Pull-Down Exercises Without a Machine

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Pull ups are a great exercise that works similar muscles as pull downs.
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It can be hard to target the muscles in the upper back and shoulders without doing pull-down exercises. These exercises target the latissimus dorsi muscles. In a pull-down exercise, your arms will be pulling down toward your body against a resistance.

Many times this resistance is in the form of an exercise machine, as explained by the American Council on Exercise, but you can mimic a lat pull-down without a machine using a resistance band. These exercises strengthen the largest muscle in your back, your latissimus dorsi.

Read more: Alternative to Lat Pulldowns

Lat Pull-Down Without a Machine

Exercise resistance bands are rubber tubes, or flat bands that are available in a variety of styles. The resistance tubes often have handles on both ends.

A figure eight band is one solid tube, held together in the center and that has handles on both ends. A flat band does not have handles and can be cut to your desired length for your exercises.

The bands are typically latex, but are available in non-latex styles if you have an allergy. You can purchase a band in light, medium or heavy resistance based on your strength level and your fitness goals.

1. Lat Pull-Down

A resistance band lat pull-down strengthens the latissimus dorsi.

  1. Grasp the middle of the band with both of your hands.
  2. Hold the band over your head with straight arms and palms facing away from each other.
  3. Bend your elbows and separate your hands as you lower the band toward your chest.
  4. Hold for two to three seconds, then slowly return to the starting position.

This same movement can be completed by attaching the middle of the band to an overhead base, holding one end of the band in each hand and then bending your elbows to pull down your hands in line with your chest.

Both of these exercises can be performed from a seated or standing position. If the exercise is too difficult, lower the height of the band anchor, as advised by Kaiser Permanente.

2. Triceps Pull-Down

A pull-down exercise can also be used to strengthen your triceps, along the back of your upper arms.

  1. Hold onto one end of the band with your right hand.
  2. Raise your right arm out in front of your chest.
  3. Grab the band with your left hand, approximately 1 foot below your right hand.
  4. Bend your left elbow to 90 degrees and hold your arm against the side of your body.
  5. Straighten your left elbow, bringing your left hand toward your hip, pulling down on the band.
  6. Slowly return to the starting position.

As an alternative, perform this pull-down with both hands at the same time by securing the middle of the band to a stable base at a height over your head.

Read more: 10 Exercises to Help You Conquer the Pull-Up

3. Straight-Arm Pull-Down

A straight-arm pull-down strengthens the muscles in your back, including the large latissimus dorsi muscles,

  1. Begin this exercise by placing the middle of the band around a stable base at a height that is over your head.
  2. Hold one end of the band in each hand with your elbows straight.
  3. Pull down against the resistance of the band, bringing your hands toward your hips.
  4. Slowly return to the starting position.

4. Pull-Ups

If you don't have a resistance band, perform pull-ups to use your body weight as resistance. As pointed out by ExRx.net, this exercise uses the same muscles as a pull-down, but rather than pulling the weight down, you are pulling yourself up, against the force of gravity.

  1. Grasp an overhead bar with your hands wider than your shoulders.
  2. Wrap your thumbs around the bar and grip tightly.
  3. Bend your elbows and pull your body upward until your chin is above the bar.
  4. Slowly lower back down.
  5. Repeat 10 times.
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