How To

Lat Pulldown


What muscles does the cable lat pulldown activate?

The primary muscles that work during a lat pulldown are our latissimus dorsi. Our lats cover a large percentage of the back and are the largest and most powerful muscle in the upper body. The lats activate and produce arm adduction and shoulder extension as we pull the weight down.

Other back muscles contribute to lat pulldowns, including the rhomboids, trapezius, infraspinatus, erector spinae, and rear deltoids. The muscles keep our shoulder blades retracted and assist the lats in pulling the weight. 

The second pair of muscles involved in lat pulldowns are the biceps, which cover the front side of our upper arms and produce elbow flexion (bending). As we pull the weight, the biceps flex our elbows, assisting the back in completing each repetition.

Our abs, transverse abdominis, and obliques also contribute to lat pulldowns, providing torso stability. 

How to do a Lat Pulldown

  1. Adjust the knee pad on the machine to be right against your thighs without placing too much pressure on them.
  2. Adjust the pin to a weight you can comfortably lift for at least ten good repetitions.
  3. Stand up and grab the handle with a slightly wider than shoulder-width overhand grip.
  4. Sit down and secure your legs underneath the pad.
  5. Bring your shoulders back and down with your arms extended and holding the handle firmly.
  6. Take a breath and pull the weight down through your elbows. Think of your hands as mere hooks for the weight – this will help with back activation.
  7. As you pull the weight down, ensure your elbows remain tucked in and in line with your torso; avoid having them flare out and back behind your body.
  8. Pull the weight to your upper chest, hold the contraction for a moment, and, as you exhale, extend your arms until your elbows are straight.

Tips on Proper Form when Performing a Cable Lat Pulldown

The first tip to remember is to lean your torso back slightly. Doing so allows you to pull the weight to your upper chest and engage your back musculature effectively. Avoid leaning too far back or having your torso too upright.

A full range of motion is also essential for an effective lat pulldown. Pull the bar to your upper chest, hold it momentarily, and release it until your arms extend fully. A full range of motion allows you to shorten and stretch all the muscles involved more effectively, causing a robust hypertrophic response. 

Securing your thighs underneath the pulldown machine’s pad is the third tip to remember. The goal is to have your thighs fit snugly but not to the point where you feel pressure. Doing so is vital for preventing excessive body movement during the exercise. Leaving too much room between your thighs and the pad can cause you to rise as you extend your arms, reducing the tension on your back muscles.

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