• Stand facing the weight stack at a lat-pulldown station with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Reach up and grasp a standard lat-pulldown bar or long straight bar with an overhand (pronated) grip, hands shoulder-width apart, arms straight.
  • Start with the bar at shoulder level, arms extended and parallel to the floor.
  • Bend your knees slightly, keeping your head straight and lower back in a natural arch. Lean forward a bit and inhale deeply.
  • Keeping your arms straight, pull the bar down toward your thighs in a wide, sweeping arc, focusing on using just your lats as you pull.
  • Exhale as you pass the midpoint of the move, and squeeze your lats hard once the bar reaches your thighs.
  • Return to the starting position in a smooth, controlled motion, stopping once your arms are parallel to the floor.


  • For a great pump, use the straight-arm pulldown as a pre-exhaust move before compound exercises such as rows, or as a finishing move at the end of your back routine.
  • Concentrate on making your lats do the work. Don’t allow your elbows to bend, which would elicit greater involvement of the triceps to assist in the move.
  • Make sure you don’t use momentum to go into the next rep. Doing so will decrease the tension on your lats and could result in injury, particularly when using heavier loads.
  • For a greater stretch on the lats, increase your forward lean and allow the bar to travel above your head, thereby increasing the range of motion.

The Lift Lowdown

When: As a pre-exhaust exercise or finishing move on back day.

With: Add this isolation movement to your back routine of deadlifts, bent-over rows, seated rows and lat pulldowns.

How: Perform 2-3 sets of 10-15 controlled reps.

Last Rep

While you can regularly overload your back with heavy compound movements such as rows, deadlifts and pulldowns, it’s difficult to isolate your lats. With the straight-arm lat pulldown, however, you can focus specifically on your lats without the worry of supporting muscle groups shouldering too much of the load. With practice, this exercise can bring out fine details in your lat sweep, helping you achieve the much-desired V-taper. Add the straight-arm lat pulldown to your regular assortment of heavy movements for complete back development.