A lat pulldown machine is designed to exercise and develop the lat muscle, which is short for latissimus dorsi. The lat pulldown machine is ideal for beginner users who want to start working out their back, because of its compound exercise properties.
During lat pull down machine workouts, you might notice that the muscles in your biceps and middle back are getting a workout. The reason for this is due to the machine’s compound exercise properties, where it needs motion in two joints in order for it to be used properly. Because of the muscle groups this machine targets, this machine is often used as a precursor for helping people learn how to properly do pull-ups, push-ups, and chin-ups.
By isolating the back muscles with this exercise machine, you can focus specifically on them without tiring out your biceps or triceps. It’s important to target your back muscles to help with proper posture and to ease pulling movements, such as opening a door, starting a lawnmower, or even performing a pull-up.
Sit comfortably on the pulldown seat and place your feet flat on the floor. Check the height of the bar, it may need to be adjusted by shortening or lengthening the chain or cable that supports the bar, or your seat height. The bar should be at a height that your outstretched arms can comfortably grasp the bar without having to fully stand up, but you should also be able to still extend your arms to achieve full range of motion. Finally, adjust the knee pad so that the upper thighs are tucked firmly under the pad. This will assist you when you apply effort to the bar.
Next, grab the bar with a wide, overhand, knuckles up grip. This is the standard grip position and should be used until you are more comfortable and familiar with the machine.
Pull the bar down until it’s approximately level with the chin. While shifting just slightly backward is ok, try 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 any more without moving backward. Be sure to stop at this point and not go lower. Squeeze the shoulder blades together while maintaining square shoulders.
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.
Through slight variations on the grip, you can perform different exercises on the lat pulldown machine. For example, instead of holding your hands on the overhead grip at a shoulder wide distance, increase this distance to double in length, or hold your hands as close together as inside the shoulder, and then repeat the above method.
You can also change your hand position on the overhead bar from pronated to supinated. Doing this will change the paths of your elbows as you do a repetition and exercise different muscles.