When used as part of a balanced strength training program, these types of exercises help maintain the body’s overall structural stability, which reduces the likelihood of injury, particularly shoulder injuries. This exercise can help improve musculoskeletal efficiency in situations where gaining access to a patient might be a little trickier than simply walking through their front door. Use the following tips to improve your strength.
Adjust the seat/thigh pad so you’re held in place. Place your hips against the pad and position your feet securely on the ground. You can raise your heels to more effectively stabilize yourself. Maintain good posture with your chest out and make sure you don’t slouch. With an overhand grip a little more than shoulder width apart, pull the bar to the top of your chest and pause. During this pause, squeeze the shoulder blades together to engage the scapular stabilizers.
Finally, in a slow and controlled manner, return the bar to its starting position. In my previous columns, I’ve described the back extension, which targeted the lower back and hip extensors. It’s important to include the upper back in a well-balanced strength and conditioning program to prevent shoulder injuries and maintain overall structural integrity.
Muscles targeted: Upper back, including latissimus dorsi, posterior deltoid, teres major, teres minor, infraspinatus, trapezius and rhomboids
It’s important to note that the pause after pulling the weight to the chest is very important because it eliminates momentum, which requires the muscles targeted to hold the weight and then control the descent. Additionally, momentum and ballistic movements place excessive stress on the connective tissue and increase the possibility of injury. Behind the neck, lateral pulldowns should be avoided because of the excessive strain placed on the rotator cuff and the increased likelihood of subacromial impingement and associated problems. Subacromial impingement occurs when the tissues that run under the acromion process on the scapula become inflamed. Impingement of the supraspinatus muscle and other tissue between the head of the humerus and the acromion process causes pain and further inflammation.
You can employ various grip widths and hand positions when performing this exercise. Experiment to see which grip width is most comfortable for you; I recommend a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip, but not so wide that the exercise causes you shoulder pain. Also, a supinated or underhand grip can be used and may be less stressful on the rotator cuff muscles. A narrower hand grip can be comfortably used when performing lateral pulldowns with a supinated grip.
Some of the common mistakes include poor posture, excess movement and excess speed, pulling the weight too far past the upper chest, performing the exercise with too wide of a grip and rounding the back. Be sure to avoid these errors to avoid injury. The lat pull down is a fundamental movement which targets a major muscle group that should be included in any balanced strength training program.