Have you ever seen someone leaning really far back while doing lat pulldowns and almost pulling the bar down to their stomach? If you’ve asked, should you lean back on lat pulldown, you’re not alone.
Does this lead to more lat growth? In this article, I’ll break down the perfect form for the lat pulldown so that you can get the most out of the movement.
Should You Lean Back During Lat Pull Downs?
Leaning back will take the lats out of the movement and turn it into more of a row. This is not the goal as we wish to target the lats. Instead, try to mimic the pull up by keeping your back as upright and straight as possible while pulling your arms and elbows out to your sides as they come down. Obviously, you’ll have a slight lean to avoid hitting yourself in the face with the bar but try to avoid leaning back any further than that.
Should You Lean Back Lat Pulldown?
Let’s discuss the perfect lat pulldown form and if leaning back helps or hinders the lift.
Correct Lat Pulldown Form
Start by adjusting the pad so that it’s tight against your thighs. This is important because you can actually drive your legs into the pad to help you pull the bar down. This results in more weight being lifted for more reps, further breaking down the lats and building more muscle.
Grasp the bar just outside shoulder width while looking forward. Your chest should be directly under the lat pulldown bar. A grip too wide won’t allow you to pull as much weight, and a grip too far inwards will make the arms and traps take over the movement, rather than the lats.
Retract your shoulder blades and pull the bar down to your upper chest. Pull the body towards your body, rather than away from it. Make sure to keep your chest up and back straight throughout the movement.
Squeeze your elbows down into your sides to incorporate your lats. Make sure you pull your elbows down to your sides, rather than pulling them backward. Thinking of pulling from your ring and pinky finger will help activate mind-muscle connection and feeling the contraction in the lats.
Think about lifting your chest up towards the bar as you lower it, this will also help you incorporate your back muscles.
You should avoid leaning back as it will cause you to use momentum to pull the weight down, rather than the back muscles doing all the work. By leaning back your arms and entire body will take over the movement.
Leaning back places a lot of tension on the lower traps and takes away from the lats, changing the movement into more of a row. The goal of a LAT pulldown is to work the lat muscles. To do so, we must retract the scapula and pull it straight down while keeping the body as straight as possible.
If you are having trouble feeling the movement in your lats, try lowering the weight. It is better to use lightweight and perform the movement correctly to gain muscle. Once you’ve mastered mind-muscle connection with a lightweight, you can slowly increase the weight.
Swinging heavyweight up and down will only increase the risk of injury and leave you with small lats which we do not want. Using too heavyweight is usually what causes people to lean back as they are trying to incorporate their entire body for help.
Benefits Of The Lat Pulldown
The lat pulldown is great for building that v-taper physique that so many of us strive for. Big lats will stick out even from the front, making it appear as though you have wings. Wide lats also make your chest look bigger as they have more area to spread across.
Strong lats will carry over to a lot of other lifts such as the deadlift, squat, and even the bench press. This should be pretty obvious for deadlifts, the lats help keep the spine extended and also depress the scapula.
They help pull your shoulders back preventing them from injury during the movement. They are also important in making sure the bar does not drift too far in front of the body.
The lats also play a major role in stabilizing your body during the squat. They keep the bar securely on your back and help you keep an upright torso. This prevents the back from rounding and causing injury.
How could your lats possibly assist you in benching? Well, you use your lats to help stabilize your body as your drive the bar up. Bigger lats will give you more spring when your press the bar off of your chest.
Lats are great for helping improve your posture. They pull your shoulders back, preventing you from having a hunch back and leaning forward. This will help fight back pain as well.
Lat pull downs also target all the muscles in the upper back including the rhomboids, teres major, teres minor, rear delts, and the biceps.
Having more muscle on your body helps burn more fat, while also boosting confidence. The more body fat you have on your body, the less testosterone you will have. That means that losing fat and gaining muscle will help you increase your lifts.
Lat Pulldown Variations
Pull ups are a great way to increase the intensity of your lat pulldowns. They are an identical movement but are a lot more difficult as you also have to stabilize your body and be able to lift your own weight.
Pull ups also add a lot of extra bicep and spinal erector work, while also working the entire back. They are also great for building grip strength which will assist you when performing lat pulldowns.
Get a cheap pulldown bar that you can set up in your own house from amazon. Then you can get in reps when you’re at home.
Underhand Grip Pulldown
Using the underhand grip allows you to pull the bar down further and place more tension on lats. This will maximize the contraction at the bottom of the movement.
Grasp the bar closer to the center with your palms facing yourself and drive your elbows down and close to your body while squeezing your lats.
Note that you want to lean back slightly. Just enough so that you can pull the bar down to your rib cage for an extra range of motion. The underhand variation places more activation on the lower lats, whereas the overhand variation will target the upper lats.
Close Grip Pulldowns
Close grips pulldowns are a great way to add an extra range of motion to your pulldowns, placing extra tension on the lats. Most people can use more weight on this variation, allowing even more breakdown and growth of the lats.
Check out this great post for more information on the close grip pulldown.
Should you ever do a behind the head lat pulldown?
Pulling from behind the head doesn’t target the lats as much as the regular version, and increases the risk of injury on the neck and spine. Because of this, there is no reason to do behind the neck pull downs.
If you’re looking for another variation of the lat pulldown to target each side of the lat at a time, check out this video by ATHLEAN-X.
Now you have plenty of variations, which ones should you do? I recommend switching between all of them to get the most muscle gains out of each. Each variation will target a slightly different part of the back and each has different benefits.
Increase Your Lat Pulldown
Improving your grip strength is a great way to increase all back exercises. Lat pulldowns are no exception as you must be able to pull the heavy bar down. If your grip gives out, you will be missing out on back growth.
Consider doing deadlifts, reverse curls, and forearm exercises to increase your grip strength. You can also purchase cheap grip strengtheners that will make a huge difference if used frequently. Here’s a link to get them off of Amazon.
Proper recovery is crucial for increasing any lift in the gym. Your muscles grow when your body is resting so you should be sleeping 7-9 hours a night to ensure maximum growth. Also, make sure that you aren’t training your back muscles again for 48 hours after you last trained them. This gives them enough time to fully recover for the next session.
Nutrition should also be taken into account. You cannot get stronger if you aren’t supplying your body with the nutrients it needs to grow. You should be in a calorie surplus if you’re trying to pack on as much muscle as possible.
Don’t forget to stay hydrated. Water helps transport all the nutrients you feed your body into the muscles. Water also provides proper pumps and allows your muscles to recover after a difficult workout.
You should be progressively overloading by either increasing reps, sets, or weight each time you go into the gym. You can also decrease rest times or increase intensity. This ensures that you are always gradually getting stronger and not plateauing.
Simply training your back more will force it to grow stronger and increase your lat pulldown. Deadlifts, barbell rows, and machine rows are all great ways to do this.
Avoid leaning back as much as possible when performing the lat pulldown as it will take the lats out of the movement.
Master your form and start with low weight before going heavy. It is better to use lightweight and properly contract the muscles than it is to go heavy and boost your ego.
Incorporate the different pulldown variations into your training for maximum back growth.
Let me know if you have any questions or comments below and I’ll get back to you!