How to Do The Behind The Neck Lat Pulldown Properly

The behind the neck lat pulldown is one of the best weight-training exercises for your back muscles. It is a multiple-joint exercise that mobilizes the elbow and shoulder joints.

Required equipment: Lat pulldown machine

How to do it:

  • Adjust the kneepad at the lat pulldown machine so that you are able to comfortably perform this movement without the force pulling you out of the seat.
  • While standing upright, grip the bar. Your hands should go a bit past shoulder width and your palms should be facing forward.
  • Keeping your arms extended outward, sit on the machine seat and slip your knees beneath the pads.
  • Straighten your upper body such that the pull down bar and the cable are above your spine.
  • Move your head forward so that you can safely lower the bar.
  • Push your shoulder blades backward to maintain the tension in your lats throughout this movement.
  • While exhaling, lower the pull down bar slowly behind your head so that it is level with your ears. Make sure it doesn’t get to shoulder level.
  • When the bar gets to the lowest point, squeeze your shoulder blades then pause for a second.
  • Then, inhale and raise the pull down bar slowly towards the starting position, making sure to stop before you fully extend your arms so that the tension remains in your muscles.
  • Without pausing, lower the bar and repeat the above steps for the desired number of reps.

WHAT MUSCLES DOES THE BEHIND THE NECK LAT PULLDOWN WORK?

LATISSIMUS DORSI

Behind the neck lat pulldown primarily targets the latissimus dorsi muscles located on the middle and lower regions of your back.

Commonly known as the ‘lats,’ these triangle-shaped muscles extend from beneath your armpits to your lower back.

When you pull the bar down behind your neck and squeeze your shoulder blades, you strengthen your lats, making them expand outward and increase in width.

The secondary muscles worked by this exercise include the deltoids, traps, triceps brachii and the biceps.

BEHIND THE NECK LAT PULLDOWN BENEFITS

SPECIFICALLY TARGETS THE LATS

Since this exercise primarily targets and isolates your lats, it allows you to specifically focus on them without tiring out your triceps or biceps

STRENGTHENS BACK MUSCLES

The back muscles are some of the secondary muscles the behind the neck lat pulldown works.

By strengthening these muscles, this exercise helps you develop better posture and improves your ability to perform other pulling exercises.

STABILIZES YOUR SHOULDER JOINTS

This exercise stabilizes your shoulder joints by engaging your rotator cuffs as you lower and lift the bar.

ALTERNATIVES TO THE BEHIND THE NECK LAT PULLDOWN

FRONT LAT PULLDOWN

This is another effective weight-training exercise you can opt for if you are looking to build your upper body strength.

It is almost similar to the behind the neck lat pulldown except the bar does not pass behind your neck.

It is also believed to be less risky compared to the behind the neck lat pulldown since the bar does not put unnecessary pressure on your spine, rotator cuffs and the shoulder joint.

How to do it:

  • Stand straight in front of a lat pulldown machine.
  • Grab the pulldown bar with a relatively wide overhand grip.
  • Place one of your feet on the edge of the machine seat.
  • Lean back about 30 degrees then plant the other foot on the floor.
  • Keeping your torso still, squeeze your back muscles to provide you with the power to pull it toward your chest.
  • Pause for a few seconds as your keep squeezing your back muscles.
  • Slowly reverse the steps to return to the original position.

PULL UP

The pull up is considered one of the toughest weight-training exercises that exist.

It works the traps, lats and rhomboids but you can decide to make it more challenging by using different kinds of grip.

This exercise also enhances core strength since it engages the abdominal muscles as you pull your body up and push it back down.

How to do it:

  • Leap up and hang on the pulldown bar. Your grip should be at about shoulder width apart and your legs fully extended.
  • Keeping your core engaged and your shoulders pushed back, pull your body up.
  • Focus on recruiting every upper body muscle to help you in your upward motion.
  • Slowly move upward until the bar rests below your chin.
  • Move downward until you have fully extended your arms again.

BEHIND THE NECK LAT PULLDOWN MISTAKES TO AVOID

PULLING THE BAR TOO FAR DOWN

This will put unnecessary pressure on your rotator cuff which could cause shoulder injury. It will also strain your subscapularis muscle by overstretching it such that it ceases to provide support to your shoulder joint.

WIDE GRIP

If you use a grip that is too wide while pulling the pull down bar behind your neck, you might end up putting too much stress on your shoulders and increasing chances of shoulder injury.

As you lower the bar, make sure your elbows point down and not to the side.

JERKING THE BAR DOWN

Jerking the bar down, rocking for momentum or letting the weight shoot up way too quickly will not let your muscles have enough time under tension.

Instead, use slow and controlled motions with a moderate weight that you can keep under control.

ARCHING YOUR BACK

You should sit upright with your chest lifted as you pull the bar downward.

This will help you maintain a neutral spine, which protects you from lower back injury.

USING YOUR UPPER ARMS

Your forearms should not be involved in pulling the bar down; the power should come from your back.

To prevent this, you can try activating your lats by pulling the bar downward from your armpits.

FINAL THOUGHTS

If properly executed, the behind the neck lat pulldown can be an excellent way to build and strengthen your back muscles.

This exercise is associated with certain risks if not performed correctly. Make sure you master the correct form to minimize such risks.

Since it heavily depends on upper body mobility for its effectiveness, you should only perform this exercise if you do not have mobility issues. This will reduce the risk of injury.

Also, it is recommended that you use less weight and slow the tempo so that you can concentrate on working the target muscles.