What is a Lat Pulldown?

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  • Written By: A. Leverkuhn
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 19 August 2019
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A lat pulldown is an exercise, usually performed with a fixed weight machine, that works the Latissimus Dorsi or "lat" muscles. Many gym weight training areas include a lat pulldown machine that helps users work and tone this muscle group through progressive resistance. Progressive resistance means adding weight to sets of repetitions in increments. The lat pulldown is great for strengthening the body to support a wide range of activities.

The lat pulldown includes lowering the arms from an extended position above the head. Many might assume that the latissimus dorsi muscle group is in the arms because of how the lat pulldown exercise looks to observers. The "lats" are actually in the trunk or torso of the body. Some consider the latissimus dorsi part of the core muscle area that provides for overall body capacity.

In a fixed-weight lat pulldown, the fitness participant sits on a seat. He or she then grabs a set of long handles several feet above the seat, so that the arms are extended. A specific amount of weight is selected by changing the location of a "set pin." The user pulls the handles down, working against the selected weight. This action works the lat muscles and some other muscle groups.


According to fitness experts, the main function of the lats is to support actions of the shoulder joint. That's why a pulldown for the lats makes sense, because the action of pulling down the handles works the shoulder, and by extension, the latissimus dorsi lower down in the body. This exercise is an illustration of how action in one part of the body can have an effect on a larger region of the body. Trainers may use the example of a lat pulldown or latissimus dorsi exercise to show how various areas of the body are inherently interconnected.

There are some different types of lat pulldown equipment. Two of the main ones are fixed arm machines, where a steel beam provides stability for the pulldown action, and a freer cable type machine, where the user has to be careful to keep his or her actions within a certain range. Good form is important for a pulldown. Trainers often make sure their clients understand how doing the exercise incorrectly can minimize some of its benefits. In a pulldown exercise, the back should be straight, and the action should follow a trajectory that puts the correct pressure on the shoulder and muscle groups.


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