January 2, 2009, Newsletter Issue #359: Lat Pull-Down

Tip of the Week

The Lat Pull-Down is a machine that allows one to exercise their Latissimus Dorsi muscles as well as their biceps, deltoids, rhomboids, trapezius and abdomen.  If you don't know what the Lat Pull-Down is, it is the machine where you sit down and pull the bar from above your head to your chest.  Let's get a little more knowledge about the Latissimus Dorsi muscle before I explain proper form.

Your Latissimus Dorsi muscles serve one large purpose in the Lat Pull-Down exercise: 'scapular depression'.  Your scapula are the 'winged' bones in your upper back on either side.  At the bottom of your scapula your latissimus dorsi muscle attaches (separately) on both sides of your back.  This means that when your Latissimus Dorsi works properly (by contracting) it should pull your scapula down, or 'depress' them.  In turn, this will bring your shoulders back as well, arching your back slightly.  Back to the exercise...

When done properly, the Lat Pull-Down machine should bring your scapula down and bring your shoulders back while you pull.  In the gym usually people put way too much weight on it and end up lifting their shoulders up as they do the motion; this completely destroys the purpose of the Lat Pull-Down and actually teaches the body to function improperly by using more shoulders rather than back.  The back in turn stops functioning properly, which is why you see so many people with very forward shoulders in the gym.  

During the Lat Pull-Down use light weight, and make sure that as you pull the bar to your chest you are leaning back just slightly and your shoulders do not come forward, but instead go back.  You should feel a squeeze/crunch/contraction in the muscles of your mid-back once the weight is at your chest, and then slowly bring the weight back up until your arms are straight.  As you perform the motion again just make sure that your scapula is depressed (essentially meaning your shoulders are back) and they stay back, especially at the end of the motion when the weight is at your upper chest.

Try it out, and good luck!

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