It’s been awhile since I last wrote about workout-related topics so I figured I’d take some time to discuss one of the most popular and beneficial back exercises – the Lat pull down.
(Beneficial if done correctly, that is.)
The Lat pull down primarily targets the Latissimus dorsi shown here:
Rockin’ And Rollin’
The single most common form-related no-no I see in the gym: rocking back and forth , bending at the waist and using momentum to cheat, thereby allowing a person to put up more weight; likewise, leaning back and using one’s own body weight to help pull the bar down (see picture).
It’s cheating, plain and simple, and in the long run a person who doesn’t observe proper form while exercising won’t receive the full benefit of working out in the first place, in this case, realizing significant gains in muscle strength and tone.
In order to isolate the target muscles properly, eliminate extraneous movement: bouncing, rocking, swinging. This applies to all exercises, not just the lat pull. The key here is using a slow, controlled movement throughout, resisting gravity over the entire range of motion.
Ideally, the only muscle (or muscles, in the case of compound exercises*) that should be moving is the one being trained (and of course, the opposing muscle group when the muscle is relaxed**).
Lat pull downs are very similar in motion to chin ups. However, there are some guys who insist on doing Lat pull downs by pulling the bar down behind their neck, so that the exercise really resembles a chin down more than a chin up.
During the contraction, or positive phase of the exercise, the bar should be kept moving in a vertical plane perpendicular to the floor, i.e., straight up and down. At the end of the full range of motion, the center of the bar should be below the chin, just touching the upper chest, with your head and neck in a neutral, relaxed position (See pictures below). The entire movement feels natural.
Pulling the bar down behind the neck requires a forward craning of the neck and head with the chin tilted downwards towards the chest. It feels awkward and unnatural and puts a lot of unnecessary biomechanical stress on the spine (which curves slightly to accomodate the motion)and the shoulder joints which, over time, can lead to serious injury.
Now there are many who will disagree with me, saying that it feels fine to them; that’s how they’ve done it for years and years. Still the risks outweight the benefits. If you’ve been doing it for awhile, consider shaking things up a bit and try something new. At the very least, if you are going to stick with the behind-the-neck method, use cables or a Lat pull machine that doesn’t use a single bar.
If you’re just starting out, observe proper form at all times, even if that means sacrificing weight in the beginning. Make it a habit, and don’t let your friends or other, more experienced gym goers convince you otherwise.
*A compound exercise is one that requires movement about more than one joint. The Lat Pull Down is a compound exercise because it involves movement at the elbow and shoulder joints, recruiting both the biceps muscle and the latissimus dorsi muscle. The Bench Press (see previous post) is also a compound exercise. The Bicep Curl, however, is not.
**Best illustrated with an example: the biceps and triceps are opposing muscle groups. Contraction of one of the opposing muscle groups results in an elongation of the the other.
You might also like
|Workout Pointer No. 1 People often come to me with questions about how to stay fit or get back in shape, that sort of thing,...||“Enjoy your workout!” I walk into the air-conditioned gym and hand my membership card over to The Cute Girl With The Nice...||Lift Weights And Lose Weight A friend of mine, Tracy, came to me with a fitness-related question awhile back. She had just started...||Women & Weightlifting A friend of mine recently got a gym membership. She asked me for some advice, so I told her what I've...|