Arms During Back Workout

I know I’ve seen this question asked on here at least 2 or 3 times but after coming up empty with the search engine i decided to post anyway…

Today i was doing some pull-downs during my westside for skinny bastards workout since i can’t do enough pull ups to complete the desired rep/set scheme. Towards the end of my first set I started to notice that, rather than becoming fatigued in my back, i began to become fatigued in my arms. This did not change with the completion of more sets, I just kept becoming more and more fatigued in the arms.

So what’s the deal? How can i get more out of my vertical pulling? Is this just a result of poor rep execution, or is this just to be expected?

It’s too early to tell whether or not my back is falling behind as far as strength and hypertrophy gains are concerned, but i’d like very much for this not to happen. thanks for any and all advice.

Try knocking some weight off in order to get the correct muscle activation. Do a few reps with less weight where you really focus on squeezing your shoulder blades at the point of contraction. Your back should remain tight for a few seconds before you release, I find this to be the best way to get accustomed to a new exercise. Think of your arms as mere levers which attatch you to the weight, concentrate and focus on your back. Although it is natural for the arms to feel some stimulation, you mustn’t rely on them to do your pulling for back exercises. Hope this helps.

Focusing on pulling your elbows down, rather than the bar, helped me.

Just my 2 cents - but if you can see your elbows they are too far forward. If you get your elbows too far forward, you use more arm and way less back.

Do not use your wrists and forearms. Act as if your arms are attached to the bar. Then pull through the elbows, and make sure your back is working it.

[quote]TravisCS84 wrote:
Do not use your wrists and forearms. Act as if your arms are attached to the bar. Then pull through the elbows, and make sure your back is working it.[/quote]

To try to accomplish this use a hook grip- assume a normal, 4 finger with thumb opposite grip then pull your thumb up with your fingers, I read it help and I use it when i am not feeling it as much in my back. Also FOCUS- your body will try to use what muscles u want it to use. Pull through with your elbows- think about gettting your elbows down not your hands. Try these things and u should be set.

You have gotten some great advice on this thread!

I would only add a couple of things: First, the latissimus Dorsi muscle is so tightly compressed to the back of your rib cage that I think it would be helpful to stretch those muscles prior to actually performing your exercise.

The stretching helps to “activate” the muscle. Think about it. As you read this it’s probably rather easy to flex your pectoral or bicep. Not so with the Lat muscle.

If you want to “feel” the movement and actually bring the lats into the movement try to “activate” them by stretching them prior to performing the movement.

Finally, I would also make sure that on the upper part of the actual exercise you are stretching the lats. take a one or two second pause at the top, and go up as high as possible. Try to relax and let the bar pull your lats up? This will cause the lats to engage more.

Good Luck,


With pulldowns and eventually pull-ups, it really helped me to alternately lean just a little to one side and then the other on alternating reps. Funny, my lats get sore from 1- arm overhead presses and side bends. I think some people have to flex a little to the side to get the lats.

As far as arms giving out, while they might give out faster during a set, they also seem to recover faster between sets so you can try cutting the reps AND the rest period in half.