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The next time you do lat pulldowns in your back workout, you might want to start rocking. In this video, I’m going to show you how “bad” form on the lat pulldown could actually help turn this back exercise into an even more effective one by taking advantage of muscle movement and anatomy. Now, I’m not talking about the momentum of swinging the weights around and preventing the lats from even moving the bar. Instead, you will get focused contraction in the lat muscles and even greater range of motion capable of unlocking even more muscle hypertrophy.
First it helps to understand a bit of the anatomy of the lats. The key thing you want to remember is that while the lats are large and span a wide area of the back, ultimately they have a distal attachment on the upper arm. This means, the lats are going to be influenced by the position of the arm during pulldown movements.
You may have seen some people performing their lat pulldowns with an underhand grip and their elbows in front of their body while others prefer to do them with an overhand grip and their elbows out to the side. Is either one right or even better than the other? Well, from a standpoint of getting a stretch on the muscle, when the elbows are out in front of the body you can get a good stretch on the lats at the top of the pulldown since the origin and insertion will be furthest from each other.
That said, if you do these sitting completely upright, you will lose the ability to really extend the elbows back behind the body (a key function of the lats) and will limit the degree of contraction you are capable of. The bar will simply come to a stop around upper navel height and the range on the exercise is curtailed. You can lean back to remedy this problem but that immediately calls into action the rhomboids and upper back muscles to take over and limit the contribution and workload of the lats.
If you did the overhand pulldown instead, you’d have a better ability to pull the elbows behind the body into extension but the slightest lean back would shift the focus to the rear delts rather quickly. The next thing you can do is try the rocking pulldown instead. This will allow you to get the active adduction of the arms into the side while tilting the bar near midrange to accentuate the extension of the upper arm on one side as you finish out the movement.
If you haven’t tried this variation before, you will definitely want to give this one a run. You should feel an immediate difference in the intensity of the contraction of the lats and over time, better gains from doing this exercise this way. Remember not to just start by tilting the bar down. This is not even near the same as engaging the lats first by pulling the bar down as usual to about forehead height and then performing the asymmetrical tilting of the bar.
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