Lat Pull Down Technique - How to correct a client

Lat Pull Down Technique: How to correct a client

Understanding and knowing the correct lat pull down technique is crucial for 3 reasons.

  1. Knowing the in’s and out’s of the lat pull down technique will benefit you for your level 2 or level 3 anatomy and physiology exam.
  2. This exercise may be selected in your final practical assessment both at level 2 fitness instructor and level 3 personal trainer. So knowing the In’s and Out’s are a must!
  3. Most importantly… for when you work with clients once qualified. The advice below could supercharge your client’s performance and results.


and take notes as you go through today’s Lat Pull Down technique tutorial making this complex topic, super simple!

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Anatomy fact of the Lat Pull Down technique

The lat pull down is a compound exercise meaning more than one joint is moving.  During the concentric and eccentric phrase, the shoulder, elbow and wrist move.

The lat pull down is designed to target many muscles of the back, most notably the latissimus dorsi or lats for short.  The latissimus dorsi is the prime mover or agonist muscle. Meaning the Latissimus dorsi brings about the movement in the first place.  The antagonist or opposing muscle to the latissimus dorsi is the deltoids.  Whilst the latissimus dorsi is contracting the deltoids are lengthening and relaxing.

The primary joint actions that occur during the lat pull down are listed below however, it is important to note that accessory joint motions occur depending on how the individual performs the exercise.

During the Concentric Phase (pulling bar towards the chest)

  • Shoulder adduction
  • Elbow flexion
  • Scapulae retraction

During the Eccentric Phase (returning to the start position)

  • Shoulder abduction
  • Elbow extension
  • Scapulae protraction

Lat Pull Down Targeted Muscles 

Lat Pull Down Technique: Common Errors

Pulling the Bar Behind Your Neck

Performing behind-the-neck lat pull downs is a controversial exercise and one that should be avoided. While behind-the-neck pull downs can effectively target the latissimus dorsi, the pros do not outweigh the cons.

The same or greater levels of muscle activation occurs with front-of-the-neck lat pull downs, in addition to the body maintaining better posture and joint alignment. Behind-the-neck-pull downs require the individual to poke their head forward to provide a clear path for the bar towards the base of the neck.

A forward head posture can promote muscular tightness of several large neck muscles (i.e., sternocleidomastoid, levator scapulae, scalenes). In addition, a behind-the-neck lat pull down may cause greater stress to the shoulder capsule and ligaments. Some research this exercise may even cause greater risk to the rotator cuff musculature. This may be due to excessive external rotation of the shoulder when performing this exercise.

In summary...

Individuals should aim to perform all resistance training exercises with a neutral cervical spine posture.

Pulling the Bar to the Waist Line

Another mistake that usually occurs is when people pull the bar to their lower rib or waist area.

The problem with this move is that the lat muscles are not engaged, but the arm muscles are.  On top of that, going below the clavicle will put extra stress on the shoulder muscles and more notable the rotator cuffs.  In my opinion, this is the most common mistake. So, pay attention to move the bar to the top of your chest.

Too Wide Hand Grip

Since most of the bars are rather wide, people think the wider they grip it, the better.

However, the bar is wide because it must be suitable for everyone in the gym. There are a few reasons why too wide grip is a mistake. The first is that it will reduce the range of motion for the latissimus dorsi, meaning the muscles are not engaged and stimulated.  Finally, this wide grip can also place further stress on the shoulder muscles as the shoulder joint is in an unnatural position.

In Summary What Are The Key Teaching Points To Look Out For?

Key Teaching Points

Get your hips below the pulley point

Pull the bar to the clavicle and no lower

Keep the body aligned, focusing on the natural c-spine curve.

Choose a grip just over shoulder width apart

Avoid any swaying motion to assist

Don't forget the lower body alignment as well!

Now Test Yourself:

Level 2 Anatomy & Physiology Mock Questions below:

[NOTE: The answers are below the 3rd questions]

QUESTION 1: What is the prime mover in the Lat Pull down?

A. Biceps

B. Latissimus Dorsi

C. Rhomboids

D. Trapezius


QUESTION 2: What is the antagonist muscle to the Latissimus Dorsi?

A. Deltoids

B. Pectorals

C. Abdominals

D. Biceps

QUESTION 3: Which joint action occurs at the shoulder during the concentric phase of the lat pull down?

A. Lateral Flexion

B. Flexion

C. Adduction

D. Abduction

Mock Question Answers

Question 1= B, Question 2 = A, Question 3 = C

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