How to Build Massive Back Strength and Muscle Mass with the Lat Push Down

Bulletproof your back.

This guide will teach you everything you need to know about the Lat Push Down and how to use and perform it correctly in your training.

What is the Lat Push Down?

Also known as the Straight-Arm Pull Down, this exercise is a cable pulling exercise that targets the lats and strengthens the back.

What Muscles Does the Lat Push Down Work?

The movement works the following muscles:

  • Lats
  • Upper back
  • Read deltoid
  • Triceps
  • Chest
  • Core

This cable movement, as the name indicates, targets the lats, one of the largest muscle groups in the body. 

The lats link the spinal column to the humerus. Almost all pulling and pushing exercises recruit the lats to some degree. For example, if you struggle with Pull Ups, weak lats are often the problem.

Benefits of Lat Push Downs

There are many benefits to this effective exercise.

Greater Range of Motion

The movement offers a longer range of motion that many other cable exercises. This is great for more time under tensions and finding a greater challenge for your body.

Better Mind Muscle Connection

If you struggle to feel your lats working when you lift then the Lat Push Down is a perfect way to establish a better mind muscle connection.

The arms are always straight, which stops the biceps or mid back from subsidising the effort. This means all the focus can be placed on the lats and they can be worked properly.

Enhanced Stability for Deadlifts

The strength and increased activation for the lats that you experience from this exercise has a direct carry across for Deadlifts.

This will help you to keep the bar tight to your body throughout the full range of motion.

Deadlift Benefits with Pat Vellner These 5 exercises for a strong lower back will help you to protect your body and prevent injury.  Lat Push DownSource: Photo Courtesy of CrossFit Inc

Improve Posture

Stronger lats and back will help to create a more injury resistant and upright body.

How to Do the Lat Push Down

Use the following instructions to perform the exercise with correct technique. You will need access to a cable machine.

  • Attach a standard Lat Pull Down bar or long straight bar to the cable
  • Stand and face the machine. Feet shoulder width apart. Plant the toes into the ground to create a stable base. Bend the knees slightly
  • Reach up and grab the bar with a pronated grip (overhand). Hands shoulder width apart and arms straight
  • Move the bar to shoulder level and keep your arms straight. This is the starting position
  • Keep your back straight
  • Lean forwards slightly. Inhale and brace the core, glutes, lats and grip
  • Tense the lats and bring the arms (always straight) downwards in a wide arc
  • Pause at the bottom with the bar near the thighs. Squeeze the lats again
  • Slowly return the bar to the starting position
  • Exhale
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps

Training Tips

Make sure that your lats do all the work, all the time. Don’t let other muscle groups. If you can’t perform the exercise using only the power of the lats then drop the weight.

Never let the elbows bend.

Don’t use momentum to complete reps. The movement should be slow and controlled at all times.

Lean forwards slightly to increase the overall range of motion.

When to Use the Lat Push Down

There are many ways that you can program

As a Pre-Exhaust

Try using it to pre-exhaust your lats before compound exercises such as rows.

As a Finisher

Use this as the last exercise in your session to squeeze every last drop of effort from your muscles next time you train your back.

Lat Push Down Mistakes

Make sure you don’t slow down your progress by making any of these mistakes.

  • Bending the arms
  • Not driving power from the lats
  • Not going through the full range of motion

Lat Push Down Variations

Try these variations when you want to mix up the stimulus.

  • Straight Arm Pullover
  • Straight Arm Band Pulldown
  • Side Straight Arm Pulldown

Lat Push Down Alternatives

Keep your training varied with these alternatives.

  • Underhand Barbell Row
  • Wide Grip Lat Pull Down
  • Alternating Lat Pull Down (with Handles)

Learn More

Add the Pallof Press and Cable Crunch into your training.


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