benefits-muscles-lat-pull-downWhether you are canoeing, skiing, swimming, or climbing, your back muscles are catalysts in creating the requisite force necessary for good performance. As the primary force-producing muscle in the back, the strength of your Latissimus Dorsi is a key determinant in your ability to climb a challenging rock face, to propel yourself on the slope, to generate force on your backstroke, and to give more thrust to your canoe paddle. If you haven’t already, you may want to consider making the lat pulldown a staple of your exercise regimen.


From a physiological standpoint, the lat pulldown activates the Latissimus Dorsi, Posterior Deltoids, and Rhomboids. Muscles involved to a lesser degree include the Biceps and forearms. The concentric or descending portion of the movement contracts and shortens the Latissimus Dorsi, activating motor units across the upper back. Also important is the eccentric or upward phase, which lengthens muscle fibers, aiding muscle recruitment and strength. In addition to stimulating hypertrophy in muscles, the pulldown also improves communication between neurons, bolstering your coordination and ability to perform pulling movements with greater efficacy.


Studies have shown that hand positioning can have a significant effect on the effectiveness and value of the lat pulldown. Commonly used variations include wide grip anterior, wide grip posterior, and close grip and supinated grip. Theories abound as to which variation is superior to which. Also common is the assumption that any alternative is as good as the next. It is true that alternative grips can target different muscle to different degrees. However, numerous studies have concluded that the wide grip anterior approach is safer and more successful in targeting the Latissimus Dorsi muscle than any other method.

In using the wide grip anterior variation, an effort should be made to focus on the role of the Latissimus Dorsi muscle in the movement. A common mistake is to pull with the biceps, rather than relying on the back muscles to produce the needed energy. Consequently, the secondary muscles can easily transcend the role of the primary muscles in the movement, which can defeat the purpose of the exercise.


  • Avoiding Questionable Variations – The behind the neck variation can place excessive strain on the shoulders. Pulling the bar downward in back of the head is at the very least unnatural and awkward, and at the most potentially dangerous. Any variation you use should include exclusively frontal movements, to reduce tension on the neck and shoulders.
  • Incorporating Alternate Exercises – You don’t have to have a sophisticated machine to reap the benefits of the Lat pulldown. As an excellent and arguably superior exercise, the pull-up is a similar movement that replicates the motion to a significant degree. Granted, the pull-up does require more upper body strength than the lat pulldown. But this strength can be built through a dedicated and deliberate approach to building strength in the upper back through exercises such as the lat pulldown.


Signorile, Joseph e; Zink, Attila J.; Szwed, Steven P. A Comparative Electromyographical Investigation of Muscle Utilization Patterns Using Various Hand Positions During the Lat Pull-down

Baechle, Thomas, Earle, Roger. NSCA’s Essentials of Personal Training

Photo by sportsandsocial

Originally posted 2013-11-04 06:27:56.


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