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Lat pulldowns target the lats and other back muscles.
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As the name implies, the lat pulldown machine works your lats, or the latissimus dorsi muscles of your back. These large, broad muscles -- which help create the characteristic V-shaped back of a bodybuilder -- are responsible for pulling your arms down and back, which is the action you use during the lat pulldown exercise. Lat pulldowns also work other muscles on your back, shoulders and arms.
Performing Lat Pulldowns
To use the lat pulldown machine, sit on the seat with your knees under the padded bar. Select an appropriate resistance by inserting the pin into the weight stack. Grasp the bar with an overhand grip, starting with your elbows straight. Your hands should be wider than shoulder-width apart. Lean back slightly, but do not arch your back. Bend your elbows toward your waist as you pull the bar to your chest. When the bar touches your chest, straighten your elbows to return to the starting position.
Examing the Latissimus Dorsi
The principal muscle targeted by the lat pulldown machine, the latissimus dorsi, originates from the upper rim of your pelvis, from the vertebrae and connective tissue of your lower back and from your lower ribs. It inserts onto the front of your upper arm bone, or humerus. It extends the shoulder joint, drawing the arm backward, and adducts the shoulder joint, pulling the arm toward the body. It also internally rotates the arm.
Assisting Muscles During Pulldowns
Lat pulldowns also work the rhomboid muscles on your upper back, which draw your shoulder blades toward your spine, as well as the lower trapezius muscles, which pull your shoulder blades down. The exercise strengthens the rear deltoids on the backs of your shoulders, which help pull the arms backward. In addition, pulldowns target the elbow flexors on the front of your arms, including the biceps brachii and the brachialis.
If your goal is to build strength and muscle mass, do pulldowns with a weight that lets you complete two to four sets of eight to 12 repetitions, but fatigues your muscles at the end of each set. If your aim is muscular endurance, perform two sets of 15 to 20 repetitions. Rest for two to three minutes between sets and at least 48 hours between workouts. To stretch your lats, stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and raise your right arm overhead. Bend your upper body to the left until you feel a stretch on the right side of your back. Hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds and then repeat the stretch with your left arm.