I’m a personal trainer and am always seeing people at the gym performing the lat pull-down wrong. Improper lat pull-downs are done by men and women.
Here is the wrong way to do the lat pull-down: Put the pin in very close to the top of the stack, i.e., set it for a very light weight like 45 pounds. Grab the bar and pull down as far as you can, then pushing it down with your hands so that it’s just above your thighs.
Your forearms are now at least parallel with your thighs, or might even be past parallel, such that the angle formed by your upper and lower arms is greater than 90 degrees.
Release the bar by lifting your hands up so that the angle formed by your elbows gets smaller, till your forearms are vertical, and then continue letting the bar go up to the starting point. Do 20 repetitions like this but make sure that at the end, you have 10 or 20 reps still in you.
This blunder is very common and is a very inefficient way to perform a lat pull-down. First of all, if the weight is set light enough for you to bring the bar down by pushing on top of it with your hands so that the bar is at your thighs, this means the resistance isn’t heavy enough to cause fat burning, sculpting or toning. And you certainly won’t get stronger if that’s your goal.
Secondly, an efficient lat pull-down focuses on the lat muscles, with the biceps and forearms as secondary movers. The blunder turns the exercise into a half-baked reverse curl.
The correct way to do a lat pull-down: Load the resistance so that it’s too heavy to push on top of the bar with your hands to get it to your thighs.
Instead, your hands are pulling the bar down to only your neck level or upper chest level, and your forearms remain nearly vertical. The hands are pulling the bar down and holding it in this position for one second, rather than continuing to move the bar to the thighs by pushing on top of it.
Release with control, keeping your butt on the seat. Do not let the weight stack slam down at the top of the movement. The weight is heavy enough to allow 8-14 repetitions, but the set is very challenging to perform; at the end you have no more reps still in you.