If you're like most bodybuilders, you still do the regular lat pulldown. Do you realize what a limited range of motion it has? For a greater range and very similar muscle development, try the narrow-grip pulldown.
MAJOR MUSCLES INVOLVED: In the shoulder joint, the major muscles are the lower pectoralis major (sternal portion), latissimus dorsi and teres major. The lower portion of the pectoralis major attaches on the whole length of the sternum and the cartilages of the first six ribs near their junction with the sternum. The upper end attaches by a fiat tendon about three inches wide on the upper interior side of the humerus near the insertion of the deltoid.
The latissimus dorsi covers a very wide area of the lower half and the upper sides of the back. It begins on the spinous processes of the lower thoracic and all the lumbar vertebrae, the back of the sacrum, the crest of the ilium, and the lower three ribs. It ends on the upper anterior side of the humerus by a flat tendon attached parallel to the upper portion of the pectoralis major insertion.
The teres major is located on the upper sides of the back. It is a round muscle that originates on the lower end of the lateral border of the scapula and inserts on the upper anterior portion of the humerus parallel to and slightly lower than the insertion of the latissimus dorsi.
In the shoulder girdle, the rhomboid and pectoralis minor are the major muscles involved. The rhomboid lies beneath the middle of the trapezius. It attaches on the spinous processes of the upper thoracic vertebrae at one end and on the medial border of the scapula at the other end. The pectoralis minor is a small muscle on the front of the upper chest and is covered by the pectoralis major. It originates on the outer surfaces of the third, fourth, and fifth ribs and inserts on the coracoid process of the scapula.
MUSCLE ACTION: In the shoulder joint there is extension in which your upper arms move straight downward-forward from an overhead position. This action is performed by the lower pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi and teres major. In the shoulder girdle, there is downward rotation and adduction of the scapula performed by the rhomboid and pectoralis minor.
SPORTS USES: The act of pulling your arms down in front from an overhead position (or raising your body with your arms, as in a pullup with a supinated grip) is extremely important in many sports. For example, the action of shoulder-joint extension is very important in execution of many stunts on the rings, horizontal bar and uneven bars in gymnastics.
Shoulder-joint extension is also very important in pulling down rebounds in basketball, hand-balancing (tandem), and in all pulling-up actions (rope climb, pullups). Also, swimmers require it in various phases of the pulling actions seen in different strokes.
For bodybuilders, this exercise is most important for development of the muscles noted, especially the latissimus dorsi. Full lat development gives a broad appearance to the sides of the upper back.
EXECUTION: Kneel or stand under the bar of a lat pulldown machine (position depends upon the height of the bar). Grasp the bar with a shoulder width or slightly narrower grasp. Use a pronated or neutral grip. Your arms should be fully extended, your trunk and midsection in line with your arms.
Pull down at a slow to moderate rate of speed (depending upon the resistance used), with concentration on bringing your elbows down in front. Flexion will occur in your elbow joints, but only as a result of shoulder-joint extension (i.e., it is passive). Keep pulling down until the bar is in front of your face. Slowly return to the initial position and repeat.
Inhale at the beginning of the pull, hold your breath during the heavy part, and exhale as you reach the bottom position. If very heavy weights are used, you will have to exhale forcefully to reduce the intrathoracic pressure quickly
1) To ensure maximum involvement of the relevant major muscles, do the exercise precisely, as described, Your elbows must remain in front of your body and travel in a straight downward-forward direction. If your elbows turn outward, the actions in the shoulder joint and shoulder girdle change and different muscle involvement occurs. This is why bringing the bar down in front of your head is so effective — it ensures that your elbows stay in front of you. The same major muscles are involved in both the wide- and narrow-grip pulldowns; the key differences arc in the line of pull and in the assistive muscles.
2) Note the structure of the latissimus dorsi and pectoralis major, especially their tendons of insertion. As the latissimus dorsi crosses the shoulder joint, the fibers twist around so that the anterior fihers end up becoming posterior and the posterior fibers he come anterior. The pectoralis major muscle fibers also do a 180-degree twist so that when the muscle inserts on the humerus, the lower fibers are uppermost and the upper fibers are lowermost.
Because of this unique structure, it is sometimes advantageous to do a combination exercise involving more than one action of these muscles. For example, when the bottom position of the pulldown in front of the head is reached (shoulder level), execute a combination of elbow-joint extension and medial-shoulder-joint rotation (using moderate weights).
3) When the lat pulldown is done right, the scapula rotates downward as shoulder-joint extension takes place. If the scapula did not rotate downward, the arm would not be able to move down and the amount of extension would be limited considerably. Also, injury would be likely. Thus, for successful execution, the muscles of the shoulder girdle must be strong enough to rotate the scapula downward (and inward slightly) in coordination with contraction of the shoulder-joint muscles to execute the movement.
4) If you use weights that are close to or greater than your bodyweight, you will find your body rising as you execute the pulldown. In this case, you will have to have an assistant push down on your shoulders. If this doesn't work, your assistant may have to 'bear hug" you from the rear so that you do not rise. If no one is around, you will have to straddle and hold a heavy dumbbell between your legs in the down position.
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