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How To Do Lat Pulldowns

7th Mar 19

The lat pulldown is an excellent back exercise. Few exercises can be so incredibly strength-building for your upper back, and with so much variation available to you, too, it’s an excellent move for your exercise arsenal. Getting it right, however, isn’t so easy. Unfortunately, it’s very common to see the same mistakes being made daily just because it’s common practice, but we need to put a stop to it.

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Close up of a lat pull down

Starting with the set-up alone can be quite a lengthy topic. You need to ensure that you’re in the correct position with the right equipment if you’re going to have a chance at mastering your technique and getting everything you can do out of the exercise.

Wide Angle Bar

First and foremost, you absolutely need a wide-angle bar. The wider the grip, the more your lats will be engaged in the exercise. If you grip too close, then you’ll be using more biceps. Find a bar that’s comfortable for you to use and that you will be able to sustain throughout your sets!

Legs Secure

The seat for a lat pulldown machine will, more often than not, have some kind of apparatus that will keep your legs in place. This is essential if you want to isolate your back rather than use other muscles or your own body weight in some way. But, again, ensure that you’re in securely so that you can’t cheat and you’re still comfortable.

Lean Back A Little

Now that you’re ready, all that’s left for you to do is find the angle that suits you best. To get the most out of your lats, you need to lean back slightly so that you can pull the bar into your chest rather than your head.


Woman doing a lat pull down

So, you’ve set up; that’s a good start. The technique, however, is a different game. This is where mistakes are made, and progress is sacrificed if you aren’t careful. So, take your time, pay attention and concentrate on your form.

Front of Body

For a start, make sure that you’re performing the exercise in front of your body rather than behind the neck. This ensures that you won’t injure yourself somehow during the process, as behind the neck can often cause you some serious shoulder injury, like rotator cuff damage. It also forces your lats to be much more engaged by offering a better, more natural movement range.

Full Rep

As with all exercises, it’s important that you do full repetitions during your set. The lat pulldown is another easy exercise to let yourself only do half reps and not actually do anything. You need to let your arms extend fully to the point where they are almost straight, don’t lock your elbows through, just before.


As you angle yourself slightly backwards, this lets you adjust the motion path that you’ll be taking. First, you need to pull the bar into your chest for the best possible contraction and muscle activation. The closer you can get to it, the better. As you contract your shoulder blades, this should push your chest outwards so that you know you are on the right track.

Don’t Sway

One of the biggest issues with the lat pulldown is people not anchoring themselves properly. If you are new to the exercise or using a weight that is too much for you, you’re going to make form mistakes. The most common mistake is to build momentum in your exercise and move your whole body back and forth as you move the weight. This completely ruins the contractions you’re looking for and will just hinder your progress, even with a bigger weight. Instead, you should be holding the bar at the bottom of the movement for at least a second to get the full contraction and prevent momentum building.

The lat pulldown is an incredible exercise once you’ve got your technique perfected, but it may not be enough on its own. There are other exercises you need to be doing too if you want a fully developed back, and even more so for functionally strong lats. So keep your technique in mind, and you’ll progress.

Before beginning any exercise or nutrition program, consult your physician, doctor or other professional. This is especially important for individuals over the age of 35 or persons with pre-existing health problems. assumes no responsibility for personal injury or property damage sustained using our advice.

If you experience dizziness, nausea, chest pain, or any other abnormal symptoms, stop the workout at once and consult a physician or doctor immediately.