Fitness Fundamental: How To Use The Lat Pulldown Machine

This one goes way back. Big gyms aside, if you go to a home gym or even a hotel fitness room you are almost guaranteed to find a lat pulldown machine. But just because it’s common and often used, doesn’t mean we are using it right! Take a moment to check yourself.

Here’s the Why

The lat pulldown is a perfect vertical pull exercise for your upper body. It works your biceps, posterior deltoids (rear shoulders), and your latissimus dorsi (“broadest muscle of the back”). It’s a great bang-for-your-buck if you want to build muscle and burn fat. And if done correctly, it will also help with chest and shoulder flexibility and scapular stability. Just make sure to watch your form, so you don’t risk a lower back injury in particular.

Here’s the How

Set the seat height so your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are comfortably under the pad. Then reach up to grab the bar a little wider than your elbows. As you are pulling down, lift your chest up, pull the bar down to your collarbone or upper chest, and squeeze your shoulder blades, with your elbows headed behind your back. Try to focus most on squeezing your shoulder blades together. If there is no scapular movement, your muscles aren’t getting the full effect.

Lat Pulldown Machine Direction


  • Keep your chest tall
  • Keep your back straight
  • Use your lat/back muscles to bring the bar down
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together
  • Pull the bar down to the top of your chest


  • Use your biceps too much on the way down
  • Use momentum to yank it down (a sign you are using too much weight!)
  • Lean back too much (a sign you are using too much weight!)
  • Curl forward over the bar (a sign you are using too much weight!)
  • Pull the bar behind your back

It’s as easy as that! Use as much weight as you can handle using proper form, slow and steady.

Need to see it in action? Watch this instructional video from howcast.

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