Exercise of the Month: Lateral Pull Downs

By PCYC Deception Bay Gym+Fitness Manager, Jade Parker

The Lateral Pull Down is a very common exercise in the gym, which works the latissimus dorsi (the muscle under the armpits to put it simply) and the back. Unfortunately, there are a lot of incorrect techniques that are often seen.


Let’s walk through five key tips for ensuring a safe, effective workout!

  1. You will see a lot of people swinging with their lower back. Instead, lean back slightly and hold this position throughout the entire movement. This allows the lats to engage a proper pulling motion.
  2. Retract the shoulder blades back and down to avoid the traps (trapezius muscle to the side of the neck) and the shoulders, taking over. This will shift the emphasis onto the back and lats.
  3. A lot of people pull down with the elbows flaring out to the sides, causing the arms and shoulders to do the pulling/work, rather than the lats. As you pull the bar down, you should think about pulling the elbows together, to once again, engage the lats and build the back.
  4. The next issue our trainers often see, is people pulling the bar in front, causing their wrists to move and arms to, once again, do the work. Instead, focus on pulling the bar to your upper chest and chin region.
  5. Another issue is the tempo people use when releasing the bar. If the eccentric phase, or the phase going towards the sky, is too quick the lats are not engaging. This eccentric phase is when you are likely to make the most progress. Slow and steady wins the race. Control your movements.

All of these handy tips are just as effective, no matter your grip position – narrow, wide, underhand etc.