By: Will Sunner

Lat pulldowns are an integral part of most fitness programs at One on One.  In addition to strengthening several muscles of the upper body, they also play a key role in improving posture and spinal stabilization. This week’s focus point will discuss the value of lat pulldowns and teach you how to perform them correctly.

Lat pulldowns are extremely effective at correcting the rounded-back, forward-head posture we often see today.  They train our body to depress (bring down) and adduct (bring together) the scapula (shoulder blades). Over time, we will begin to remember this pattern, while discouraging poor posture that comes from too much sitting.

Low back/pelvic instability is another common problem that can be addressed with the lat pulldown. Poor positioning of the lumbar spine (low back) relative to the pelvis is a common cause of chronic back pain.  Our latissimus dorsi (large muscle of the back) serves as a powerful stabilizer of the lumbar spine as it influences multi-directional stability of the low back. If performed correctly, in a neutral-spine position, the lat pulldown is essential to any spinal stabilization program. In turn, it will help you perform many other exercises, including squats, deadlifts, and bench presses better through increased spinal stabilization.

Once your technique is established, this is one exercise that we can hit with the kind of intensity that stimulates your muscles to physiologically change (i.e. improve muscle tone) and create a metabolic disturbance.

A few tips on performing lat pulldowns:

  • Use different grips to change the muscular stimulus and avoid repetitive overuse injuries.
  • Maintain a slight backward lean and tall neutral spine.
  • Keep your head and neck relaxed.
  • Begin the exercise by bringing your shoulder blades down and together first, and then begin pulling down with your arms.
  • Pull the bar down between your chin and chest.
  • Do not allow your shoulders to roll forward.
  • Do not allow your low back to arch excessively.

For many, this exercise is done while working out independently, making it even more important that you maintain your focus and perform every rep with perfect form.  The lat pulldown offers tremendous bang for your buck value by strengthening the muscles of the upper body, improving posture and keeping the low back healthy. For this week and moving forward, let’s give this exercise the attention it deserves!

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