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Target Training: Straight-Arm Lat Pulldown

the Editors

Target Training: Straight-Arm Lat Pulldown

An often-neglected exercise you should add to your back routine

It’s surprising to see how many people don’t perform this exercise as part of their back workout. And that is a real shame as the straight-arm lat pulldown is a fantastic isolation exercise (although it does also hit the rear delts, triceps, and abs) that works to widen your back and complete the look of the lats.

While you can choose to use this exercise early on in your back routine as a pre-exhaust movement to get a good pump going, we prefer to use the straight-arm lat pulldown as a way to finish our back routine. And since this is an isolation exercise as opposed to a heavy compound movement, you don’t need to worry about using as much weight as you would with, say, a T-bar or seated row.

If you are new to this exercise, start with a managable but challenging weight and put your focus on maintaining tension on your lats throughout the movement. To ensure this happens, you may want to try to perform it at a slower speed and, if you can, use mirrors to review your form, body angle, and muscle contraction. This is very much a feel exercise, so it may take some time to master it and really feel the muscles of your back contracting properly.


START: Attach a long, lat-pulldown bar to the high pulley of a cable station. Grasp the overhead bar with an overhand (palms facing down) grip with a wider than shoulder-width hand position. Now take two steps backward so your arms are fully extended upwards. Bending at the waist, lean forward about 30 degrees. Tighten your abs, puff out your chest, and, while keeping your arms in fixed lockout position (straight arms with a slight bend at the elbows), begin pulling the bar downwards in a wide, sweeping arc.

MIDPOINT: Remember to breathe out as you pull the bar down towards your upper thighs, squeezing your shoulder blades together as you do.
At the bottom of the movement, hold for a two count while flexing your back muscles hard.

FINISH: While breathing in, slowly return to the top/start position. Take advantage of the negative aspect of the exercise so you can really feel your lats stretching out.

Perform 3–4 sets of 12–15 reps.



Once you master the standard form execution, you may want to try alternate variations including using a rope attachment or a shorter, shoulder-width straight bar.


Muscles Worked:

• Latissimus Dorsi

• Teres Major

• Posterior Deltoid

• Triceps

• Abdominals/Core