Pulldown exercise

The pulldown exercise or the cable lat pulldown is a compound exercise designed to stress and develop the Latissimus dorsi(Lat). To feel this muscle in its motion, stand with your elbow in the air 45 deg from vertical above and in front of your shoulder. Rotate it through in a smooth arc down and back until it stops and is pointing down and back towards the floor at a 45 deg angle. The bunched up feeling in your back, where your arm hits, is your Lat.

The pulldown is a compound exercise because it requires movement at two joints (elbow and shoulder). The full range of the motion required by the exercise also works the biceps muscle in the arm and the muscles of the middle back. The pulldown uses a similar motion as the chinup.

The exercise is useful when the weight to be used is larger or smaller than the bodyweight of the individual performing the exercise or, there are other mitigating factors that prevent the use of the chinup as effective for this muscle group. This is an excellent exercise for beginners to back work because it is a compound exercise. Maintaining correct form and setting up machines sometimes requires assistance.


To properly accomplish this exercise the person sits on a bench as part of a Lat pulldown machine. The feet should be flat on the floor and knees tucked under a padded bar, to keep the athlete seated firmly. Depending on the desired width of the grasp (moving hands closer, or farther apart will stress different parts of the muscles) grasp the overhead bar in a pronated, sometimes called overhand grip (palms facing away from you towards the front, knuckles up and toward the rear) pull your shoulders straight down towards the floor and pull smoothly downwards on the bar. The move should be executed by concentrating on attempting to bring the shoulder blades together in the back and your elbows as far towards the floor as possible. Do not lean back and use your body weight to pull the bar down. Arch your back in the middle and complete the downward move by touching the center of the bar to the collarbone area or upper chest. Hold in this position briefly, concentrating on form and bringing the shoulderblades close and contracting the Lat. Slowly and in a controlled manner, return the bar upward until your arms are straight, then move your shoulder blades wide and shoulders up high as if you are shrugging and allow the pull of the bar to stretch the muscles in your back that were contracted performing the exercise. Relax for a second, pause and repeat the exercise until repetitions are complete or muscle is exhausted, according to your plan. The finish, at the top of the reach and the downward shoulder movement at the beginning, is very important in ensuring complete muscle involvement and maximizing benefits derived from performing the exercise.

Other variations on this exercise

This exercise can be varied by changing two major positions involving the grip. Different widths of the hands from nearly twice as wide as shoulder width to as close as inside the shoulder, and changing the position of the hands from overhand, to supinated, to parallel will alter the path the elbows take and thus stress different portions of the muscle. In addition, multiple cables may be used by advanced bodybuilders to escape the motion limitations imposed by the use of a single bar.

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