Straight-Arm Lat Pull-Down Exercise Guide
Straight-arm lat pull-down (standing cable pullover) is a good exercise for the middle back, but it does not allow you to load up with much weight, because the cable would pull you upward. Even so, it works the latissimus dorsi from a different angle than conventional machines. In contrast to other lat exercises, the biceps is hardly involved while the triceps holds the elbow in position isometrically and the long head is also actively involved in the effort. This muscle use is similar to certain swimming strokes. Beginners may find it difficult to achieve good technique, and the exercise is therefore recommended for experienced athletes. This exercise uses the stabilizers of your core, your quads, and your glutes to fix you in position. Avoid this exercise if you suffer from any shoulder problems.
Straight-Arm Pull-Down Perfect Technique
STARTING POSITION: Stand, facing the high pulley (cable machine) or stand behind the bench of a lat pulldown apparatus, with your legs shoulder-width apart and your spine in a neutral position. Grasp the bar in an overhand grip with your palms facing down and your arms extended (but not locked out). Step back a foot or two (about 30 to 60 cm) so the weight doesn’t rest on the stack. The bar is around your head level. You can bend slightly forward at the hips (no more than 10-15 degrees) or you can remain your body fully upright.
MOVEMENT (ACTION): Inhale and bring the bar down and toward you in a controlled movement until it touches your thighs, keeping your arms extended (elbows can be slightly bent). Expand your chest and arch your back at the end of the movement to get more traction. Hold the contraction for a count, then slowly return to the start position.
Straight-Arm Lat Pull-Down Key Points
- Keep your head level and eyes forwards.
- Hold your arms straight.
- Bend slightly at the knees.
- Maintain straight arms throughout the movement.
- Keep your body well braces.
- Do not bend your hips to “muscle down” the weight.
- Keeping your back and arms straight (and the rest of the body in the same position), bring the bar all the way down to your upper thighs in an arc.
- Avoid elevating your shoulders towards your ears, arching your back, and bending your arms.
- Expand your chest and arch your back at the end of the movement to get more traction.
- Don’t shrug or push with your arms; instead, try to isolate the lats.
- The pulley helps you maintain continuous tension during the contraction phase, which you cannot do with dumbbells.
Straight-Arm Cable Pull-Down Variations
- Use a rope attachment so that the hands are close together and on a neutral position (palms facing each other).
- To extend the range of motion, bend farther at the waist so that your torso is a roughly a 45-degree angle to the floor. Begin each rep with your hands overhead.
Replacement Exercises (Substitutes)
Muscles Involved in Straight-Arm Lat Pull-Down
- Main muscles: latissimus dorsi, teres major and minor, triceps
- Secondary muscles: deltoid (rear), rhomboids, pectoralis major (lower), trapezius, serratus anterior
- Antagonists: deltoid (front), coracobrachialis, pectoralis major (upper)
Straight-arm lat pull-down (standing cable pullover) can be very useful isolation exercise for the latissimus dorsi and, to a lesser extent, the chest muscles. In fact, many swim coaches use this middle back exercise to develop a powerful crawl stroke.
If you want to isolate your lats, virtually eliminating biceps muscles, this exercise is your answer. Keep in mind that because of the virtual elimination of the biceps and forearms, you won’t be able to use nearly as much weight as you can on a regular pulldown. Also, this is a cool exercise to finish your back workout. The key to this exercise is to use just enough weight to work the lats and serratus without having to swing the body or bend the elbows, which would bring the triceps into play.