T Nation

Lat Pulldowns vs. Pull-Ups

Is there any advantage to Lat Pulldowns over pull-ups? Aside from the convenience of a selector-plate machine against using a dip-belt and aside from the lat pulldown machine being good for people who can’t do pull-ups, is there any muscle building advantage you can gain by using lat-pulldowns over pull-ups?

I like to use Lat Pulldowns at the end of my back routine (after pull-ups and rows, etc) to get that pump.

The only problem with lat pulldowns is that people don’t do them correctly, and use their arms, rather than their latissimus dorsi.

Sure, for example higher-repetition work than one can presently do with pullups, or being able to work different angles that one isn’t presently able to do with bodyweight.

If you can do pullups, stick with pullups. Keep in mind you can vary your grip(palms over, under, neutral grip, wide, narrow, etc…) and the weight you can use.

Any free weight movement will give you better functional strength and mass than any machine will.

[quote]FightingScott wrote:
Is there any advantage to Lat Pulldowns over pull-ups? Aside from the convenience of a selector-plate machine against using a dip-belt and aside from the lat pulldown machine being good for people who can’t do pull-ups, is there any muscle building advantage you can gain by using lat-pulldowns over pull-ups?[/quote]

NO there is none…if you can do 1 you don’t need a lat pull down. There are too many variations for pull ups/chin ups. My workout partner could only do one before (he weighs 240) now I have him doin pull ups with 50+ pounds at a bodyweight of 235 now. The last time I used a lat pull down machine was 4 years ago

That is ridiculous. Any person who uses one out of two options (whether they only use free weights, or only use machines) rather than COMBINING the two (using BOTH free weights and machines)

[quote]Fulmen wrote:
That is ridiculous. Any person who uses one out of two options (whether they only use free weights, or only use machines) rather than COMBINING the two (using BOTH free weights and machines)[/quote]

did you just try to use an html tag to highlight (bold) “combining” ? anyway
The question was if there was an advantage over pull ups which again is NO there is no advantage of lat pull downs over pull ups…

what you say sounds good on paper but I’m going with what I know from experience-----my experience of going from lat pull down machines/cybex machines to combination of machines/pull ups to last 4 years just pulls ups/chin ups…I know that it works for me and the people i have worked out with.

There are a lot of variations to pull ups…once you get into them and actually see the results you will never want to go back lat pull down machines.

[quote]FightingScott wrote:
Is there any advantage to Lat Pulldowns over pull-ups? is there any muscle building advantage you can gain by using lat-pulldowns over pull-ups?[/quote]

Sure, but the key word here is VARIETY. You can use lat pulldowns to add variety to a workout.

As an example, IMO bent rows are a better all round mass builder than either seated rows or chest supported rows. But I still do seated rows and chest supported rows to add variety to my workouts.

I would personally never do just one type of rowing movement. For variety I do just about every pulling movement (chin ups, pull ups, lat pulldowns, seated rows, chest supported rows, bent rows, face pulls, etc.).

A typical back workout for me would start with some variety of deadlift followed by two rowing type exercises from the list above. I switch up movements and set/rep schemes every two-three weeks to add VARIETY.

Do what works for you, do what you like doing, do what you want, but limiting yourself to only one type of rowing movement seems silly to me.

From what I’ve seen with Lat pulldowns, and in my limited experience form falls apart at higher weights. When I do add lat pulldowns to my routine, its at the end of a workout when i’m far too fatigued to do pullups but can hammer out a couple sets of pulldowns. Primarily this is light/burnout work, making sure my form stays perfect.

[quote]FightingScott wrote:
Is there any advantage to Lat Pulldowns over pull-ups? Aside from the convenience of a selector-plate machine against using a dip-belt and aside from the lat pulldown machine being good for people who can’t do pull-ups, is there any muscle building advantage you can gain by using lat-pulldowns over pull-ups?[/quote]

No, aside from the two exceptions which you already stated in this post;

  1. the ability to quickly change resistance (i.e. when doing drop sets) and,
  2. when you lack the requisite strength to perform pull-ups, either entirely, or in the desired rep range
    there is no advantage to using a lat pulldown machine. Once you develop the necessary strength to do pull-ups/chins using a wide variety of grips, and set/rep schemes, then the lat pulldown machine becomes more of less obsolete.

The most common mistake that I see people making on the lat pulldown machine is that they throw their bodyweight back, thus turning the motion into more of a row than a pull-up. Honestly, I’d suggest that if you can’t do bodyweight pull-ups, you would be better off using an assisted pull-up machine as this prevents you from being able to use momentum to complete the exercise.

Good training,

Sentoguy

[quote]Mikel0428 wrote:
From what I’ve seen with Lat pulldowns, and in my limited experience form falls apart at higher weights. When I do add lat pulldowns to my routine, its at the end of a workout when i’m far too fatigued to do pullups but can hammer out a couple sets of pulldowns. Primarily this is light/burnout work, making sure my form stays perfect.[/quote]

Great point. It is very easy for form to break down and cheat with heavy pulldowns. However, with the weight strapped around your waist (aside from swinging up) you either pull and move or you don’t.

Don’t reject the pulldown machine completely. The choice depends on what you want to work. The “back” has a lot of different parts to it.

The recent “7 Exercises from Thib’s Toolbox” shows a rhomboid exercise using the pulldown machine. If you want to emphasize/isolate the lats, he also offers the one-handed motorcycle rowing.

Christian’s “HSS-100 Back Specialization”
http://www.T-Nation.com/readTopic.do?id=1076164
offers the “Technically Correct Lat Pulldown” as a substitute for pullups, because it mimics the angle/effort of a pullup.

Sure, chinups/pullups are seen as a measure of strength–and I try to increase my numbers there as well as with the lat pulldown–but there are plenty of ways to develop the various muscles of the back.

I like to do both, but I always start with pullups.

As we all know, there are benefits to higher rep work. If you are fairly heavy you will obviously not be able to do many repetitions, and you will be locked into a lower rep range.

Unless you manage to get very strong at them w/out adding bodyweight, you will never reap the benefits of higher reps by sticking to just pullups.

[quote]MytchBucanan wrote:
I like to do both, but I always start with pullups.

As we all know, there are benefits to higher rep work. If you are fairly heavy you will obviously not be able to do many repetitions, and you will be locked into a lower rep range.

Unless you manage to get very strong at them w/out adding bodyweight, you will never reap the benefits of higher reps by sticking to just pullups.

[/quote]

You see I have to disagree my friend is 235-240 range and I got him doing 15 with his bodyweight…before he could only manage 1.

Wow…well that is improvement! I have done them faithfully for years and have never experienced that kind of a gain in strength.

I can do pull-ups for all the high reps I need. I can do weighted pull-ups for all the average and heavy work I need. But why do I see bodybuilders using the lat-pull down machine like its a steep angled row to the clavicle? Is it really because they weigh too much to do pull-ups?

If there’s not some physiological advantage to using lat pull downs over pull-ups then pro-bodybuilders doing lat-pull downs is just fucked up…unless they’re using it as a warm up…which still makes it pretty fucked up. I’m sorry, but if the pros are doing lat-pull downs because they’re limited to that, then they really are lacking functional strength for their size.

If you must choose, Pull-ups are by far greater for strength and hypertrophy. However, one should use BOTH, rather than just one.

[quote]MytchBucanan wrote:
Wow…well that is improvement! I have done them faithfully for years and have never experienced that kind of a gain in strength. [/quote]

that’s almost weird…because he’s been doing them for 13.5 months now. Remember you are what you repeatedly do…so if you want to be good at them i suggest doing them more than once a week and don’t be afraid to add weight if you can at least 5

[quote]Fulmen wrote:
If you must choose, Pull-ups are by far greater for strength and hypertrophy. However, one should use BOTH, rather than just one.[/quote]

Why? I need a reason besides the idea that you need 9 sets per muscle group.

Even the two look like the exact same movement they are not. The pull up is close-chain while the lat pull down is open-chain. They actually have different recruitment patterns.

The pull-up is by far the better choice for strength/hypertrophy. I can’t remember the last time I used a lat pull down machine.