While many lifters want an impressive back, it seems that most are relying on only one or two popular exercises for this achievement. Only a few are ready to put in the work required to build a powerful V taper.
Lat Pull Down Basics
The benefits of having a strong back are beneficial and range from a better posture and improved spine to injury prevention. Not to mention an overall enhanced physical performance. Having a strong back is also vital for building a strong chest, which means that the more you work on your lat pull downs, the better prepared you’ll be to go heavy on the bench press. Since the muscles of the back are the largest in the body, they have a huge carryover and strengthening them will allow you to perform better and also improve stability. This will result in more strength and power.
Neglecting your backside can lead to muscular imbalance, rounded shoulders, neck and shoulder pain plus back injury, especially if you’re working the muscles at the front instead of your back. A well designed back workout should include a variety of moves, such as dead lifts, bent over rows, pull ups, lat pull downs and squats.
Basic Lat Pull-Down Technique
- Sit down on a pull down machine with a wide bar attached to the top pulley.
- Grab the bar with the palms facing forward with a medium grip.
- As you keep both arms extended in front of you holding the bar, bring your torso back around 30 degrees while sticking your chest out. Keep your elbows pointed straight down.
- By drawing your shoulder blades and your upper arms down and back, bring the bar down until it touches your upper chest. The upper torso should remain stationary throughout the movement.
- Focus on achieving maximum contraction in the final position.
- Hold for a second, then slowly raise the bar back up.
The best part is that it can be done in many different ways, all of which unlock unique muscular gains and many lifters believe that alternating between different lat pull down variations provides their lats with optimal stimulation by hitting the muscles from every possible angle.
Here are 5 lat pull down variations:
If your main objective is to increase your back’s width, go for wide grip lat pull downs. They better stimulate the teres major and upper lat fibres, in addition to working the biceps, forearms, triceps, rotator cuff muscles and posterior deltoids. Still, avoid taking an excessively wide grip as this will reduce the range of motion and increase susceptibility to injury. One of the greatest benefits of this variation is increased pull up strength. Make sure to squeeze and retract your shoulder blades for maximum muscle activation, and avoid relying on momentum to do your muscle’s work.
This variant may place undue stress on the shoulders in people with an inflexible shoulder girdle, for many others it can be the best back builder in their routine. The range of motion will allow for a stronger overall contraction and lead to bigger gains, as long as you keep your form in check and start with a lighter weight. If you don’t have shoulder mobility issues and you’re looking for the lat pull down that will give you the most for your back.
The V-bar pull down will help you emphasise the centre of your back, while still working your lats. Training these muscles will provide support for core movements and improve your stability and performance in all athletic pursuits. With a secure grip on the V-bar attachment, slowly pull the weight straight down until it’s about even with the middle of your chest, focusing on the contraction of the back muscles. Lean back a bit more than usual to better engage the lats and complete the full range of motion. Also, strive to achieve a full stretch at the top of the movement.
This variant is best for building thick, full lower lats that go all the way down to the waist. Take a close grip, underhand grip on a lat bar attached to the high pulley of a lat pull down station and keep your chest up and lower back arched as you pull the bar down to your chest. Keep in mind that the closer your hands, the more you will involve the muscles in the centre of your back.
Reverse grip pull downs stimulate the development of the lats by improving the range of movement in the shoulder joints and scapula, while also increasing shoulder stability by engaging the traps and biceps.
Unilateral exercises are tough to beat when it comes to improving mind muscle connection and maximising contraction. Add a few lighter sets of single arm lat pull downs at the end of your workout. Perform every rep in a slow and controlled motion and hold the bottom position for a few moments before returning back to the top. As you pull the handle down, squeeze your elbows to your side as you flex it. Avoid completely returning the weight in order to keep tension in the working muscles.