How To Do The Cable Lat Pulldown Properly

The cable lat pulldown is a cable pulling movement that is meant to build and strengthen your back muscles.

Required equipment: Cable pulley machine

Setting up:

  • Sit on the pulldown seat. Make sure you are comfortable.
  • Plant your feet firmly on the floor.
  • Check the height of the pulldown bar and adjust it by lengthening or shortening the chain. You can also adjust your seat height or the cable supporting the bar until you get to the height you are comfortable with.
  • The bar should rest at a height where your extended arms can grasp it without you needing to stand up. However, you should make sure the bar height will still allow you to extend your arms to achieve full range of motion.
  • If there is a thigh pad at the station, you can adjust it and tuck your thighs under it. This will help you pull the bar down more comfortably.

How to do it:

  • Using an overhand grip, grab the bar. Your knuckles should be facing up.
  • Pull the bar down, bringing it to chin level. Make sure you exhale during this motion.
  • Keep your torso stationary, your feet flat and your core tight.
  • Stop pulling the bar when you get to the point where you are unable to move the elbows down anymore without them sticking out backward. This should be your bottom position.
  • Maintain square shoulders by squeezing your shoulder blades together.
  • Once you get to the bottom position, slowly start returning the bar to the starting position as you control its descent. Make sure it does not crush into the weight plates.
  • Do 8-12 reps per set.

WHAT MUSCLES DOES THE CABLE LAT PULLDOWN WORK?

LATS

The lats are one of the largest muscle groups on your back. They help with shoulder extension and abduction.

This exercise predominantly works your lats as you use your back to provide the driving power for pulling the bar down to your chin and back up.

REAR DELTOIDS

This movement also recruits your posterior deltoids that are located on your shoulder.

When you pull the cable, you externally rotate your arms and fire up these muscles.

Other muscles worked by the cable lat pulldown are the core, lower back and the muscles on your leg.

CABLE LAT PULLDOWN BENEFITS

ISOLATES THE LATS

The cable pulley machine allows you to work your target muscles with little to no tension on other parts of your body.

This way, it enables you to fully focus on your lats and see results fast, compared to other lat exercises.

BETTER POSTURE

This exercise requires that you keep your spine solid and straight.

Not only will this help with your fitness training but it will also prevent lower back and spinal injury.

SHOULDER AND ELBOW FLEXIBILITY

The full range of motion you apply when doing this exercise allows you to develop better mobility in your shoulder and elbow joints.

COMPOUND MOVEMENT

The cable lat pulldown is a multi-joint exercises that targets multiple muscles at the same time.

From the lats on your back to your abdominal muscles, this exercise pretty much touches on every single muscle group on your upper body.

Compound movements save you time by enabling you to work on multiple muscles at the same time.

HELPS WITH PULLING MOVEMENTS

The cable lat pulldown can help you develop better form for exercises that require pulling motions like pull ups.

Stronger lats are key when it comes to pulling your body upwards with control and precision.

ALTERNATIVES TO THE CABLE LAT PULLDOWN

PULL UP

The pull up is a bodyweight movement that works your lats just as hard as the cable lat pulldown.

How to do it:

  • Grab the pull-up bar with a grip slightly wider that shoulder-width apart.
  • Tighten your core and squeeze your shoulder blades.
  • Pull your elbows down to your side so you can pull your body up.
  • When you reach the bar, pause for a few seconds then begin your descent.
  • Your motions should be slow and controlled throughout the exercise.

CABLE LAT PULLDOWN MISTAKES TO AVOID

BENDING YOUR BACK

Keep your back solid and your spine straight so that you can keep as much tension in your lats as possible.

INCOMPLETE REPS

Beginners often make the mistake of failing to complete reps as it seems easier and it doesn’t put a lot of tension on the muscles.

Always make sure you perform the full range of movement to achieve the best results.

LIFTING TOO MUCH WEIGHT

When the weight you are lifting surpasses your strength level, you risk ruining your form and sustaining spinal injuries.

Focus on perfecting your technique by using lighter weights so that you can gain strength gradually.

After you have gained enough strength, you can then increase the weights to match your strength level.

WIDE GRIP

You should use an overhand grip that is about shoulder-width apart.

If your grip is too wide, you might not be able to use the full range of motion.

USING MOMENTUM

As with almost every other weighted exercise, you should perform the cable lat pulldown slowly and with as much control as you can muster.

Doing the movement fast uses momentum instead and you might end up not using the target muscles.

NOT TIGHTENING YOUR CORE

Make sure you tighten your abs as you pull down. This will help isolate your target muscles and help keep your back straight.

Tightening your abs also teaches you to engage your core in other exercises that require core stability.

USING YOUR FOREARMS

Do not use your forearms to pull the bar down as you perform this movement.

The power driving this exercise should come from your back so that you can fully engage and work your lats.

PULLING THE BAR TOO FAR DOWN

When you are lowering the bar, make sure you don’t lower it too far past your chin.

Also, make sure that as you are lowering, your elbows are not pointing backward to avoid putting too much stress on your shoulder joint.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The cable lat pulldown enables you to work multiple joints and muscles in your body while improving your posture and balance.

Moreover, unlike most lat exercises, this movement specifically targets and isolates your lats to give you more upper body strength.

Be sure to check out and if possible, include it in your upper body workout regimen.

If you have any upper body injury, consult your physical therapist or doctor before you do this exercise