T Nation

Why the Hatred of the Lat Pulldown

I have detected a great deal of venom regarding the Lat pulldown, and reading the article “6 Things I Hate” (or was it 10? I forget) he expressed his dislike for the lat pulldown and felt it should only be for those who cannot do regular pullups.

While I can appreciate the subtle differences (i.e. pullups involve proximal motion, whereas pulldowns involve distal motion)–I have trouble seeing the difference. From a kinesiology perspective they are functionally identical. Granted, you can cheat on either, maybe more easily with a pulldown, but the are the same motion essentially.

The reason I generally prefer the pulldown is simply my inability to make minor and rapid weight modifications. Also, with my current gym, I can’t modify the difficulty at all as we have no dip belts.

Can someone explain this generalized hatred to me?

Everyone I see do lat pull downs at the gym are going as heavy as they can, practically lift their asses off the seat, then use their whole body to pull it down.

I do lighter weight higher rep (sets of 10, 12, 15) lat pull downs after I finish either weighted chins or rows. They way I do them though is I use a wider overhead grip, using only 3 fingers, and I focus on pulling my elbows down.

Why not do weighted chins with a DB in between your feet?

[quote]gabex wrote:
Everyone I see do lat pull downs at the gym are going as heavy as they can, practically lift their asses off the seat, then use their whole body to pull it down.
[/quote]

Which is hardly justification for relegating pull-downs to the junk pile.

I think a lot of people “hate” them simply because others (ie, some authors) have told them they should. I know more than a few people who have built decent backs around such a “useless” exercise as pull-downs.

I prefer the pull-down to the pull-up because it allows me to get a better stretch in my lats, which ultimately makes it easier for me to “feel” them working during the exercise. Feeling the muscle working is how I can determine that I am doing what I need to be doing in the gym, regardless of whether or not someone says it’s not the best way to go about it.

For chins, I use a dip belt and rep away, as that is what works for me.

Forget about the pencil necks cheating on their 80-pound lifts - find someone using big weights for the pull-downs and see for yourself what an ineffective exercise it is for physique enhancement, even if a little swing is involved. This goes for all the “stupid” exercises out there. I bet you the guy doing triceps kick backs has some solid arms if he is doing them with 60+ pounds.

Its not hatred. Its common sense. Its much easier to change the leverage on pulldowns and cheat yourself than it is for pullups. I rarely see anyone doing a strict pulldown with the proper form. Yet the majority of people I see doing pull ups are locked into using much better body mechanics. and then of course there is kipping…but i’ll save that rant for another time

I’d say that the hatred of the Lat-Pulldown on the forums comes from the readers emulating what the authors are saying. But where does the authors hate on Lat-Pulldowns come from?

I think it’s part of a larger picture. It’s the hatred of the typical gym-goer whose only freeweight moves are bench press and bicep curls. The lat-pulldown also perpetuates a misconception of strength among complete fucking morons. Allow me to expalin:

Yesterday I saw a pair of those tall, basketball/volleyball type guys in the gym hitting on some cute, 110 pound elliptical-machine-bunny. These guys must have been at least 6’2’’ and weighed no more than 170. The girl was so impressed that the weight they were using on the lat pulldown was Soooo heavy that she could just dangle on the bar and not be able to pull it down. These dudes were only using about 120 pounds, and they thought they were the shit.

If you think 120 pounds is heavy, you have no concept of human anatomy. Sure, 120 pounds is heavy if you’re doing a 1-arm dumbbell snatch. But 120 pounds is not a heavy pulldown. I seriously think some people don’t understand this subtle distinction.

Am I hating on people who do Lat-Pulldowns with less than their bodyweight? If they never improve and graduate to pull-ups, then yeah I’m hating on them.

Because it’s part of the war Man Vs. Machine. Haven’t you seen Terminator nimwit?

When done correctly it’s an effective exercise. The dislike stems from many using it as a crutch exercise when they don’t have the strength to do pull ups. Actually doing pull-ups is more effective for building strength. Even if you can’t do a pull-up yet doing assisted pull-ups or hangs will get you do pulling ups faster then someone who can’t do them and tries to build that strength through the lat pulldown.

Once a reasonable level of strength is built up the pull down can be effectively thrown in on back day but should be a finisher rather then a main movement when you are fresh.

D

Because pullups are hardcore!

You know, everyone wants to be hardcore.

I don’t get it either. I do pullups because I like them. I do lat pulldowns rarely, but still do them nonetheless.

[quote]robo1 wrote:
Its not hatred. Its common sense. Its much easier to change the leverage on pulldowns and cheat yourself than it is for pullups. I rarely see anyone doing a strict pulldown with the proper form. Yet the majority of people I see doing pull ups are locked into using much better body mechanics. and then of course there is kipping…but i’ll save that rant for another time[/quote]

It’s also common sense that you shouldn’t judge the value of an exercise on the fact that some people perform it incorrectly.

I don’t hate the lat pulldown. I hate seeing people use it. No one uses it correctly. Most of the guys that I see use it as a ego booster and most of the women I see use it just go through the motions. All in all, I prefer pullups because I am forced to work harder. Most people don’t do pullups because they can’t. They lack the strength and the intestinal fortitude to learn to do them. Pulldowns are easier for these types.

Some people hate it for the same reason they hate curls, leg extensions, and leg presses. They could never use as much weight in these movements as the bigger guys in their gym. Then they read an article on teh internetz about how these aren’t “functional”, and now feel entitled to their hate.

No movement is deserving of hate and none are completely useless. Well, except upright rows. They suck. lol…

I prefer pulldowns because I’m lifting a constant weight all the time so it’s easier to track progress. If I’m doing pullups and bulking, I won’t be able to do as many reps and the opposite if I’m cutting. It’s hard to know if I’m making progress that way. However with pulldowns, if I’m working with 200 lbs, it’s 200 lbs no matter what my bodyweight is so it’s easier to calculate my relative strength.

[quote]Reef wrote:
I prefer pulldowns because I’m lifting a constant weight all the time so it’s easier to track progress. If I’m doing pullups and bulking, I won’t be able to do as many reps and the opposite if I’m cutting. It’s hard to know if I’m making progress that way. However with pulldowns, if I’m working with 200 lbs, it’s 200 lbs no matter what my bodyweight is so it’s easier to calculate my relative strength.[/quote]

I know what you’re trying to say, but it’s actually harder to calculate your relative strength.

There were some actual biomechanical reasons why pullups were superior.

Something about fore-arms needing to be perpendicular to the floor.

FWIW, I have added a lot of meat on my back in the last few years. I would say that almost none of it came from pull ups- I just dont’t do them much. Rows, shrugs, and heavy lat pull downs have done it.

Besides, if you just got

Lat pulldowns are less CNS intensive than pullups. Hence, it’s a good exercise at the end of a workout. However, I’m a bang-for-your-buck guy, and if you want your lats to be stronger, I find pullups at the beginning of the workout to be superior. You can do both though.

I don’t hate pulldowns… I just like it better when they’re not around.

[quote]Ghost22 wrote:
There were some actual biomechanical reasons why pullups were superior.

Something about fore-arms needing to be perpendicular to the floor. [/quote]

I read that somewhere here, as well, and I’ll admit that it’s more difficult to meet that particular form issue with pull-downs by feel alone (I know I found I was doing it “wrong” at first), but with access to a mirror for the first few run-throughs, it can be accomplished with relative ease. An occasional brush up here or there, as necessary, and you’re gold.

Obviously, with pull-ups, you really don’t have much of a choice in the matter, as far as that is concerned, which is always a plus (lets you concentrate more on the actual exercise).

Now, I’m not saying pull-downs are necessarily superior, but I find it to be more of a “to each, their own” type of situation.

[quote]Legcutter wrote:
I prefer the pull-down to the pull-up because it allows me to get a better stretch in my lats, which ultimately makes it easier for me to “feel” them working during the exercise. Feeling the muscle working is how I can determine that I am doing what I need to be doing in the gym, regardless of whether or not someone says it’s not the best way to go about it.
[/quote]
I agree with this guy

Awww man… there’s a hatred for pulldowns now?

Make sure ya don’t tell Chuck V that…