Lat Pulldown Benefits: How to Build a Huge Back?


Do you know what the widest muscle in your body is? It is the latissimus dorsi, commonly known as lats. This muscle originates from your lower back and goes all the way up, attaching to the upper arm bone. 

It is also what gives your back the most desired ‘V’ shape.

The muscle protects your spine and helps you get a good posture. It supports your back, shoulder, and arm movements. A lat pulldown is an exercise that helps you work on this all-important muscle. The article will look at lat pulldown benefits, proper technique, variations, and how you can safely include the exercise in your fitness routine.

What Muscles Does a Lat Pulldown Target?

What Muscles Does a Lat Pulldown Target?

You will be using a lat pulldown machine to perform this exercise. It involves two phases. The first phase is the concentric phase, in which you will pull the lat bar towards your chest. The second phase is the eccentric phase, in which you will slowly return the bar to its starting position.

As the name suggests, the lat is the major muscle that the exercise targets. But many other muscle groups also get involved in the process of completing the above two phases. They are:

  • Teres Major
  • Posterior Deltoid
  • Upper, lower and middle Trapezius
  • Brachialis
  • Biceps Brachii
  • Triceps Brachii
  • Rotator Cuff  

What are the Benefits Offered by Lat Pulldown?

A lat pulldown is a popular exercise among fitness enthusiasts. It is also a good alternative for exercises like pull-ups and chin-ups. Thus, as a beginner, you can start with lat pulldown, build your strength and then move on to advanced workouts.

Let us look at lat pulldown benefits to understand why the exercise deserves a spot in your workout routine.

1. Target Your Lats

Your lat muscles are an essential part of the upper body. So even if your end goal is not to build a huge back, you should still work on the muscle. This is because the muscle gets activated when you do simple tasks in your routine.

For example, pulling yourself upstairs, using the lawn mowing machine, lifting heavy bags from the floor, or pushing a piece of furniture like a chair or table.  

The exercise is compound in nature, but it primarily helps you target the lats. If you want to grow the muscle, you can use different variations and heavier weights as you progress.

Also Read:- 10 Lat Pulldown Alternatives That are Equally Good

2. Develop Upper-Body Strength 

Develop Upper-Body Strength 

When starting with lat pulldown, your focus should be on proper form and technique. Once you nail down the standard form, you can try different variations like wide, close grip, unilateral and straight arm, among others.

As your lats become stronger with regular workouts, you can gradually increase weights. In addition, these variations and weight limits will help strengthen other muscles like the biceps, pectoral, rhomboids, and traps, among others.

With increased upper body strength performing daily activities will become easier. If you are an athlete, your performance during sports like swimming, wrestling, and skiing can also improve.

3. Improve Your Posture

Improve Your Posture

Apart from providing strength, lat muscles protect and stabilize your spine. So working on your lats will help you stand straighter and taller. 

The way your shoulder blades go up and down during a lat pulldown leads to improved strength and functionality. It will prevent you from sagging your upper body while standing or sitting. 

When you hold and carry your body correctly, you naturally look confident. Did you know good posture can improve your mood and make you feel self-assured? Yes, it creates hormones in your brain that help it function better. It can make you feel calm and confident.

Apart from neurological benefits, good posture is important for your overall health. It can keep medical conditions, stress, and fatigue away.

Also Read:- How to Do a Lat Pulldown: Proper Form, Techniques, and Variations

4. Build Foundational Strength

Build Foundational Strength

The beauty of exercise is that its benefits easily flow into other areas of your life. For example, you may exercise to improve the physical state of your body. But the movements you perform lead to the creation of hormones such as serotonin and endorphins. These hormones help you sleep and manage your mood better.

Similarly, a lat pulldown helps develop upper body strength. With a strong upper body, other exercises become easier to perform while maintaining the correct form. 

For example, your upper and lower back muscles are also engaged when doing a deadlift. If these muscles are under-developed, you will have difficulty remaining stable during a deadlift. 

Thus, lat pulldowns help build foundational strength that is important for advancing on your fitness journey.

Get Rid of Muscle Tension

Get Rid of Muscle Tension

If your work involves sitting long hours hunched over a screen, you are likely to develop tension in your back muscles. If you do not stretch or strengthen your back, it can lead to pain, poor posture, and injury.

Stress is a major cause that can have a negative impact on your body’s nervous system. It can reduce blood flow to these muscles leading to pain.

Stretching and strengthening exercises like lat pulldown can engage these under-utilized back muscles. Sitting in front of a screen may be a task you cannot avoid. But with exercises, you can improve posture, reduce pain and keep injuries away.

Also Read:- 7 Best Lat Pull Down Machine for Your Home Gym

How to Do a Lat Pulldown?

How to Do a Lat Pulldown?

Now that we have taken a look at lat pulldown benefits, let us understand the proper form and technique that will help you achieve these benefits.

Comfortably sit on the seat of the lat pulldown machine. Adjust the machine according to your body. Some machines come with variable seat heights. 

If there are thigh pads in place, ensure they sit snug over your upper thighs. They should prevent you from getting up during the exercise.

You can also adjust the chain or cable length, so the lat bar is at a comfortable height. Ideally, you should reach the bar with your outstretched arms without getting up. And at the same time, have room to extend the arms to have a greater range of motion.

Once these adjustments are made, you can start with the lat pulldown.

  • Step 1: Extend your arms and grip the lat bar while maintaining a distance of shoulder-width apart. If shoulder-width apart feels constricted, you can try a slightly wider grip.
  • Step 2: Pull in your abdominal muscles; it will provide you with superior stability. Slightly lean your body backward (not more than 20° to 30°).
  • Step 3: Pull the lat bar towards your chest. Squeeze your shoulder blades and flex your elbows. You should feel a stretch in your lats. Do not worry if you cannot pull the bar up to your chest. In the beginning, you can aim to get the bar at chin level.
  • Step 4: Hold the bar down for a couple of seconds.
  • Step 5: Slowly extend your elbows and return the bar to its original position. Ensure you have control over this movement. The weights or the bar should not bang when returning to the starting position.

Exhale when you pull the bar down and inhale when you return the lat bar to its original position.

What Mistakes to Avoid When Doing a Lat Pulldown?

What Mistakes to Avoid When Doing a Lat Pulldown?

You need to maintain proper form, grip, and breathing when following the lat pulldown steps mentioned above. 

Here are a few mistakes one should avoid, to perform the lat pulldown effectively.

  • Arched back – this is the most common mistake gym goers commit. When pulling and releasing the bar, your back should be straight. You can lean a bit backward, but the spine should be in a neutral form. An arched back can lead to back injuries.
  • Do not use the momentum generated to pull the lat bar down when performing reps. Have control over the pulling and releasing movement. If you use momentum, you will not completely engage your lat muscles.
  • When pulling the bar down, your elbows should be in line with your body. You may have the range of motion to pull the bar below chest level, but your elbows will be pushed back away from the torso. This can unnecessarily put pressure on your shoulder joints. 
  • Do not use excessive strength from your forearms while pulling. If your forearms are being engaged more than the target muscles, it could mean you are using heavier weights.     

What Variations of Lat Pulldown Can Help Build a Huge Back?

Lat pulldown is an exercise that can keep your workout session interesting with different variations. As you advance, you can try different grips and positions to meet your goal of building a huge back.

Wide Grip Lat Pulldown

Wide Grip Lat Pulldown

In this exercise variation, you will be holding the lat bar wider than the shoulder-width apart. Be careful not to grip the bar at the extreme ends, as you can lose stability while exercising. A wide grip lat pulldown focuses more on your triceps.

Keep the weights on the lower side for a better form. 

Close Grip Lat Pulldown

Close Grip Lat Pulldown

You will perform the exercise similarly to the standard pulldown explained above. The difference lies in how you hold the lat bar. Place your arms at the center of the lat bar. Your palms should be facing you.

You can alternatively use handles that you usually use when performing rows. This variation offers a greater range of motion and increases bicep engagement.

Unilateral Lat Pulldown

Unilateral Lat Pulldown

It is common for people to have a specific stronger side. The problem is that your stronger side might do the heavy lifting during a standard pulldown while leaving your weaker side under-developed. With a unilateral pulldown, you can focus on both sides of your body.

You can attach a handle to the lat pulldown machine. Remain seated, and place the non-working hand on top of the thigh pad. Now, with the side you are targeting, pull the handle towards the side of your chest. Your elbow should be close to the torso and facing the ground.

Maintain the position for a couple of seconds and return the handle up. Repeat the action and then switch sides.

Straight Arm Lat Pulldown

In this version of lat pulldown, you will be standing. Grasp the lat bar and take a couple of steps back to allow for a free range of motion. Bend your knees slightly to avoid pressure on them.

Hold the lat bar as you would in a standard lat pulldown, shoulder-width apart and palms facing away from you. Pull the bar towards your hips/thighs. Extend your arms with a slight bend in your elbows. Hold the position for a second or two and then return to the original position.

A straight arm lat pulldown is a variation that effectively isolates the lats and helps you build a bigger back.

How to Get Started with Lat Pulldown as a Beginner?

How to Get Started with Lat Pulldown as a Beginner?

If you are new to lat pulldowns, we recommend you first concentrate on learning and practicing the proper form. You may be capable of lifting heavier weights, but keep the weights on the lower side at the beginning with lat pulldowns.

Learn about common mistakes and consciously avoid them during exercise. For example, back-arching, using forearm muscles, or using momentum should be avoided.

Start with the standard shoulder-width apart grip. Once you get comfortable with the movement, you switch to other grips.

As with every exercise, start slow. Aim for 8 to 10 reps and 2 to 3 sets. As you gain confidence, you can opt for higher reps and weights.   

Summary

A lat pulldown is an effective exercise to target the widest muscle in your body. Apart from lats, it also helps target other muscles such as the pectoralis major, brachialis, biceps, triceps, and abdominals.

Improved upper body strength, posture, and good foundational strength are some of the lat pulldown benefits you can look forward to. It can aid in maintaining overall health, relieving pain, and keeping back injuries at bay. In addition, it is an excellent exercise to build a huge back.

Once you master the standard version, there are other variations you can try to target different muscle groups and keep your workout routine interesting. When it comes to strength training exercises, focus on form to achieve desired results.

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