Straight Arm Cable Pulldown

Straight Arm Cable Pulldown
exercise demonstration.

The straight-arm pulldown exercise is a variation of the lat-pulldown. In this exercise, you will perform the movement while you are standing and keep your elbows locked out through the entire movement. The straight-arm pulldown works the lats through a long range of motion, and is an excellent exercise for people who have trouble “feeling” their back muscles being activated on conventional pulldown exercises. I’ve found it to be a great movement for focusing on lat development.

This 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 while standing. It can also be performed using a resistance band attached to a high point. 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 attached exercise band.
Check the height of the bar or handles to ensure enough room to start the exercise overhead. You may need to adjust the height by shortening or lengthening the chain or cable that supports the bar. The grip should be at a height that your outstretched arms can comfortably grasp, but you should also be able to still extend your arms to achieve full range of motion. 

  1. Grasp the bar/grips with an overhand grip, palms facing away and hands and arms fully overhead.  A slight lean into the position while keeping your back straight and in line with your arms is acceptable.
  2. Pull the bar/grips down directly in front of your body passing below the 90 degree point until the handles and your hands touch your quadriceps or hips.  Keep your feet flat on the floor and engage your abs as you pull.
  3. From the bottom position with the bar/grips close to your hips, slowly return to the starting position while controlling a gradual ascent. Don’t let the weight raise your arms with force or allow an over extension at the top of the movement.

Common Mistakes

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

Using Momentum 

Be sure you are not swinging your body into the movement to drive the handles down.  Use your lats and if it becomes too difficult, lower the weight / resistance.  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.

Pulling Down Too Far and Standing Up

Stop at the point where your hands reach your hips or quads. 

Related Exercise:
Lat Pulldown