Pulldowns for lats

Discussion in 'General Training' started by Sci, May 19, 2013.

  1. Sci

    Sci Well-Known Member

    I am having a problem still hitting my lats properly with Pulldowns. I have been doing wide-grip, slightly wider than shoulder width, pronated (overhand) Pulldowns to the chest as recommended by Totentanz and countless bodybuilders, trainers and scientific studies, but they seem to be hitting my teres major much more than my lats? My lats are hardly sore at all, but my teres major are really outrageously sore lately!
    One thought I had is that maybe my teres major are just weak, and will eventually even out.
    The other thought I had is maybe my form is wrong for targeting latissimus dorsi. It seems that a wider grip and pulling the bar to the chest definitely emphasizes the teres major, so maybe I could bring my grip in a little to only shoulder width and only pull the bar down to my neck, but not go all the way to the chest. I am going to try this, but wanted to see if anyone had any input.
    I used to do close-grip supinated Pulldowns or chin-ups, but studies and anecdotal evidence seems to lend support to doing the pronated Pulldowns for maximum latissimus development.
    Last edited: May 19, 2013
  2. Sci

    Sci Well-Known Member

    In order to avoid the form problems I am having with cable Pulldowns, I might just ditch Pulldowns altogether, and start using the assisted pull-up machine, and work my way up to weighted pull-ups. It seems much more natural to do pull-ups, and virtually impossible to cheat. My current gym is the only one I have ever been to that has an assisted Pull-up machine, so I may as well put it to use.
    It seems the debate on which grip is best for lats will never end. Though shoulder-width, pronated grip seems to be the current consensus, so I will be sticking with that.
  3. Bulldog

    Bulldog Active Member

    I have found that I don't pull the same on an assisted pull up machine as I do when doing them unassisted. It has something to do with naturally hanging from a bar that doesn't happen on an assisted pull up machine I guess.

    Sent from my XT907 using Tapatalk 2
  4. AderynGlas

    AderynGlas Member

    My gym doesn't have an assisted pull up machine, they do have a 'thing' that you can clip to the cable machine and it will do assisted pull ups, but it sucks.

    I started on straight pull ups, pronated wide grip, and just clustered until I could completed full sets. Hard going at first but loving them now, nothing like em if you ask me.
  5. Lol

    Lol Super Moderator Staff Member

    Here's a thought, Sci:

    When you get to the end of your current cycle try doing negatives for a few different movements. Because eccentrics tend to make you more sore you might get a better idea of which movement is actually hitting your lats best. This will require that you have someone assist you in getting the bar down if you're using a pull-down machine but it'll be easy to try for chins or pull-ups on a bar.

    Now that I can do parallel-grip chins/pull-ups, I find I can really focus on my lats more than I can with regular pull-ups or chins. It just seems a much more natural movement and is much kinder on my forearm/elbow tendon insertions than regular chins. I've been using a shoulder width grip.
  6. Bulldog

    Bulldog Active Member

    A parallel grip is my preferred grip for pull-ups.
  7. Sci

    Sci Well-Known Member

    Good points guys. I'll definitely try negatives this cycle, and may fool around with the parallel grip also.
  8. leegee38

    leegee38 Member

    This is very old school, but Vince Gironda used to have his guys hold the contracted position for a 5 count on back exercises. Not on a regular basis, but to develop the feel of the correct muscles contracting. You could do this with various grips and pulling techniques (arch more, lean back more/less, etc.) and just see how they feel to you. That will probably tell you which form works best for your structure. Lats have always been the toughest muscle for me to feel correctly. Good luck!

  9. Sci

    Sci Well-Known Member

    I tried pull-ups tonight. Shoulder width, pronated. I definitely felt it in my lats a lot better than I do with Pulldowns. Needless to say I will be doing pull-ups from now on. Assisted for the high reps for now, and weighted for the 5s and negatives.
  10. Totentanz

    Totentanz Super Moderator Staff Member

    Weighted pullups or chinups are definitely the ultimate goal. They are a bit more taxing energy-wise so just watch that part when doing them in conjunction with deads.
  11. AderynGlas

    AderynGlas Member

    Indeed, I find I have to do pull ups first otherwise I struggle to lift a decent weight on the belt and/or I lose proper form (wriggle, rush the contraction and lose the pause at top/bottom).

    Doing them first doesn't impact on the rest of my routine though, unlike dead/squats which are last.

    Not to hijack, but would it be advisable to do pull ups and cable rows in the same routine or alternate?
  12. Sci

    Sci Well-Known Member

    I do pull-ups and cable rows in the same routine. Pull-ups target mainly latissimus dorsi, (outer back, back-width) while cable rows target the upper back muscles more, (back thickness). The back is actually a complex of multiple muscles, so a minimum of two upper body pulling exercises is needed to hit everything. ( trapezius, latissimus, rhomboids, rear deltoids, teres major, teres minor, infraspinitis, just to name some of the major back muscles.)
  13. AderynGlas

    AderynGlas Member

    Thanks for the advice, it was more the work load on the same/similar muscle groups I was concerned about as I didn't want to over exert in the future (like dead and squats in the same session etc).
  14. Sci

    Sci Well-Known Member

    Two different exercises for such a large muscle group as the back is definitely not too much. If you want to you can alternate rows and pullups, but it's not necessary.
    The main reason squats and deadlifts are alternated is because the erector spinae take longer to recover and are heavily stressed in both exercises. For a weak beginner, doing squats and Deadlift in the same workout is fine, but for an advanced bodybuilder, it could easily overtrain the lower back and cause injury to try to Deadlift and squat 3x/week.
    The Deadlift and back squat are unique in that they stress the body more severely than any other exercise. Upper body exercises generally aren't as taxing, nor need to be alternated.
  15. Sci

    Sci Well-Known Member

    I figured out the form problem I was having.

    With wide-grip Pulldowns to chest, the arms are out to the side, and for some reason, this position was mainly targeting my teres major. With shoulder-width Pulldowns, the arms are out to the front slightly more, and this seems to better target the lats.
    Simple kinesiology.
  16. Totentanz

    Totentanz Super Moderator Staff Member

    I actually prefer those paired together for total back development. I would never seperate them. If fatigue becomes an issue, you could do pulldowns instead of pullups but always a lat movement and a lift for traps/general back.
  17. AderynGlas

    AderynGlas Member

    Thanks guys, I didn't really appreciate the different excise would make such a difference to the back, I simply presumed pull ups would pretty much hit the entire back region.

    Sci, do you find it varies much in terms of exertion by your last post or is it simply the pull/force has moved to the right muscle? I've a relatively small frame and I find that in the pronated grip had the handles positioned quite wide and this almost forces me to pull myself up inline with my arms (I do try to keep the shoulders back to ensure its my back at work and not just my arms). The other grips are in a narrower position but I don't feel it as much.
  18. Sci

    Sci Well-Known Member

    Everyone is slightly different. For me, the shoulder-width grip seems to be the key to hitting the lats properly. Experiment for yourself. Some guys swear by close-grip supinated chin-ups, , some swear by wide-grip, etc.

    Also, with Pulldowns I found a tendency to cheat, or use improper form, but with pull-ups, this is virtually impossible to cheat.

    My lats are really pathetic, hence my obsession with finding the best way to grow them.
    Last edited: May 25, 2013
  19. Jester

    Jester Well-Known Member

    It's very hard to make the lats (actual lats, not the neighbours) sore, using traditional exercises.

    I tend to only ever get them sore doing an overly contracted rep at a less than maximal weight (ballpark 90% of 5RM).

    Weighted pulls are the best. Weighted hangs are also v.good.

    Yup. Do parallel weighted hangs if possible. You'll feel like your lats are going to detach. Obviously only when working at negatives or 2-3RM range.

    Yup yup.

    Pullups are v.easy to cheat; BW momentum. There's reasons to do it selectively, and obviously be strict the rest of the time.
  20. Sci

    Sci Well-Known Member

    I agree, Alex and crew, after pullups I tried a E-Z chin-bar, a hybrid of supinated/neutral-grip chinups, first with bodyweight, and then weighted. I like the fact that I can do more weight and the biceps contribute more. I will definitely be doing more of these. My goal is to get 5 reps with a 45 (~20KG) plate hanging from a belt. Since my bodyweight is also increasing, this is a decent goal, as once I weigh 100KG, I will be essentially doing "pulldowns" with 120 kilos (around 265 pounds) of total weight.

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