Ask The Trainer #159 – Best Lat Pulldown Method

Ask The Trainer #159 - Best Lat Pulldown Method


Hi. I was wondering if it is better to perform lat pulldowns by pulling the bar down to your collar bones in from of your body, or down to the back of your neck behind your head? Which method works better for overall lat development? Thanks in advance.



Hi Chuck. Actually, neither of those pulling techniques are ideal for optimal lat development.

Let me explain…

First off, when you’re performing lat pulldowns and you pull the bar down to your clavicles (collar bones), you give up a significant amount of lat stimulation, particularly among the lower lats.

This is because this particular range of motion prevents the shoulders and scapula from fully contracting, then medially rotating towards the spine. This is the result of the elbows drawing back at too high of an angle.

In contrast, if you pull the bar to your sternum, not only do you place your shoulders in the most biomechanically ideal position, but pulling within this range will engage the lats to a much greater degree. It’s especially good for the lower lats, as they are much more engaged when the elbows draw back at a lower angle like this.

This is the most productive method of performing lat pulldowns.

Elbow Placement Matters

I want to add a caveat to these instructions. Regardless of the grip you’re using, it’s important to make sure your elbows are facing straight forward throughout the entire movement.

Try to avoid flaring your elbows out towards your sides. Doing so will engage mostly the upper portion of your lats while neglecting the lower sections of those muscles.

Likewise, these same tips apply to chin-ups. These are important tips for those individuals who are seeking to obtain that head turning, V-shaped torso that can only be achieved by way of complete lat development.

Avoid Behind The Head Pulldowns

Another important point I want to make is that I’ve always cautioned my training clients about doing behind the head lat pulldowns. This method of performing lat pulldowns forces the shoulder joints in a position of horizontal abduction, in conjunction with external rotation.

This is just a fancy way of saying there will be much more stress on the muscles of the rotator cuff, making them more susceptible to injury. This is because the rotator cuff muscles are forced to work harder to stabilize the shoulder joints.

Also, pulling the bar down behind your head forces your chin down as your neck muscles are straining. This places the neck in biomechanically compromising position.

I know people who have strained neck muscles because of this. I also recall one individual who actually herniated a disk between two their cervical vertebrae doing lat pulldowns this way.

I hope this sheds light on your question. I wish you all the best of success with your health and training endeavors!

Prove ‘Em Wrong,

Chad Shaw

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