The pull-down is an excellent machine-assisted exercise that targets the latissimus dorsi of the back. The movement takes place from a seated position, which is beneficial for those recovering from a lower body injury. This is a great movement for those wishing to isolate the back while also giving the biceps and triceps a break.

This functional exercise helps with everyday activities such as starting a lawn mower, opening a door or lifting down a heavy item from overhead. It can also be used to prepare the latissimus dorsi for the rigors of completing a pull up.

How To

  • Set your weights and to make sure any locking mechanisms have been released.
  • Take a seat on the bench and check to make sure that your feet are planted firmly on the floor. Your thighs should fit snugly under the padded bar just in front of you. Adjust the seat if necessary and check to make sure that you can reach the handles above you while still remaining seated. If you cannot reach the handles, they can be adjusted.
  • Grasp the handles using an overhand grip, so that your palms are facing away from your body.
  • Engage your core, and while squeezing your shoulder blades pull the bar down until they are at about chin level. At this point, your elbows should not be able to go any lower. Do not pull your elbows backward in order to pull the bar lower. You will want to keep your upper body as still as possible.
  • To complete the exercise, slowly return the bar back up to its original position. Remember to do so in a controlled manner, as the return motion can be just as beneficial as the pull-down itself.


Three sets of 10 are a good amount of repetitions to complete for the average workout.


Alternative grips: Changing the position of your hands can be used in order to target different muscles. An overhand grip at about shoulder width targets more of the biceps and middle back, where a wider grip targets more back muscles. Holding the bar using an underhand grip with palms facing up, whether wide or narrow, primarily targets the biceps.

Standing: A standing variation of the exercise sees the user employing a straight arm pull-down. This targets the triceps on the back of the arms.

Cautionary Notes

Make sure that you are not using your forearms to do the pulling. You want the focus to be on your back. Picture drawing a line down your back with your shoulder blades as you pull the bar down.

Don’t pull your elbows so far down that you have to pull them back to keep going. This can put excessive stress on the shoulders

Always perform the motions slow and controlled. Using momentum to aid the motion only takes away from the benefit of the exercise.

You may have seen a pull-down that sees the bar brought down behind the head. The rotation in the shoulders that is caused by this motion can easily lead to injury. It can be especially problematic if you have any existing shoulder, wrist or elbow issues.

More Pull-Down Related Resources

Wide-grip lat pull-down exercise guide and videos | Weight Training Guide
How to Do a Lat Pulldown: Techniques, Benefits, Variations
5 Lat Pull-Down Variations For An Impressive Physique | Bodybuilding.com
How To Do The Lat Pull-Down | Coach

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