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The lat pull-down to the chest is a popular strength exercise for the upper body, which when performed correctly can work the Latissimus Dorsi and other muscles of the back, shoulders and biceps in a very supportive way. If it is done incorrectly it can be stressful on the entire upper body, including the lower back.

If you have any pre-existing injuries or concerns (especially with the lower back, shoulders, elbows and forearms), seek professional advice before starting any new exercise. Here are a few tips to support you to enjoy this exercise:

Set up

  • Using a Lat Pull-Down machine, choose a weight that feels not too heavy and not too light
  • If you are doing this exercise for the first time, use a lightweight to ensure you get the movement right and then increase it to a higher weight
  • Most Lat Pull-Down machines will have weight plates making it easy to adjust the pin when choosing your training weight
  • Sit on the seat of the lat pull-down machine
  • Make sure your leg rest is adjusted so that there is no gap between the bolster and upper thighs (see picture 2)
  • Sit down, gripping the bar at shoulder-width or one hand-width wider than shoulder-width (see picture 1)
  • Lean your torso slightly back
  • Once seated move your shoulders back and open up your chest
  • Your neck and head are in a straight position with your upper body looking slightly upwards (see picture 1 and 4)
  • Use all five fingers to grip the bar including the thumb that closes the circle with your other four fingers on the other side (see picture 1)
  • Feel the lengthening and stretch of your back from lower back to your shoulders and biceps

The Lat Pull-down Movement

  • Keep the upper body and head steady in the slightly bent backward position (see picture 3)
  • Gently pull down the bar to your upper chest (see picture 4)
  • While pulling down gently, squeeze the shoulder blades together and keep the shoulders in the leaning back position
  • Once you have completed the downward movement, gently let the bar up until your arms are fully extended without locking the elbows
  • Hold the bar in the start position for 1 to 2 seconds and start again by pulling the bar down
  • Never pull down or let the bar up with a rocking movement, using your whole upper body weight, or with speed
  • Pulling down gently and letting up gently should take about 2-3 seconds each repetition


  • Move in your own rhythm
  • Torso stays in its leaning back position until you finish and release the weight back up
  • Complete each movement fully by straightening the arms
  • If you feel the weight is too light and it is not providing enough resistance, slightly increase the weight, plate by plate
  • Work within your movement range if you are not able to extend your arms fully
  • Breathe gently – do not hold or force the breath

Benefits of Lat Pull-Down to the Chest

  • Uses many muscle groups of the upper body to build strength
  • Upper body strength: back, Latissimus Dorsi, shoulders, forearms and biceps
  • Can also support with stretching and opening up the chest
  • Supports a straight alignment and posture as it strengthens the muscle groups around your spine

Filed under

Back ExerciseStrengthPosture

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