Lat pulldown

Lat pulldown


Muscle group:   The back muscles, the arm muscles

Trained muscle:   Latissimus, biceps, forearm

Focused muscle:   Latissimus

Fitness level:   Beginner; advanced, experienced

Type of training:   Machine exercises


 

Lat pulldown represents a very popular exercise for the latissimus muscle. It also works out the brachioradialis of the forearm and the biceps of the upper arm. The exercise is familiar with the pull-ups.

Lat pulldown

Lat pulldown is typically performed on the cable machine. But there also are lat pulldown machines without cable that can be used. The motion sequence and execution don’t change among the different machines. But there is quite a large variety of different handles we can use and positions we can take to work out.

The classic lat pulldown is executed to the neck. We take an upright position and fixate our legs with the provided cushion from above. If you can adjust the seat it is quite comfortable to have the knees slightly below or in one line with the hips. Sit close to the machine so that the cable is running down straightly. Grab the bar widely with the back of your hands pointing backward. In a controlled movement you pull down the bar to your neck (head bends forward). The bar can smoothly touch your neck but not hit it hardly. Bring it back up but don’t extend your arms completely. The passive structure of the arms would be strained considerably in complete extension. Also, it would deactivate the latissimus what is not desirable during the lat workout.

Lat pulldown variations

Lat pulldown variations

 

Lat pulldown machine

Lat pulldown machine

 

Lat pulldown to the chest

Lat pulldown can also be practised to the chest. The execution stays the same. We now have to lean a little backward pressing the chest outward. Be careful with your back. Keep your abdominal muscles tensed and avoid a hollow back.

Another variation of the lat pulldown is when we lean even further back. Here, we can chosse a narrower grip with the front of our hands pointing toward the body. Press your chest outward. Pull the bar down toward your chest with your arms close on the sides of your body. In this version you have to stabilize your body a lot. Don’t work with momentum at all. Keep the muscles of your trunk tensed.

Latzug mit verschiedenen Griffen

Latzug mit verschiedenen Griffen

 

Lat pulldown variations

Performing lat pulldown we can also choose between different handles. The range extends from narrow to wide grips with different hand alignments. But we could also work out with imaginary resistance. We sit on a chair, bench or the ground and imagine a bar or handle in our hands with high resistance. Move your hands up and down according to the execution described above. Tense all muscles of the trunk and focus on your latissimus. You could also choose other hand positions as explained above.

Lat pulldown with imaginary resistance

Lat pulldown with imaginary resistance

 

All variations of the lat pulldown become extremely intense when we work out in small impulses in the area of highest muscle tension (handle bar pulled down) as described here: Best form of exercise


Antagonist: Chest muscles, triceps

Stretching: Lat stretches

 

 


Pull-ups

Pull-ups


Muscle group:   The back muscles, the arm muscles

Trained muscle:   Latissimus, biceps, forearm

Focused muscle:   Latissimus

Fitness level:   Advanced, experienced

Type of training:   Own body weight exercises


 

Pull-ups represent one of the basic exercises within the weight training area, together with squats, deadlifts, and bench press. It also is one of the most effective exercises for the wide back muscle latissimus and the brachioradialis of the forearm. It also activates the biceps muscle of the arm significantly. The pull-up is familiar with the exercise lat pulldown.

Pull-ups

Pull-ups exist in many different variations and are very intense. Beginners should not train this exercise.

In its basic version we work out on the pull-up bar. We grab the bar slightly wider than our shoulder width. Tense the muscles of your trunk and pull yourself up toward the chest until your chin is slightly above the bar. Do not work with momentum but in smooth and controlled movements. Go down again to complete one repetition.

Pull-ups toward the chest

Pull-ups toward the chest

 

Make sure to always have your arms slightly bent when you go down. Hanging with extended arms would strain the passive structure of the arms considerably. Also the activity of the latissimus drops to almost zero.

Pull-ups variations

Athletes that yet do not have the strength to perform an entire set of pull-ups can practise the exercise with support. This could be at the pull-up machine where we kneel on a supportive platform that reduces our weight. Or we could support ourselves with our legs on a bench or similar.

Pull-ups with support

Pull-ups with support

 

If you are quite strong and able to perform many pull-ups in one set you could work with wide grip pulling toward the neck. Extra weights intensify the exercise a lot. Use a belt or backpack.

Pull-ups toward the neck

Pull-ups toward the neck

 

Incline pull-ups

Besides a large variety of different grips and weight intensities we can choose from, there also is a different pull-up type. Incline pull-ups are performed with our heels on the ground. We could work out on the bar at the multi press machine or on the edge of a table. Some athletes also use a broom stick fixated on two chairs. Make sure to have your abdominal muscles tensed and your pelvis erected to prevent a hollow back.

Incline pull-ups

Incline pull-ups

 


Antagonist: Chest muscles, triceps

Stretching: Lat stretches, bicep stretch, forearm stretches

 

 


Bicep curls

Bicep curls


Muscle group:   The arm muscles

Trained muscle:   Biceps, forearm

Fitness level:   Beginner, advanced, experienced

Type of training:   Own body weight exercises, free weight exercises, machine exercises


 

Bicep curls represent the one and only exercise for the biceps muscle. There are other exercises that also work out the biceps, like pull-ups, but with less intensity and effectiveness than curls do.

Bicep curls

Bicep curls exist in many different variations and train the biceps muscle as well as the brachioradialis of the forearm. The most relevant and effective versions are regular curls, concentration curls, and the scott curl. Regular bicep curls can be performed with a barbell, dumbbells, or on the cable machine. In accordance with the equipment we can choose between different workout positions. For beginners it is recommended to start with scott curls on the machine before moving on to the cables or free weights.

Regular bicep curls – standing

For standing bicep curls, we can either go in a short lunge position or stand with our feet shoulder wide. The knees bend slightly. The abdominals tense and the pelvis erects actively (easier in lunge position). From here we could either work with a barbell, a curl bar, a pair of dumbbells, or at the cable machine with a straight or curl bar. Please grab the respective bar tightly and actively stabilize your wrist. Your grip can be shoulder wide or slightly wider. Without momentum you bend and stretch your elbow joint. The upper arms remain steady on the sides of your trunk.

With dumbbells you would work out both arms either alternately (one flexes and one stretches and vice versa) or to the same time (both bend and stretch simultaneously). Both upper arms are rather loose in this version so it is recommendable to stabilize them actively.

Towards the end of a set when your muscles get tired please don’t work with momentum. Here, we would have the high risk of developing a hollow back what could cause back problems. To prevent this problem you could stand straightly against a wall with your back.

Bicep curls standing

Bicep curls standing

 

Regular bicep curls – sitting

Seated bicep curls are performed with dumbbells. Sit up straight on a bench leaning with your back against the rest. The shoulders pull backward. Again, you could either work out both arms simultaneously or alternately. Actively stabilize your upper arms. Don’t bend or stretch the elbow joints maximally. Holding your arms slightly to the front while working out intensifies the exercise (also in standing position). Rotating your arms within the movement doesn’t increase the intensity.

Bicep curls sitting

Bicep curls sitting

 

Regular bicep curls – lying

On the cable machine we could also perform bicep curls in lying position. We get in supine position with our feet pointing toward the cable machine. The knees are bent at approximately 90° and the heels press into the floor. The abdominals tense erecting the pelvis and pulling the lower back down onto the floor. Our head lays down as well. Both upper arms are kept tightly on the sides of our trunk and we bend and stretch the elbow joints with the bar grabbed firmly. Actively stabilize your wrist. To increase the intensity slightly lift your upper arms.

Bicep curls lying

Bicep curls lying

 

Concentration curls

Concentration curls for the biceps are performed in sitting position either with a dumbbell or against the bare resistance of your leg. With dumbbells we start sitting on a bench with opened legs (approximately 90°). The back side of the working arm fixates above the knee on the inner thigh of the same site of the body. The inner forearm points toward the other leg (inward rotation in the shoulder joint). The other hand can hold on to the bench to stabilize your body. The upper body tilts slightly toward the front. The back is straight and the abdominals tensed. From that position we bend and stretch (not maximally) the elbow joint with the dumbbell grabbed tightly and actively stabilized wrist. Rotating your arms within the movement doesn’t increase the intensity.

Concentration curls with dumbbell

Concentration curls with dumbbell

 

Concentration curls against the resistance of the leg represent an extremely effective workout for the biceps. The exercise can either be performed on a bench or on the floor. We take the same position as for concentration curls with dumbbell. Now, the hand of the working arm grabs the opposite thigh from below slightly above the knee joint. From this position we lift up the leg with the strength of the biceps. In the negative motion we can increase the intensity by actively pressing down the leg. This version allows us to put an optimal resistance against the biceps at any time of the set.

Concentration curls against leg resistance

Concentration curls against leg resistance

 

Scott curl

The scott curl can be practised on the scott curl machine, the cable machine, with a curl bar, or a dumbbell. For scott curls with dumbbell or on the cable we use an incline bench in a quite steep adjustment. We get in lunge position behind the bench keeping the back straight. We work with one arm. Place the backside of your arm onto the cushion of the bench. Actively stabilize your wrist with tight grip on the handle bar or dumbbell. Keep your abdominals tensed and bend and stretch your elbow joint alternately.

Scott curl one-armed

Scott curl one-armed

 

For scott curls with curl bar or on the scott curl machine we have a wider cushion that fits both arms. We choose the same position as we did for one-armed scott curls. Alternatively you could sit down on the seat cushion. Here, your knees should be below your hips. Your chest as well as the entire backsides of your upper arms are resting on the respective cushions. On the scott curl machine the rotating axis should be in line with the elbow joints. Keep your abdominals tensed and your back straight during the entire set. Firmly grab the curl bar or handle levers actively stabilizing your wrist. Bend and stretch your elbow joint alternately.

Scott curl both arms

Scott curl both arms

 

Bicep curls – intensity

Bicep curls are most intense when we concentrate the movement with the forearm close around the horizontal line (longest lever). The further we move the weight upward from this point the more the tension in our muscle decreases. Exceptions are the workout against the leg resistance and on the cable or scott curl machine. Here, the intensity doesn’t depend on the lever what allows us to train effectively throughout the entire amplitude, even when we bend the elbow joint maximally. Never stretch your elbow joint maximally when you work out bicep curls.


Antagonist: Triceps

Stretching: Bicep stretch