Tips and Tricks of the Trade; Proper Form of a Lat Pull Down

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How many different variations of this one move have you seen when you go to the gym?! At least a few right?! Well which one is the correct one?

As someone in the Personal Training industry there are definitely moments when I see this exercise performed in a public gym and quietly think to myself “WTF?!”  Maybe this individual knows something that I don’t, maybe he is creating a new form of this exercise. More often than not, this optimistic approach is far from the case.

The fact is, no one teaches us how to move properly. There isn’t a class in school where we can go and learn how to perfect our squat form, how to do pushups correctly, how to engage our gluteus, and how to perform a Lat pull down. I am not faulting anyone for performing exercises incorrectly. It is simply the lack of movement education. No one ever told them the how, the what or the why.

photoWhat is a Lat pulldown anyways?  A Lat pulldown is a movement targeting our Latissimus Dorsi (Lats for short). The Lattissimus is a muscle that connects to the Humerus bone (which is a long bone connecting our elbow to our shoulder) and reaches all the way to the top of our pelvis. That is one big muscle!!  The main function of the Lat is to bring the arms down towards the ground as well as to arch the lower back.  So when looking at the Lat pull down, there are a few form checkpoints that you want to make sure are in place.

Lets start from the bottom up.lat pull down, anatomy workout exercises, weight lifting, muscle gain, fat loss, personal training san francisco, san francisco personal training

  1. Hips should be pressed forward into the pad.
  2. Lower back should be arched slightly.
  3. Chest should be lifted up towards the ceiling.
  4. Shoulders should be down and back.
  5. Gaze should be lifted towards the line of pull (basically where the cable is pulling down from).

During motion, the whole body should be stuck in this position. The only thing that should really be moving are your elbows drawing down towards you body and your shoulders rotating around in their shoulder joint.

There are a few keys things to make all of this come together when you are in the motion of the exercise or any exercise for that matter.

1. Muscles will not contract unless the brain tells them to. This is called neuromuscular communication. Pulling weight down with no direct intension isn’t enough.  You actually have to focus on the muscle and literally will it to contract.

2.  A muscle has to shorten in order to perform a contraction.  So the more you extent a muscle the more it will be able to contract or shorten.  Full range of motion is the key to getting the most our of each rep.  You are already at the gym, so why cut yourself short and only do half of the full movement?  Because it’s harder?  Well ladies and Gents, that would be the point. :) If it wasn’t hard your body wouldn’t have to change and adapt to the challenge or demand you are putting on it.  Not to mention, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it ;)




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