The Mystery Of The Lat Pull Down Down Down Down… & Down Some More…


I have a question, and I mean this in the most genuine sense, I’m not having a dig and nor am I nit picking… it is, a genuine question. When people perform the lat pull down, why is it that many continue to pull the bar down past their chest and all the wayyyy dowwwnn to their belly button? I get that there is not necessarily one set rule for training, and I fully appreciate that exercises have many variations, but aside from improving range of motion and joint mobility, I don’t really get this variation of the lat pull down.

Use the machine the way it was intended

The wide grip lat pull down, by its nature, should target the upper, and to a lesser degree, the lower lats. This is achieved quite nicely by bringing the bar down to your middle chest region and slowly controlling it back for around 8- 10 reps, with the last rep being adequate to make you struggle a little. Those people bringing the bar down to their belly button deserve praise for their desire to perform a full rep, the trouble is, if we’re being strict, then the full rep actually ends around the middle chest region. So the practice of bringing the bar down to past the middle chest is somewhat of a waste if muscle growth and tone is the goal.

Get the weight right & you won’t reach your belly button!
In order to adequately stress the large latissimus dorsi muscles (lats), the weight used has to be relatively heavy, and by heavy I mean difficult enough to move so that the person lifting struggles on the final rep. The problem I think I have with this ‘bar down to the belly button’ business is that the weight can’t be particularly heavy in order to achieve this. I’m not saying people need to lift ‘heavy’ when weight lifting, but I do feel that muscle strength, toning and a degree of conditioning demands adequate resistance, and therefore anyone pulling a bar down to their belly button are simply NOT using adequate weight.

A degree of conditioning…

I am keen to assert that I have no personal issue with people pulling the bar down to their belly button, there are far more pressing issues in life after all. Although not being the conformational lat pull down range of motion, I do feel that this is a viable exercise variation to support joint mobility and a general degree of conditioning, but it’s not the one that the lat pull down machine was designed for! All you’re really achieving in pulling the bar down to your belly button is slight enhancements in joint mobility, and maybe firing of the triceps to a very small degree. I would argue that these people are far better bringing the bar down to their middle chest, and increasing the weight slightly as a result.


About the Author

Job Role Qualified Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist Qualifications BSc (Hons) Sports Science | BSc (Hons) Dietetics Tom has always participated in sport both recreationally and competitively which led to an unquenchable thirst for information on anything health, nutrition and fitness. After leaving school Tom went on to play for a football academy during which time he studied Sport and Exercise Science. From here he went on to study a BSc (Hons) Sport Science at UEA followed by his second BSc (Hons) degree, this time at the University of Hertfordshire studying Dietetics. Tom has worked in the fitness, educational and clinical nutrition industry starting out at David Lloyd Health and Leisure Clubs. He then went on to work as a Dietitian (RD) in the NHS, during which time he conducted clinics for healthy eating, weight loss and weight gain, as well as specialised consultations on Diabetes, IBS and Coeliac disease to name a few. He has vast amounts of experience at devising diet plans and supplement regimens, as well as working in the community with schools and competitive athletes. As Head Nutritionist and Supplement expert at Discount Supplements Tom is here to provide current and evidence based health and nutrition information to help you reach your health and fitness goals!
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