“What is the proper form for lat pulldowns?” – Terrance Hill

Most lifters sacrifice form for more weight when performing lat pulldowns.  They turn the movement into a combination of an explosive back extension and a wide grip row.  Unfortunately, throwing the weight and using momentum changes the effectiveness of the movement and decreases the following crucial element. 

Time Under Tension

One of the main training variables responsible for building more muscle mass is time under tension. Performing an exercise with an adequate amount of load, controlling the tempo of the movement (especially the eccentric or lowering phase), and focusing on contracting the targeted muscle groups as hard as possible, will make ANY exercise exponentially more effective.

To perform lat pull downs the right way, setup with the knees anchored under the pad and with an upright torso. Grab the bar with a moderate shoulder width grip or slightly wider as long as it doesn’t cause discomfort with your shoulders. Pull the bar deliberately down until it touches your upper chest, directly below your neck. I tell my athletes to imagine pulling with their elbows and not their hands. This simple cue will often help them engage the lats better.

Slowly lower the bar back up to the starting position on a 2-3 second count.  It is important to focus on controlling the eccentric phase of the movement – try to make it twice as long as the concentric or pulling phase – because more microtrauma is accumulated during this portion of the exercise – leading to greater levels of hypertrophy (muscle mass).


Meet the Lift Doctor

Jim Smith is a highly respected strength and conditioning coach and Fitness Advisory Board member for Schwarzenegger.com and numerous national publications.  Owner of Diesel Strength & Conditioning, Jim has been called one of the most “innovative strength coaches” in the fitness industry. Jim’s FREE gift – The Mass Report – has been used by thousands of lifters and athletes to build muscle faster and break through training plateaus.