Machine Lat Pulldown Exercise
Machine lat pulldown is another excellent strength training exercise for developing back width if you lack the upper body strength to lift your own body-weight in the regular chin-up (pull-up). This exercise is done on a machine that is rarely found in most gym. However, the machine allows strict work on the latissimus dorsi and adjacent muscles. It is also highly recommended for beginners. The machine is not very versatile, which makes it relatively uncommon in gyms, in contrast to the cable lat pulldown machine, which produces identical results but is more flexible, making it possible to use different grips (wide grip/close grip; underhand/overhand grip, etc).
Machine Lat Pulldown Exercise Instructions – Proper Technique
- Place thighs under restraining pads, keeping torso upright.
- Grip the handles with arms fully extended overhead.
Downward Movement Phase
- Pull handles downward slowly below chin, keeping your elbows close to your sides.
- Exhale throughout pulling movement.
Upward Movement Phase
- Return slowly to starting position with arms fully extended.
- Inhale throughout the upward movement.
- Bending the torso forward to get help from the chest and abdominal muscles;
- Limited range of motion;
- Using too little weight
- Pull your arms straight down towards the floor by squeezing your shoulder blades together and pinching them down.
- As you go up draw your abdomen in to use your core muscles to stabilize your lower back.
- Don’t move the weight up and down too fast. Always control the weight throughout the set especially when you bring the handles back up.
Muscles Engaged in Machine Lat Pulldown Exercise
Machine lat pulldown primarily works the latissimus dorsi (mid- and lower back), teres major (below the shoulder blades), and the rhomboids (upper back). More specifically:
- Main muscles: latissimus dorsi, biceps (short head), teres major
- Secondary muscles: pectoralis major (lower and outside), triceps (long head), teres minor, rhomboids, brachioradialis, biceps (long head), deltoid (front and rear)
- Antagonists: deltoid, pectoralis major (upper), triceps
Machine Lat Pulldown Variations
- One-handed machine lat pulldown. If the machine is equipped with independent levers, you can do the exercise one-handed (also possible with a standard machine, although the position is rather awkward). It is advisable to do while this holding one weight up in place in order to stabilize the spinal column. You can either do an entire set with one arm or alternate. In any event, you will
achieve a good, long movement, providing the machine is well designed.
Replacement Exercises (Substitutes)
There are plenty of other alternative exercises that do the same thing. You are free to choose any other latissimus dorsi exercise from the list. They are all excellent for developing back width.
- Pull-Ups or Assisted Pull-Ups
- Vertical traction exercise
- Wide-grip lat pulldown
- Behind the neck lat pulldown
- Close grip lat pulldown
- Straight-arm lat pulldown
- Dumbbell pullover
Closing Thoughts About Machine Lat Pulldown Exercise
The main reason why so few gyms have this machine is entirely due to business and financial reasons and has nothing to do with its usefulness for back workouts, which is equivalent to chin-ups. One interesting feature is that this type of lat machine allows you to put your head between the grips, which you cannot do with either chin-ups or cable lat pulldowns (unless you use split bars).