The lat pulldown isn't a glamorous exercise. It's not overly complex and it doesn't require a lot of agility or coordination to perform. Using a lat pulldown cable machine doesn't exude rawness or fierceness like performing a barbell bent-over row or a dead hang pullup does. Regardless of its simplicity, or maybe because of it, the lat pulldown exercise will benefit your training program in several ways.
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Do More With Less
The lat pulldown is a multi-joint exercise that involves movement at the elbows, shoulders and scapula. With one exercise, you work several different muscles in your upper body. The main mover is the latissimus dorsi, the largest back muscle, which extends down each side of your spine. The biceps, rear delts, rhomboids and traps are also active during the pulldown exercise.
The Sincerest Form of Flattery
The body movement of the lat pulldown exercise mimics that of a pullup. The difference is that during the lat pulldown you are stationary and the weight moves. You pull a weighted bar toward you instead of pulling yourself up toward a bar. This means you can reap the training benefits of the more advanced pullup exercise without having to lift all of your body weight.
Spice of Life
Performing the same exercise day in and day not only breeds mental boredom, but it can also lead to physical boredom and training plateaus. With the lat pulldown exercise, you can use a variety of grips and handles to change the feel and emphasis of the exercise. Perform the standard version of the exercise with an overhand grip just wider than your shoulders on a long bar. You can also experiment with a wider grip or a close grip. Change out the long bar for D-handles, a V-handle or a short handle. You can also switch the orientation of your forearms, using an overhand or underhand grip.
What Doesn't Kill You...
In order for the body to continue to improve and adapt, you must progressively overload the muscles and place increasingly greater demands on the body. One method for overloading the muscles is to increase the workout load by adding weight to an exercise. Unlike adding weight to barbell rows or pullups, adding weight to the lat pulldown exercise is quick and easy. Pull the pin out of the stack and reposition it under the new weight.