How To Use The Lat Pulldown Machine | Proper Form & Exercise Technique

First off, we’ll establish what a lat-pull down is and why you should consider incorporating it into your training routine. ‘Pulldown’ refers to one of the popular movements used to target the lats.

‘Lat’ is short for Latissimus Dorsi which is the name of the muscle being worked. The lats are located dorso-laterally on the upper half of the body at the back, posterior to the arms. By engaging the lats in hypertrophy we’re able to increase their size which can be beneficial for a number of reasons. 

Benefits Of The Lat Pulldown Exercise

Having bigger, thicker, wider lats will shorten the distance you need to bring the bar down when bench-pressing. As the bar will reach your chest quicker due to the thickness of your lats making the length of your arms appear shorter; this means that the movement of bench-press is made easier.
backtraining lat pull down machine

Why perform this exercise?

The lat pull down is one accessory movement that many people overlook when it comes to improving anything other than strength of the back and hypertrophy of the lats, however it’s a very valuable exercise for specifically increasing hypertrophy of the lats improving bench-press technique.

Targeting The Lateral Muscles

As the lats are such large muscles, they’re involved in a number of compound exercises. Deadlifts are one of the exercises that the lats play a part in; a number of muscles in the back are activated when performing this movement and it’s important that each one is able to handle a share of the load because the deadlift is one of the most taxing exercises. 

As for squats; by activating your lats when prepping for squats you’ll have more muscle thickness and width in your back and therefore will be able to maintain a tighter form throughout the movement, making squats easier to perform. 

For men, having wide lats could be classed as aesthetic; a wide pair of lats appear to emphasise the “V-taper” look, leading from a small waist to wide shoulders. This look is one of the most prominent features of competitors in the Men’s Physique bodybuilding category. 

Lat Pulldown Technique

wide grip lat pull down

Performing lat pulldowns have a similar range of motion to pull-ups, however you’re able to use a stricter form because of your seated posture and adjust the weight depending on your level of strength.

It’s also quicker to perform drop sets using a resistance machine version of the lat pulldown, rather than using a weights belt.


1) Sit on the lat pulldown machine and adjust the knee pad so that there is no free space and you’re tightly seated.

2) Place your feet flat on the floor, push your chest upwards and out.

3) Retract your scapula, which should create an arch leaning away from the machine.

4) Take hold of the bar, with your hands in a wide grip (this should be on the declined portion of the long bar, both sides).

5) When you’re in your starting position inhale and make sure your keep posture without letting your scapula loosen or your shoulders raise.

6) Exhale when you begin the movement (concentric contraction); Pull through your elbows until you’re able to squeeze your lats at the bottom of the movement and your shoulder blades are together.

7) Slowly raise the bar back up until your arms are extended and back in the starting position.

Notes: Pull through the elbows, keep your head neutral, keep a slight arch in your upper back (backwards), do not disengage scapula or shoulders at the top of the movement (this will take tension off the lats).

Lat Pulldown Exercise Example

Try incorporating 3-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions of this exercise into your routine; you could also add drop-sets into your plan when using the lat pulldown resistance machine to increase the intensity!

Remember to use progressive overload; once you feel capable of performing more than 12 repetitions you should increase the weight of the exercise.

As well as this, each set should go up in weight (and more often than not, down in repetitions).


Lat Pulldown Sets  Reps & Weight
Set #1 12 reps at 40kg
Set #2 10-12 reps at 42.5kg
Set #3 8-10 reps at 45kg
Set #4 8-10 reps at 47.5kg

Stay consistent!

Take Home Message

Remember: by engaging the lats in hypertrophy we’re able to increase their size.

Enjoy back training!



Writer and expert