The lat pulldown is one of the most popular exercises for your upper back. It is a compound movement, which primarily targets the latissimus dorsi or ‘lats’ muscles and it also hits the lower and middle trapezius, the rhomboids, the serratus anterior and the shoulders. The elbow flexors are also involved, so you will work the biceps and forearms as well.
While rows help you to build thickness in your back. The lat pulldown will help you widen your lats. For men, it will help you achieve that V-shape. For women, it will create the illusion of smaller waist helping you get the hourglass figure.
Stronger back will improve your posture, making you look much better. And it will help you reduce and prevent back problems. This is especially important if you have a desk job where you sit hunched infront of a computer for long time.
The pulldown is a similar movement to the pull ups, the difference is that instead of pulling your body up to the bar, you pull the bar down to your body. Therefore the pulldowns might help you build the strength necessary for the pull ups if you can't do them yet. There are some differences though, the pull up doesn't hold your body still in place, so it engages more muscles and requires more stabilization.
The benefit of the pulldown is that it allows you to work almost the same muscles while having full control on the weight you use. It is also easier to keep a good form on the pulldown.
Hold your torso still in place. A common mistake is to rock your torso back as you pull. This shifts the weight from your lats towards the lower and middle back, making the exercise less effective for the targeted muscles. If you find keeping the torso still too difficult it is usually an indication you are using too much weight.
Don't hunch your back forward, hold your chest up through the whole movement. Keep your back straight with a slight arch. Hunching the back as you pull will shift the weight from your lats to the abs. Try to think about lifting your chest towards the bar. Hunching forward is usually also a result of using too much weight.
Avoid using momentum and move the weight in a slow and controlled manner. This is especially important as you let the bar go up. Don't just let the weight stack drop down, make sure to activate your muscles all the way up. This will keep you from using momentum, and will lead to greater muscle activation.
Don't grab the bar too wide. Hold the bar just a little more than shoulder width. Grabbing the bar too wide will not widen your lats more, but it will shorten the range of motion and will put unnecessary stress on your shoulder joints, which might lead to shoulder pain and even injury.
Focus on pushing your elbows down. To make sure this exercise properly engages your back, not your arms, focus on pulling the elbows down. Think of your arms as merely hooks to hold the bar, and keep the forearms perpendicular to the bar.
Don't pull the bar below the chest. Pulling below the chest will shift the stress from your lats to the triceps. For more muscle growth you want to keep the stress on the lats the whole time.
Pulling the bar behind your neck isn't recommended. Sometimes people may think that pulling the bar behind their neck will work their back muscles more, this isn't true. Pulling behind the neck will shorten the range of motion of your lats, making the exercise less effective. And it is also very bad for your rotator cuff, which may lead to shoulder injury overtime.