T Nation

Pull Down vs. Pull Up

I had an argument on which is better

his side: “how many pull ups did arnold do in pumping iron”

wtf do i say to that?

Arnold was genetically gifted and using steroids. I will never say he didn’t bust ass in a gym, or that doing it any other way could’ve been more effective, for him. But he was ONE, very spectacular case, and MOST people with large backs do pull-UPS.

You can always retort with “Ronnie Coleman does pull-ups.”


… Nothing. Just do what you need to do. Let your results speak for themselves.

BTW - I would consider incorporating both of them into your workouts as they both have merit. Every body builder I have ever seen does pulldowns, so dont discount their effectiveness because of what a couple of gurus say.

[quote]Lonnie123 wrote:
… Nothing. Just do what you need to do. Let your results speak for themselves.


You will always have more people who doubt you than those who do not . You can’t go around WASTING TIME trying to prove all of them wrong. Your actions…results will carry far more weight than your words ever will.

I don’t seem to remember “Pumping Iron” being a many-year long, real time documentary following Arnold from his teens to that Mr. Universe contest.

Lonnie has a good point. No reason not to do both.


Pullup is better especially with weight. The difference between to two is how your elbows are aligned and also, how your body changes its vertical alignment through the movement. Thib did a good piece on it somewhere in the articles.

Pullups are always better as a primary movement.

Pulldowns on the pulley machine have their place as a finishing movement or as initially to build the strength to do pullups. Pulldowns can be done in a variety of ways that can be handy. The cable machine itself is useful for various movements. It is easier to cheat with these, not a good thing. The ones that hold your legs down can be useful for doing heavier than bodyweight, also, for quick weight changes.

exactly do both for best results!! the pull up is without doubt the more effective and harder exercise though, probably in my top 5 must do movement, so many people dont do it though.

Pull downs would allow for a more strict scapula downward rotation for those needing rehab/prehab for such.

Pull up.

I used to feel great doing PDs with most or all of the stack. Then I tried to do pull ups. After my buddy hit 16 (real pull ups mind you not that 1/2 ass crap that far too many in the gym do today) and I hit 4 I knew there was more to this story than I thought. Since he’s appealing to one source of authority for his bogus argument, you could always hit him with…

The only people who prefer PU over PD are from little units such as the SEALS, Rangers, Force Recon, Air Force PJs, Paratroopers, (insert top BBs names), olympic gold medalists, strongmen, and not to mention coaches such as Poliquin, Waterbury et at., recommend PU over PD then who am I to argue that Arnold did 0 PU?

this is so stupid, just because you dont see him doing pull ups in pumping iron doesn’t mean he didn’t do them… of COURSE HE DID PULL UPS!!! Don’t believe everything you see

We don’t necessarily know that Arnold didn’t do any pullups. Look at Franco, we didn’t see him doing tons of pullups in Pumping Iron but in Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding, he attributes pull ups as the primary exercise to his massive lat development that earned him the nick name The Bat. I’m sure he also did pulldowns too though.

Determining which is the best exercise is going to be dependent on the individuals experience with that particular exercise. However, sometimes even one particular exercise needs the assistance of other exercises to be fully effective.

Pull-ups area as superior to Pulldowns as heavy weighted dips are to the Hammer Strength Wide Bench Press Machine. Pull-ups are inherently better at activating the CNS because you move your body around a bar instead of moving a bar around your body. Pull-ups are also harder to cheat with, especially when you’re using added weight.

It’s valid that doing both exercises might be a good idea. For instance weighted pull-ups for most people hit their sweet spot when you do sets of 6-8 reps with an appropriate weight. Pulldowns might be better for getting constant tension through the back over 15 or 20 reps at the end of a workout.

But if everyone out there who does pull-ups and pulldowns is so dedicated to variety, then why not do pull-ups and one handed pulldowns?

I’ve looked that this topic for a long, long time and I can tell you with certainty that Pull-downs are the only way to go.

Didn’t you write a long article on the value of pull-ups a couple of years ago?

I haven’t yet found it but I thought I had it bookmarked… … somewhere

Arnold could have been lying but about 15 years ago when he was describing his back workout he stated he would do 50 pullups before he started. Most of the time 5 sets of 10, but not always. Regardless of the reps per set he would get 50.

dont even try to say that pull downs are in any way better than pull ups. this forum is getting worse

[quote]Airtruth wrote:
Arnold could have been lying but about 15 years ago when he was describing his back workout he stated he would do 50 pullups before he started. Most of the time 5 sets of 10, but not always. Regardless of the reps per set he would get 50.


I remember starting my back workouts in High School with 50 pullups because that was what Arnold did.

Pull-ups are clearly ideal in most situations but sometimes pull-downs have their benefits. They are good to warm-up on and I think bodybuilders like them because as you get heavier in bodyweight obviously they get harder. A 300 lb pull-up is hard even for people good at pull-ups. It is tough to do lower than your bodyweight without a spot but on the pulldown machine you can choose whatever weight you want. Also sometimes pull-ups when done regularly (again when you are heavy) can be rough on your elbows and if you like to go wide to hit a certain part of your back pull-downs might be better as they would probably place less stress on the shoulder with a very wide grip (since you could go lighter).

Certainly if there was just one choice I would go with pull-ups but since both are available I would do both when applicable. My .02 cents

If you are looking for hypertrophy, follow bodybuilders around and see what they do. Alot of times you will see them select machines where they can focus on constant tensiona and really feeling the muscle work. You cant do this on free weights because of safety and also, it is just plain too hard. I know of very few people who can do 10-15 rep sets of pullups using the constant tension method.