Pulldowns are workouts designed to stimulate and strengthen your lat muscles that run alongside your outer back. There are alternative versions to this workout. A traditional pulldown is performed while seated while with a straight arm pulldown workout you typically go into a standing position. Though these workouts are in essence the same, they work the muscles from a slightly different angle. Working your lat muscles will make them thicker and wider.
There are two versions of the seated pulldowns. It is an exercise mainly focusing on the back muscles, but your shoulders and arms get a workout as well. A pulldown machine consists of a bar suspended by a cord that is attached to a stack of weights. A seat is positioned directly underneath the bar. Sit down on the chair, taking hold of the bar with your wrists facing forward. Pull the bar down toward your chest. Keep your shoulder blades together and lift your chest toward the ceiling without leaning backwards. Make sure your arms are parallel to your chest, while your elbows lower to your ribs. The second version of this exercise is a pull-down with a close grip.
The straight arm pulldown is the standing version of the lat pulldown. Before you start, you need to set the equipment up properly. Choose a weight that is a bit less that your lat pulldown, since the angle is a bit different. Face the machine, and grab hold of the overhanging bar with a shoulder-width grip. Step two or three feet back with your knees slightly bend. Pull the weight down slowing, rotating only the shoulders. Bring your shoulder blades together and keep your chest high throughout the range of motion. This exercise is better for isolation the lats.
Tips for Success
When you do the straight arm pulldown, focus on your lat muscles when doing the pulling. Both exercises should focus on the lats and not the arms, so mind your form. The smaller muscles can’t take the strain that the lat muscles can. Always move the bars in slow controlled motions. When working out, the bar must pull down smoothly towards your chest. If you cannot pull the bar down this far, the weights are too heavy. If you can easily pull it lower, the resistance is too light. Doing the pulldown motions improperly can lead to muscle sprains and tears.
All Things Being Equal
Not one of the mentioned workouts is better than the other, with the only exception of the straight arm pulldown providing a more isolated lat workout. Any act of pulling an object with an amount of weight will trigger your lat muscles. Regardless of whether you pull the object from above or in front of your body, the muscles are activated by the pulling motion.