How to Perform the Lat Pulldown Behind the Neck

How to Perform the Lat Pulldown Behind the Neck

Muscles Targeted with Lat Pulldowns Behind the Neck

PrimaryLatissimus Dorsi

SecondaryTrapezius, Pectoralis Minor, Rhomboids, Levator Scapulae, Deltoids, Teres Major, Biceps Brachia, Brachialis, Brachioradialis

Lat pulldowns are a great way to add width to your back and are almost always included in every training program. With results similar to the time-tested pull up, pulling the weight down using your latissimus dorsi is a great method to developing a thick back and keeping muscular imbalances at bay.

The lat pulldown is so popular, numerous equipment attachments are available to create different stimuli within the body. However, one variation always remain a topic of controversy within lifting communities. 

Lat Pulldown Behind the Neck

This exercise is often listed as one that should not be performed out of fear of injury. However, a simple search on the Internet will provide examples of men like Ronnie Coleman pulling the bar behind his neck and Charles Glass providing his guidance for performing lat pulldowns behind the neck.

This exercise has certain risks if performed incorrectly so it is important to properly educate yourself to optimize technique. This is one of those exercises where less weight is used and the tempo is slowed to properly concentrate on the movement.

Lat pulldowns behind the neck place stress on the rotator cuff if the bar is pulled down too far. It will also strain the subscapularis muscle by stretching it to the point that they cannot properly support the joint in the shoulder.

Much like overhead presses behind the neck, it is important that the bar isn't brought too far down for the shoulder muscles to support the joints. Like many exercises, the proper form will minimize the chances of an injury. Additionally, added stress could be applied to the spine if the trainee is not flexible enough to be able to bring the bar straight down while performing this exercise.

Lat pulldowns should only be performed behind the neck by individuals without mobility or rotator cuff issues to reduce the chances of injury.

How to Perform a Lat Pulldown Behind the Neck

Properly adjust the kneepad at a lat pulldown machine so you can comfortably execute the exercise without being pulled out of the seat.

While standing, grip the bar where your hands will be a little wider than your shoulders and your palms are facing forward. Keep your arms extended and sit at the machine while slipping your knees under the pads.

Straighten your body to a point where the cable and pull down bar are directly above your spine and tuck your head forward to allow the bar to be safely lowered. Shrug your shoulder blades back to set your shoulders, this allows the tension to stay on your lats throughout the exercise.

While breathing out, slowly lower the bar behind your head so it is approximately level with your ears. Do NOT lower the bar to shoulder level. While the bar is at its lowest point, fully squeeze your shoulder blades together and pause for one second.

Inhale as you slowly raise the bar towards the starting position but stop just before fully extending your arms to keep the tension on your muscles. Without pause, lower the bar again and repeat the process until you have reached your desired reps.

Lat Pulldown Behind the Neck Tips

Tip #1 - Keep Control of Everything

Keep your torso upright and your body tight, you won't need to lean forward or backward during the movement if properly aligned below the cable. Ensure your shoulders are set through the exercise; otherwise, you will be working your arms and not the Lats.

Drive the bar down with your elbows and . This is the same theory with all Lat pull downs in the same way the elbows are driven back during bent rows to minimize tension on the biceps and maximize lat activation.

Do not bring the bar all the way down to your shoulders, this places excessive stress on the rotator cuffs and increases the chances of injury. Try slowing this exercise down; consider taking two seconds to lower the bar, pause for two seconds, and make it take two seconds for the bar to reach the highest point - remember not to pause at the top or extend your arms fully to keep the tension.

Tip #2 - Attach Yourself to the Bar

Versa GrippsThis exercise isn't about training your grip strength, form is far more important. Try grabbing the bar with your thumbs going over the bar in the same direction as your fingers or completely off the bar.

Even better, consider Versa Grips, straps or hooks with Lat pulldowns to help keep the focus on your Lats. By adding Versa Grips you are attaching your arms to the bar, allowing you to focus on driving the bar down with your elbows and maintaining tension on your lats.

Tip #3 - Pulldown Don'ts

Don't use a grip more than a few inches wider than your shoulders when pulling the bar down behind your neck. This causes unnecessary stress on your shoulders and increases the chances of injury.

Don't jerk the bar down, rock for momentum, or allow the weight to shoot up too quickly. No one will ever ask how much your lat pulldown behind the neck max is, this exercise is best utilized with 10-15 rep sets and plenty of time under tension on the muscles. Use a moderate weight that can be kept under control

Don't pull the bar all the way down to your shoulders, preferably not lower than your ears. This cannot be stressed enough, it is the most important thing to remember to minimize the chances of injury while doing Lat pulldowns behind the neck.

Properly executed, lat pulldowns behind the neck offer an additional tool in your back building arsenal. Applying these simple tips allow you to perform the exercise safely while you decide if you will be adding it to your program. Give it a try the next time you sit in a lat pulldown machine.
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