You’ve finally made it here! Your back and you want your lats to be huge and strong! (you see what I did there!)
You’ve been training hard in the gym and paying your dues with barbell rows, chin-ups and dumbbell rows! You have some muscle mass in your lats, and your overall back strength is up! But you want more! You demand more! You deserve more!
And I’m going to show you how to be back bigger! (I did it again!)
I want to share the most effective exercise to shape your back and give it the cobra-esque appearance you’ve always wanted!
My friend, I’ll give you the lat pushdown!
The most overlooked back and lat building exercise that will give you that wide cobra-esque look that we all work for!
So get ready and dedicate the next 5 mins of your life as I share with you just how good the lat push-down is, why you need to do it for a big back, what the benefits are and how you can add it to your back-building workout routine!
Lat pushdowns are an awesome strength-training exercise which targets the latissimus dorsi muscles. These two wing-looking muscles are in the upper back, giving you that brilliant v-shape look from the back (and front).
These muscles pull the arms down and back, making them important for exercises like pull-ups and rows.
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The lat pushdown primarily hits the upper back’s lattisimus dorsi muscles (the “lats”). They are significant back muscle that enables you to pull your arms down and back. Without them, you couldn’t row or push your chest out.
In addition to the lats, lat pushdowns can also engage other muscles in the back and arms, such as the trapezius, rhomboids, and triceps.
However, the primary focus of the exercise is on the lats, making it an effective way to target and strengthen this muscle group.
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I’ve put together five core benefits of this exercise which I have observed from training over 1000’s people:
Strengthening the Lats: As mentioned earlier, lat pushdowns target the latissimus dorsi muscles, which are essential for various upper body movements, including pull-ups and rows. Strengthening the lats can improve your overall upper body strength and help you perform these exercises more efficiently.
Improving Posture: Weakness in the upper back muscles can lead to poor posture and rounded shoulders. By strengthening the lats with exercises like lat pushdowns, you can help improve your posture and reduce the risk of back pain.
Enhancing Athletic Performance: Strong lats are essential for athletes who engage in sports that require upper body strength, such as swimming, rock climbing, and rowing. Lat pushdowns can help enhance your performance in these sports by improving your pulling strength and power.
Versatility: Lat pushdowns can be performed using various equipment, such as cable machines, resistance bands, or even dumbbells. This versatility makes it easy to incorporate lat pushdowns into your existing workout routine or switch up your training.
Isolation: Lat pushdowns offer a great way to isolate and target the lats specifically, which can be challenging with other compound exercises like pull-ups or rows.
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There are some key differences between the two exercises, and I can summarise them as follows:
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Whether you should do pushdowns standing or kneeling depends on your preference and fitness goals.
Over the years, I have got results from both movement styles and always defaulted to using both – changing them every workout.
Standing pushdowns are the more common variation of the exercise and involve standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and using a cable machine to push the weight down towards your thighs. This variation engages more stabilizer muscles in the legs and core and can help improve overall balance and coordination.
Kneeling pushdowns involve kneeling before a cable machine and pushing the weight from your upper chest toward your thighs. This variation removes the stabilization aspect of the exercise, allowing you to focus more on isolating and targeting the lats.
Ultimately, both standing and kneeling pushdowns can be effective exercises for strengthening the lats. If you’re new to the exercise, you may want to start with standing pushdowns to get a feel for the movement and engage more of your stabilizer muscles. As you become more experienced, you can try kneeling pushdowns to increase the isolation and focus on the lats.
Choosing the most comfortable and effective variation for your body and fitness goals is important.
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Stand in front of a cable machine with a high-pulley attachment and adjust the weight so you can get to 12 reps. (Make sure you use the long straight bar)
Grab the cable attachment with an overhand grip with the hands shoulder width and bring your elbows to your sides, keeping them tucked into your sides.
Engage your core and glutes to maintain a stable standing position.
Keeping your upper arms stationary, exhale and push the cable attachment down towards your thighs, fully extending your arms.
Pause at the bottom of the movement, feeling the contraction in your lats.
Inhale and slowly release the cable attachment back up to the starting position, maintaining control throughout the movement. Work on creating a mind-muscle connection to the back, as this can increase lat activation.
Congrats! You’ve just done one rep! Let’s go for 11 more!
You can add the lat push-down exercise to your existing back training but following the set and rep scheme below. OR, you can create a specialized back training routine that focuses on this exercise (see the two examples below)
Volume: Limit back volumes per week to 12 to 15 sets total
Sets: Per exercise, aim for 3 or 4 sets
Reps: Aim for 12 reps and add weight when you hit this top range.
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I am sharing five tips with you that have served my trainees and me well over the years:
1. Focus on proper form: Proper form and technique are essential for targeting the right muscles and preventing injury. Keep your elbows tucked in and your upper arms still throughout the movement. Use controlled, deliberate movements to work the muscles properly.
2. Use various grip types: Changing the grip of the cable attachment will help target different areas of the back and arms. Use a wide, narrow, or underhand grip to add variety to your lat pushdowns. I can’t stress just how important this is and its effect on the muscles with a minor change.
3. Vary the equipment used: While a cable machine is the most common equipment for lat pushdowns, you can also use resistance bands, a weighted dip belt, or a pull-up bar with hanging rings to perform the exercise.
4. Increase the weight gradually: Gradually increase the weight as you become strong and more comfortable with the movement. This will help you continue to challenge your muscles and avoid plateaus. Remember, stick with a target upper rep range; when you hit it, add more weight.
4. Incorporate supersets: Supersetting lat pushdowns with other upper body exercises can help increase the intensity of your workout and improve muscle endurance. For example, you could superset lat pushdowns with bicep curls or overhead presses.
By following these tips, you will maximize the effectiveness of your lat pushdowns and build a stronger, more defined back (and arms).
From the start, I want you to know what to avoid to maximize your back training gains.
Below are three top mistakes to avoid when training your back with this movement:
1. Using too much weight: Using too much weight will lead to poor form and technique, which can increase your risk of injury and prevent you from targeting the right muscles. Start with a weight that allows you to perform the exercise with proper form, and gradually increase the weight as you become stronger. Remember, you are no good to me or anyone if you are injured!
2. Swinging or using momentum: Swinging or using momentum to perform lat pushdowns takes the focus away from the targeted muscles and can lead to injury. Instead, use slow, controlled movements to engage the muscles properly.
3. Rounding the shoulders or back: Rounding the shoulders or back during lat pushdowns can put unnecessary strain on the spine and prevent you from targeting the right muscles. Keep your shoulders back and your chest up, and engage your core muscles to maintain proper posture throughout the exercise.
By avoiding these common mistakes, you can perform lat pushdowns safely and effectively, helping you build a stronger, more defined back and arms.
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I want you to enjoy your back-building journey, so it’s always good to know other movements you can add or substitute. Below are my top three exercises that I’d like you to add:
Pull-Ups: No back workout must ever exist without this bad boy exercise!
Pull-ups will add slabs of muscle to your back and upper body if performed with strict form and supplemented with progressive overload training (always adding weight or reps!).
The pull-up can be done on a pull-up bar, and weight can be added around your waist or feet to add more tension. Oh, and it’s also worth knowing that the pull-up will work nearly all the same muscles as the pushdown!
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#2 Seated Cable Rows
Nearly every gym has this machine! A low pulley cable machine that looks like you’d use it to start an engine!
But don’t ignore this lat machine. When performed correctly, it works the entire back and places huge stress on the lat muscles.
#3 Rack Chinsups or Smith Machine Chinups
I would say that this exercise has been the single more key movement to add in a lat workout regarding overall muscle mass and strength gains.
The fact that you can remove any leg-based cheating or momentum means that your upper body is fully responsible for executing the movement. Add these to your workout, either at the beginning or the end.
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Both the lat pushdown and the straight arm pulldown target the latissimus dorsi muscles. The straight arm lat pushdown emphasizes the long head of the lats more due to arm position, leading to a wider back.
Absolutely! With a light weight to start, extend your arms in front and pull down using your lats. Maintain a tight core and squeeze your shoulder blades together at the bottom of each rep for maximum effectiveness.
The Arnold back workout often included lat pushdowns as part of his comprehensive approach to back training. This exercise was beneficial in creating a strong and defined back, similar to Arnold’s impressive physique.
Lat Pushdowns are an essential exercise to incorporate into a wide back workout. They directly target the lats, a muscle group crucial for achieving a wide and V-shaped back.
The bent-over cable row is a compound exercise that targets several back muscles simultaneously. In contrast, lat pushdowns focus on isolating the lats. Both exercises are valuable for developing a strong and defined back.
The v-bar lat pulldown can indeed serve as a suitable alternative to lat pushdowns. While the exercises differ slightly in technique and grip, they both primarily target the latissimus dorsi, contributing to a strong and defined back.
Absolutely, rack pulls alternatives like deadlifts and barbell rows can complement lat pushdowns in a back workout. These exercises help in building overall back strength and definition.
Smith machine deadlifts are a great compound exercise that can be paired with lat pushdowns in a back workout. While lat pushdowns target the lats, smith machine deadlifts engage multiple muscle groups, contributing to overall back strength and definition.
Lat pushdowns are an upper body exercise that primarily works the muscles in the back, specifically the latissimus dorsi, or lats for short. The exercise involves using a cable machine with a bar attachment to push the bar downward while keeping your arms straight and pulling your shoulder blades down and together. This movement targets the lats and helps to build strength and definition in the back muscles.
Lat pushdowns can help build muscle mass in the back by targeting the lats, the largest muscles in the back. Using the cable machine and performing lat pushdowns, you can effectively isolate and stimulate the lats to grow in size and strength over time. Additionally, lat pushdowns also engage the triceps muscles, which can contribute to overall arm and back muscle growth.
Lat pushdowns and lat pulldowns are two different exercises that target the back and upper body muscles. Lat pulldowns involve pulling a weight down towards your body using a bar attached to a cable machine, while lat pushdowns involve pushing a weight down using a straight bar attached to a cable machine. The main difference between the two exercises is the direction of the movement, but both can be effective for building a strong and defined back.
Yes, straight arm lat pushdowns can effectively work the back muscles, specifically the lats. This exercise involves extending the arms straight down, engaging the lats to bring the weight down, and slowly releasing the weight back up. Keeping the arms straight throughout the exercise puts the latissimus dorsi muscle under tension, leading to activation and growth.
Strengthening the back muscles with lat pushdowns can lead to better posture, improved athletic performance, reduced risk of injury, and a more defined and aesthetically pleasing physique. Additionally, stronger back muscles can improve overall stability and balance, making it easier to perform daily tasks and exercises correctly.
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Lat pushdowns can be incorporated into a workout routine after exercises targeting larger muscle groups such as the chest or back. Aim to do 3 to 4 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions with proper form and technique. Additionally, consider adding lat pushdown variations, such as reverse grip or single-arm lat pushdowns, to add variety and challenge to your routine. As with any exercise, it’s important to gradually increase the weight and intensity to avoid injury and achieve maximum results.
Yes, lat pushdowns can help with muscle activation and growth in the back muscles. When performed with proper form and technique, lat pushdowns can effectively target the lats and other muscles in the back, leading to muscle activation and growth over time. This, in turn, can help improve overall back strength, posture, and appearance. Incorporating lat pushdowns into a well-rounded workout routine that includes other exercises and proper nutrition to optimize muscle growth and development is important.
Grip width and variations can impact the effectiveness of lat pushdowns. Wider grips tend to target the outer portion of the back muscles, while narrower grips focus on the inner portion. Overhand grips work the back muscles more than underhand grips, which tend to target the biceps. Varying grip width and using different grip types can help engage different parts of the back muscles and promote overall muscle growth and strength. However, it’s important to use proper form and not exceed your body’s limitations to avoid injury.
To create a complete back workout, lat pushdowns can be combined with other back exercises, such as rows, pull-ups, and deadlifts. These exercises target different areas of the back muscles, providing a well-rounded workout and helping to build strength and muscle mass and improve posture. It’s important to have a balanced workout routine that incorporates a variety of exercises to avoid muscle imbalances and prevent injury.
Lat pushdowns require a cable machine, a common gym equipment in most fitness centers. Some cable machines have specific attachments, such as a lat pulldown bar or rope, that can perform lat pushdowns.
Yes, lat pushdowns can also work the triceps muscles somewhat, especially when using a close grip or V-bar attachment. During the movement, the triceps are activated as a secondary muscle group, making lat pushdowns an effective exercise for targeting multiple muscle groups in the upper body. However, other exercises may be more effective if your goal is primarily to focus on the triceps.
The bar attachment used for lat pushdowns can affect the range of motion, grip width, and the muscles targeted during the exercise. Different attachments, such as a straight bar or a rope, can vary the exercise, allowing different muscle groups to work. Choosing the right attachment can help to target specific muscles and enhance the effectiveness of the exercise.
Cable pulldowns and lat pushdowns are two exercises that work for different muscle groups in the back. Cable pulldowns work the lats and upper back muscles, while lat pushdowns mainly work the lower back muscles. Cable pulldowns are performed with a wider grip, while lat pushdowns are performed with a narrower grip. Additionally, cable pulldowns involve pulling the cable down towards the chest, while lat pushdowns involve pushing the cable down towards the thighs.
Lat pushdowns can be useful for strengthening and building the back muscles, but they should not be considered a complete replacement for pull-ups and rows. Pull-ups and rows work a wider range of muscles in the back and also engage the arms and shoulders to a greater degree, while lat pushdowns primarily target the lats and triceps. To ensure a well-rounded back workout, it is recommended to include a variety of exercises that target different muscles and movement patterns.
There are several variations of lat pushdowns, including:
Overhead lat pushdowns – This variation focuses on the upper back muscles, particularly the traps.
Reverse grip lat pushdowns – This variation targets the lower lats and can help improve overall back width.
Straight arm lat pulldown – This variation helps correct muscle imbalances and allows for a deeper lats stretch.
V-bar lat pushdowns – This variation allows for a more neutral grip and can simultaneously target the lats and triceps.
Each variation targets slightly different areas of the back and can be used to add variety to a workout routine.
Resistance bands, dumbbells, and ropes can add variety to lat pushdowns. For resistance band lat pushdowns, attach the band to a high anchor point and hold onto the other end of the band. Hold a dumbbell with both hands and perform the exercise as usual for dumbbell lat pushdowns. For rope lat pushdowns, attach a rope to the cable machine instead of a bar and hold onto the ends of the rope instead of the bar. These variations can help target different parts of the back muscles and provide a new challenge to your workout routine.
Has the penny dropped?
Have you seen the light?
A “Hell yeah!” is what I want to hear!
So let’s get these added to your workout. But remember, you must adhere to a strict form, and controlled motion and adopt the progressive overload training principle!
If you follow the above, I guarantee that within 12 weeks your back and lats will be bigger and stronger and you will need new shirts and t-shirts!