Lat Pulldown


Lat Pulldowns exercise demonstration.

Lat Pull-downs and variations of this exercise can be performed on a machine or with bands either at home or in a gym.

Lat Pull Down Variation – Lat Pulses

The pulldown exercise targets the back muscles, especially the latissimus dorsi more commonly known as your “lats.” This exercise is generally performed at a pulldown station or adjustable cable machine. This exercise can be performed standing or seated if your machine has a bench or seat, you start by pulling a hanging bar down toward you, or as in this demonstration, two separate handles down to reach chin level, and then release back up with control. This exercise can be done as part of a series of movements targeting the back or an upper body strength workout.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Stand in front of the pulldown machine or sit in the pulldown seat if your machine has one, keeping your feet flat on the floor.
Check the height of the bar or handles. You may need to adjust the height by shortening or lengthening the chain or cable that supports the bar, or your seat height or stance. The grip should be at a height that your outstretched arms can comfortably grasp the bar, but you should also be able to still extend your arms to achieve full range of motion. Adjust the knee pad if seated so that the upper thighs are tucked firmly under the pad. This will assist you when you apply effort to the bar.

  1. Grasp the bar/grips with an overhand wide grip. Other positions and grips are possible but start with this standard position.
  2. Pull the bar/grips down until approximately level with your chin. Exhale on down motion. Shifting your upper body slightly backward is OK, but aim to keep your torso stationary. Keep your feet flat on the floor and engage your abs as you pull. The bottom of the exercise  is noted as where your elbows aren’t able to travel downward any more without moving backward. 
  3. Squeeze the shoulder blades together while maintaining square shoulders.
  4. From the bottom position with the bar/grips close to your chin, slowly return to the starting position while controlling its gradual ascent. Don’t let it crash into the weight plates.

Common Mistakes

Avoid these errors so you can get the most from this exercise and prevent strain or injury.

Using Your Forearms

Be sure your forearms are not doing the work of pulling the bar down—you want it to come from your back.

Pulling Down Too Far

Stop at the point where your elbows would need to go backward to continue pulling the cable down. If the elbows go backward it will put excessive stress on the shoulder joint.

Using Momentum

As with most weighted exercises, perform the pulldown slowly and with control. Doing it fast uses momentum and reduces the use of the targeted muscles.

Need a Modification?
Watch the video for a few options on variations for the lat pulldown.

Related Exercises:
Band Pull Aparts