull Down: poor form
Lat Pull Down: good form