Beginner’s Guide to the Lat Pulldown Machine

Beginner's Guide to the Lat Pulldown Machine

The lat pulldown machine is a staple at most fitness and health clubs. You’ll see all kinds of people using it, due in part to the fact that it’s a relatively simple machine to figure out how to use. Using the lat pulldown machine properly to maximize the benefits you receive is a whole different thing though, so let’s figure out how.

First and foremost, check the amount of weight that is currently selected on the Lat Pulldown Machine.

If it’s much heavier or lighter than you’re expecting to lift, it could take you by surprise and lead to possible injuries.

After you’ve selected an appropriate weight, you’ll have to decide how you want to grasp the bar.

You’ll get slightly different results based on how far apart you position your hands or whether you use an overhand or underhand grip, but for most people the difference is negligible.

After you’ve adjusted the lap pads to an appropriate height (more on that in the video below), grab the bar and sit down.

A few mistakes that many people make are leaning too far back, pulling the bar behind their head, or throwing their torso backwards as they pull the bar to their chest. By leaning too far back, you target different muscles than the machine is intended to work. While not inherently dangerous, there are machines designed to work those muscles more efficiently than using the lat pulldown machine improperly.

Pulling the bar behind your neck puts unnecessary strain on your cervical spine and neck musculature, which can lead to discomfort or injury. Throwing your back towards the ground as you pull the bar down not only targets the wrong muscles, but it also negates much of the benefit of the lift by using momentum instead of the strength of your muscles.

Beginner’s Guide to the Lat Pulldown Machine Video:

Things to Remember:

  • To perform a proper rep, lean slightly back (think 10-20°), pull the bar down to your chest in a slow and controlled fashion while breathing out, and return the bar to the starting position while breathing in.
  • Try to engage your back musculature more than your arms while you do this exercise. The more you can squeeze your shoulder blades together while pushing them down towards your back pockets, the more you’ll reap the rewards in your back. A strong back means good posture and no stooping over as you age.

As always, the trainers at the Elite Sports Clubs are happy to help with any questions you may have. If you experience any pain or discomfort while performing this exercise or any others, talk to a trainer and ask for help!

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Elite Trainer Jordan Meyer Headshot

Written by Jordan Meyer, CPT – Certified Personal Trainer & Group Exercise Instructor at Elite Sports Club-North Shore

Jordan Meyer is a personal trainer at the North Shore location of the Elite Sports Clubs. He holds a personal training certification from the American College of Sports Medicine and a BS in Exercise Science and Health promotion from UW-Oshkosh. He specializes in body weight fitness and athletic training, and enjoys working with young athletes who are preparing for a variety of sports. Jordan has had the pleasure of coaching many different sports at a variety of levels, ranging from four year olds who are just learning the basics, to Division 3 men’s rugby. He has played organized sports since he was five years old and still plays rugby three seasons a year. In his free time, he enjoys training for and competing in challenge races such as the Tough Mudder and Spartan Race.

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