How To

1 Sit at the cable machine with your legs secured under the pads and a single handle attached.
2 Grip the handle with your arm fully extended.
3 Pull the cable to chest level. Hold.
4 Slowly return to the starting position.

Muscle Worked in How to Do a Single-Arm Lat Pulldown

Primary Muscles

Biceps The biceps are muscles that sit at the front or your upper arms between your elbows and shoulders
Lats Your latissimus dorsi, also called the "lats," help you to move your arms and keep your shoulders stable.
Middle Back The middle back helps you rotate your torso
Shoulders Your shoulders are ball-and-socket joints which connect your arms to your torso
Traps Lie on the floor and place a foam roller below your traps and above your shoulder blades.
Upper Back Lie on the floor and place a foam roller below your traps and above your shoulder blades.

Secondary Muscles

Forearms The forearms help you grip objects and move your hands, wrists and fingers
Obliques The obliques help you twist your trunk and support your core and spine.

Pro Tips

  • Hold onto your spinal alignment and posture in this move by keeping your chest proud and shoulders back. Don’t round or arch your back.
  • Keep your core muscles engaged so your torso stays stable. Make sure not to swing or rock your body while you pull the machine handle down. This helps keep the tension in your lats.
  • Control the eccentric (lowering) phase of this move by resisting your weight as you bring the machine handle back to the starting position. This helps you create a slower and more controlled movement pattern so you can max out on muscular engagement and cultivate more strength.
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Equipment

Lat Pulldown Machine
Lat Pulldown Machine

Benefits

  • This exercise lets you activate your muscles unilaterally. That means you work one side of the body, then the other. If you’re stronger on one side, unilateral training addresses muscle imbalances between your left and right sides.
  • Lat pulldowns can improve your core stability since you’re forced to brace your core and obliques to keep yourself up.
  • This exercise can help you build more muscle mass in your back.
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Common Mistakes

  • Don’t let your torso twist or lean to the side during your pulldown. This makes your exercise less effective, plus puts strain on your spine.
  • Don’t jerk your body or use swinging momentum to pull the handle down. Make sure you control your weight and don’t let your weight control you. This will help make sure you get maximum muscle engagement.
  • Gripping your handle too tight can be tough on your wrists. It’s also a good idea to try and keep your wrists straight. Too much bend in the wrists can lead to an uncomfortable sensation or strain in your forearm and wrist joints.
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Warm Up & Cool Down

Arm circles are circular motions with your shoulders and arms to warm up the joints for exercise. Warm Up Before Barbell Squat
1 Roll each arm at the shoulder joint in circles. Start small, increasing the size of the circles until you are making wide arm circles.
2 Reverse the direction of your arm circles, starting with big circles and getting smaller.
Cool Down After Barbell Squat Seated forward folds are a great way to relieve tension all throughout your body. You can use this move as a cool-down stretch for many exercises, including lat pulldowns. It stretches your back and shoulders to improve your flexibility.
1 Sit on the floor with your legs out straight in front of you. Hinge from your hips to fold your body forward and reach your hands toward your feet or shins, as far as they’ll go. Hold your stretch for 30 seconds or as needed, then roll through your spine to come back up.

FAQ

Is the single-arm lat pulldown better than pull-ups?
Pull-ups are second to none when it comes to training your back since they’re considered a total-body move. That being said, the lat pulldown is still a great way to build a stronger back. For those who don’t have the body strength needed for full-form pull-ups, lat pulldowns are a great place to start in strength training for your back.
How much weight should you use for a single-arm lat pulldown?
Start light. Remember, since this is a unilateral move, you only need roughly half of the weight you’d use for a two-armed lat pulldown.
Can lat pulldowns be bad for you?
The lat pulldown is a good move to strengthen your back, but you miss out on some of the stabilization work that a pull-up or other bodyweight back exercises would give you. If you train your back primarily with lat pulldowns, aim to incorporate other exercises that strengthen your core too.