The pulldown exercise works the back muscles and is performed at a workstation with adjustable resistance, usually plates.

You pull a hanging bar toward you while seated until it reaches your chin, then you controllably release it and raise it again for one repeat. You can include this exercise in a strength-training program for your upper body.

How to Do a Lat Pulldown

Sit comfortably on the pulldown seat, with your feet flat on the floor. Check the height of the bar. You may need to adjust the bar height by shortening or lengthening the chain or cable that supports the bar or your seat height. Get a gym trainer to help with this if necessary. How to Do a Lat Pulldown: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

The bar should be at a height that your outstretched arms can comfortably grasp the bar without having to stand up entirely, but you should also be able to still extend your arms to achieve a full range of motion. If the station has a thigh pad, adjust it so that the upper thighs are tucked firmly under the pad. This will assist you when you apply effort to the bar.How to Do a Lat Pulldown: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

  1. Grasp the bar with a wide grip with an overhand, knuckles-up grip. Other positions and grips are possible but start with this standard position.
  2. Pull the bar down until it’s approximately level with the chin. Exhale on the downward motion. While shifting slightly backward is OK, aim to keep your upper torso stationary. Keep your feet flat on the floor and engage your abs as you pull. The bottom of the motion should be where your elbows can’t move downward anymore without moving backward. Be sure to stop at that point and do not go lower.
  3. Squeeze the shoulder blades together while maintaining square shoulders.
  4. From the bottom position, with the bar close to your chin, slowly return the bar to the starting position while controlling its gradual ascent. Don’t let it crash into the weight plates.
  5. Continue until you complete eight to 12 repetitions in a set. Rest, then continue to complete your program of sets.

Benefits of Lat Pulldowns

It’s essential to target your back muscles to help with proper posture and to ease pulling movements, like opening a door, starting a lawnmower, swimming, or even performing a pull-up. Having strong lats may even help relieve some kinds of back pain.

Muscles Worked During Lat Pulldowns

This exercise mainly targets the latissimus dorsi, more commonly referred to as the “lats,” which is a muscle just under the armpits that spreads across and down the back. Lat pulldowns also work teres major, a muscle located near the bottom of the shoulder blade.

This exercise isolates the back muscles so you may work on them alone without wearing out your triceps or biceps.How to Do a Lat Pulldown: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Other Variations of Lat Pulldowns

You can perform this exercise in different ways to meet your skill level and goals.

Light Weights or Bands for Beginners

In order to make sure they use the proper form, beginners might wish to start with bands or small weights. Another option is to try the exercise while standing and putting one leg forward like you’re walking.

Alternative Grips

Try wider, narrow, under- or overhand grips to target specific muscle groups. Using a middle-distance grip, with forearms upright and hands about shoulder-width apart, work the biceps and middle back. A wider grip recruits more back muscles, and a close grip pulldown emphasizes the forearm muscles.How to Do a Lat Pulldown: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Straight Arm Pulldown

The straight-arm pulldown, which requires keeping your elbows nearly fully extended the entire time (usually done standing), hits the muscles on the back of the upper arm, known as the triceps.

Reversing Your Grip

Reversing the grip to underhand with knuckles facing downward and palms up puts more work on the muscles on the front of your upper arm, known as the biceps.How to Do a Lat Pulldown: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

You can reverse your grip in any position on the bar—wide, middle, or close.

Common Mistakes

Avoid these errors so you can get the most from this exercise and prevent strain or injury.

Arching Your Back

Sit upright and keep your chest lifted as you pull the bar down. Maintaining a neutral spine can help protect your lower back from injury.

Using Your Forearms

Be sure your forearms are not doing the work of pulling the bar down—you want it to come from your back. Activate your lats by pulling down from your armpits.How to Do a Lat Pulldown: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Holding the Bar Too Wide

Grab the bar just outside your shoulders, but not too wide, especially if you’re a beginner. Keep your elbows pointed down as you lower the bar and not out to the sides.

Pulling Down Too Far

When you reach the point where you would need to turn your elbows back to continue lowering the wire, stop. The shoulder joint will be overstressed if the elbows move rearward. The bar should only be lowered to your chin or little less.

Using Momentum

As with most weighted workouts, proceed with caution and cautiously when performing the pulldown. When done quickly, less of the targeted muscles are used and momentum is used.How to Do a Lat Pulldown: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Safety and Precautions

For safety reasons, it is not advised to draw down from behind the neck since this could cause injuries due to the twisting of the shoulder joint and potential spinal contact with the bar.How to Do a Lat Pulldown: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Consult your physician or physical therapist to determine whether this exercise is suitable for you if you have any issues with your shoulders, elbows, or wrists. If you experience any pain or excessive strain on your shoulder joints, stop doing this exercise.How to Do a Lat Pulldown: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

The weight you use, your level of experience, and your strength will all affect how many repetitions you do in a given workout.How to Do a Lat Pulldown: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

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