We have often heard that working out with some weights and machines in the gym can cause muscle imbalances. To some extent it is true but not with all gym machines. There are some machines which when appropriately used they help strengthen the upper body especially the hand muscles, shoulder, and elbow. Lat pulldown machine also known as cable pulldown machine is a common feature in many commercial fitness centers and gyms. Incorporating the lat pulldown machine in your workout routine has several benefits including muscular balance, better aesthetics, better posture, and increased overall strength.
This multi-joint exercise primarily targets latissimus dorsi commonly known as the pulling muscle (the muscle under the armpits spreading across and down the back). This exercise strengthens the back muscles that are responsible for proper posture and ease pulling movements such as starting a lawnmower, performing a pull-up, and opening a door.
Pull-up vs. Pull-down
As opposed to pull-ups that are more demanding even for experienced lifters, lat pulldowns are simple as you can adjust the weight as per your strength levels. The sitting position when on a lat pulldown machine with quads underneath the knee-pad allows for more isolation of lats as compared to pull-ups.
Apart from the lat muscles using the lat pulldown machine help strengthen brachialis, brachioradialis, and biceps. Brachialis and brachioradialis together support the action of biceps. Biceps are responsible for flexing the arm at the elbow. Biceps provides you with the strength to lift and pull something and motions such as rowing.
Several shoulder muscles such as infraspinatus, teres major and deltoids are also stimulated by pulldown motions. Shoulder muscles help rotate the arm in all directions. Strengthening your shoulder muscles is very beneficial especially if you participate in sports that swing a stick or bat, or throw a ball. Frequent pulldown exercises also increase the muscular endurance of the shoulder reducing likelihood of shoulder injuries when you throw a lot. Shoulder exercises can be also trained by cheaper push-up bars.
In addition to strengthening lat muscles, pulldown exercises strengthen your lower and upper back muscles such as the teres minor, teres major, rhomboids and trapezius. The back muscles work together with the arm to provide enough force when pulling against resistance. Having a strong back prevent posture abnormality caused by too much chest training. A strong back allows you to row fast.
Lat Pulldown vs. Slouching
Pulldowns also help reduce and alleviate pain and pension. Sitting on a computer for long can cause tension to your shoulder and back due to the underuse of lat muscles. Regular pulldown exercise help improves your posture and strengthens the lat muscles to increase to the overall health of your muscle tissues and reduce back pains.
Regular exercise increases the rate of metabolism. Burning of calories reserved in the body help reduce the risk for chronic illness such as arthritis, heart-related disorders, and osteoporosis. Lat pulldown exercise also promotes muscle balance. Immediately after bench press exercise, you should go to lat pulldown exercise to avoid muscle imbalance.
Using lap pulldown machine is a simple exercise, but improper use of it can lead to back problems. There are common mistakes many people make when using lap pulldown machine such as emphasizing on the biceps over the lats. You should only use your biceps after bringing your shoulder blades together and down. Overuse of your arms will make you burn out of the lat pulldown machine faster.
The position of the elbows determines the part of the back you’re stressing. For better results always keep your elbows within your vision when emphasizing on your side lats and behind you when emphasizing on your upper lats. When you feel like your arm is burning much faster than your back you should change your grip. To use your forearm less consider using a hook grip (open grip).
Your neck and head should also remain in their natural position to avoid straining. You should also adjust the knee pads to hold your body immobile when working out on a lat pulldown machine. Also, make sure to set your feet flat and bring your chest forward.
Go for the wide-grip-variation if you’re looking to improve your overall strength and the width of your back. The behind-the-neck variation puts more stress and strain to the body, the risk for injury is high, and you should start with lighter weights. Other lat pulldown variations include the reverse close-grip, V-bar pulldown, and the single-arm lat pulldown.