Front Lat Pulldown Exercise Guide

The lat pulldown is an exercise that targets primarily the latissimus dorsi muscle group, allowing for a stronger and wider back. The latissimus dorsi is a large muscle found on the back of the upper body and is responsible for shoulder abduction, shoulder flexion, and torso rotation. While this exercise is simple to perform, it has a number of benefits that will make it worth your time. 

Lat Pulldown Exercise Guide

How to do Lat Pulldown

Setting Up

The first essential thing to do is make sure you set up your equipment correctly. Sit comfortably on the pulldown seat, with your feet flat on the floor.

Adjust the bar height, if needed, by shortening or lengthening the chain or cable that supports the bar or your seat height. The bar should be at a height that your outstretched arms can comfortably grasp the bar without having to stand up.

Hold onto it in a shoulder-width position and with an overhand grip. This is the starting position. 

Exercise

To perform the lat pull-down, pull the bar down until it's approximately level with the chin. Exhale as you do this downward motion. Keep your upper torso stationary, your feet flat on the floor and your abs engaged as you pull.

The bottom of the motion should be when your shoulders reached a point where they can't move downward anymore. Squeeze the shoulder blades together to make sure that you are engaging the correct muscles. Slowly return the bar to starting position with control.

Repeat this for the desired reps.

Tips

  • Avoid arching your back. Maintaining a neutral spine will help protect your lower back from unnecessary strain and injury.
  • While there are different ways to grip the bars in a lat pulldown, make sure that your grip is just outside your shoulders- not too wide.  In addition, keep your elbows pointed down as you lower the weight bar back down to the initial position- this will help prevent injury.
  • The ideal point at which to lower the weight is just below your chin - that's where you'll experience minimal discomfort. Going too far to the point where your elbows would need to go back to continue pulling the cable will put excessive stress on your shoulders and possibly cause injuries.
  • When it comes to the lat pulldown, you want your forearms to be doing as little work as possible. That's why it is important to keep your shoulder joint stable and prevent them from carrying too much of the weight.  To do this, you need to activate your lats - that muscle group located just in front of your shoulder blades - by pulling down from your armpits. This will help take some of the load off of your arms and let them focus on their main function: moving the barbell upwards!

Benefits

  • Works the front and back muscles, increasing your strength and flexibility
  • Perfect for all levels of athletes and gym-goers
  • Improves posture
  • Benefits athletes in sports that require a similar pulling motion, such as gymnastics and swimming

Illustrated Guide

How To Do Lat Pulldowns

Muscles Worked

Primary Muscles

  • Latissimus Dorsi
  • Pectoralis Major
  • Rotator Cuff
  • Traps
  • Rhomboids

Secondary Muscles

  • Delts
  • Biceps Brachii
  • Triceps
  • Serratus Anterior

Front Lat Pulldown Variations

Reverse Grip Lat Pull

Reversing your grip is a great move for targeting your lower lats and biceps. It's also an excellent way to mimic the action of a chin-up, which will help you increase muscle strength in your back muscles. The closer you grip the bar, the more activation you'll get in your center back.

Alternative Grips

It is generally a good move to mix up your grip every few weeks in order to target different muscle groups. For example, try an underhand grip for the biceps.

The wide-grip hand position is a great exercise to target your back muscles and build strength overall. It provides a smaller range of motion but offers a better form when performing lat pulls, helping you achieve better muscle development in the shoulder area. 

Experiment until you find which grips work best for you and your goals.

Lightweight/Resistance Band Lat Pulldown

Not all have access to a pull-down machine. Resistance band lat pulldown is an excellent way to work the upper body and improve your flexibility. This exercise can be performed at home without any equipment, making it a great option for people with limited space. All you need is some resistance bands and a sturdy anchor.

If you're new to doing exercises, light weights can also be a great starting point. Make sure to use proper form and exercise slowly at first, so your muscles have time to adjust. Overdoing it will only lead to injuries.

Beginners should start with light weights or bands before gradually increasing the intensity over time. 

Front Lat Pulldown Alternatives

Pull-ups

Pull-ups top the list when it comes to the best back exercises you can do. They target more than one muscle group including your biceps, teres major and teres minor, triceps, trapezius (traps) and latissimus dorsi (lats). The control that the move demands also provides a substantial core workout.

To do a pull-up, you will need a sturdy overhead bar. With your shoulders depressed (dead hang position), hang directly underneath the bar. Push your chest out, pull your shoulder blades down, and pull your chest line to the bar to begin the pull.

Aim to bring your elbows back as far as possible. Maintain a straight body throughout the movement and avoid swinging by engaging your core and quads. This will help you get the most out of the exercise.

Just like a lat pulldown, you can try different pull-up grips such as wide grips to target different areas of your lats.

Bent-Over Barbell Rows

If you're looking for a more traditional back exercise, barbell rows are a solid option. They work the entire back from your traps to your lats, and can also be performed with an overhand or underhand grip.

The exercise hits the latissimus dorsi a little differently than the lat pulldown due to the mechanics of the movement, but nevertheless, it’s a great alternative for adding some serious mass and strength.  

To do this exercise properly, position your feet hip-width apart in the center of your barbell and load it up with a suitable weight. Slowly pick the barbell up with an overhand (pronated) grip while making sure your core is engaged.

Keep your elbows close to your side and pull the bar so it’s up into your belly button, then slowly lower the barbell back down to the initial position in a controlled manner.

Dumbbell Pullovers

Dumbbell pullovers may not look anything like the lat pulldown exercise, but it is a useful alternative if you want to change things up a little. It targets your lats in a similar manner to the lat pulldown. 

Start by lying flat on an exercise bench and holding a single dumbbell in your hands above your chest. Make sure you keep your arms straight but not locked. From this position, slowly lower the dumbbell back behind your head while keeping your elbows tucked in and your arms straight.

Once the weight reaches a little below your head level, hold the position for a couple of seconds to stretch your lats. Bring the dumbbell back up to the first position, and then repeat.

Back Exercises Guide

Kevin Harris
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