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How to Do a Lat Pulldown: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

by Christina
Lat Pulldown

The pulldown exercise works the back muscles and is performed at a workstation with adjustable resistance, usually plates. How to Do a Lat Pulldown: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

While seated, you pull a hanging bar toward you to reach chin level, then release it back up with control for one repetition. You can include this exercise in a strength-training program for your upper body.

How to Do a Lat Pulldown

Sit comfortably on the pulldown seat, with your feet flat on the floor. Check the height of the bar. You may need to adjust the bar height by shortening or lengthening the chain or cable that supports the bar or your seat height. Get a gym trainer to help with this if necessary.  How to Do a Lat Pulldown: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

The bar should be at a height that your outstretched arms can comfortably grasp the bar without having to stand up entirely, but you should also be able to still extend your arms to achieve a full range of motion. If the station has a thigh pad, adjust it so that the upper thighs are tucked firmly under the pad. You will benefit from this when you put effort into the bar. How to Do a Lat Pulldown: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

  1. Grasp the bar with a wide grip with an overhand, knuckles-up grip. Other positions and grips are possible but start with this standard position.
  2. Pull the bar down until it’s approximately level with the chin. Exhale on the downward motion. While shifting slightly backward is OK, aim to keep your upper torso stationary. Keep your feet flat on the floor and engage your abs as you pull. The bottom of the motion should be where your elbows can’t move downward anymore without moving backward. Be sure to stop at that point and do not go lower. How to Do a Lat Pulldown: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes
  3. Squeeze the shoulder blades together while maintaining square shoulders.
  4. From the bottom position, with the bar close to your chin, slowly return the bar to the starting position while controlling its gradual ascent. Don’t let it crash into the weight plates.
  5. Continue until you complete eight to 12 repetitions in a set. Rest, then continue to complete your program of sets. How to Do a Lat Pulldown: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Benefits of Lat Pulldowns

It’s essential to target your back muscles to help with proper posture and to ease pulling movements, like opening a door, starting a lawnmower, swimming, or even performing a pull-up. In many cases, having strong lats may even help with back pain relief.

Muscles Worked During Lat Pulldowns

This exercise mainly targets the latissimus dorsi, more commonly referred to as the “lats,” which is a muscle just under the armpits that spreads across and down the back. Lat pulldowns also work teres major, a muscle located near the bottom of the shoulder blade. How to Do a Lat Pulldown: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

By isolating the back muscles with this exercise, you can focus specifically on them without tiring out the biceps or triceps.

Other Variations of Lat Pulldowns

You can perform this exercise in different ways to meet your skill level and goals.

Light Weights or Bands for Beginners

Beginners may want to start with light weights or a band to ensure they use the correct form. You can also try performing the exercise standing, with one leg forward as if walking. How to Do a Lat Pulldown: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Alternative Grips

Try wider, narrow, under- or overhand grips to target specific muscle groups. Using a middle-distance grip, with forearms upright and hands about shoulder-width apart, work the biceps and middle back. A close grip pulldown highlights the forearm muscles, whereas a wider grip stimulates more back muscles. How to Do a Lat Pulldown: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Straight Arm Pulldown

The straight-arm pulldown, which requires keeping your elbows nearly fully extended the entire time (usually done standing), hits the muscles on the back of the upper arm, known as the triceps.  How to Do a Lat Pulldown: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Reversing Your Grip

Reversing the grip to underhand with knuckles facing downward and palms up puts more work on the muscles on the front of your upper arm, known as the biceps.

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