Straight Arm Lat Pushdown

Updated June 11, 2020

Benefits of the straight arm lateral push down:

Most lifters, when they train back will opt for exercises like deadlifts, pull ups (wide, narrow), rows (bent over BB rows, one arm DB rows, cable rows, etc). Whilst these are great for the back, there’s one exercise that rarely gets used…

The straight arm lateral push down is one of the most underrated back exercises. It’s a great exercise because it’s great for targeting the lats, especially the lower lats if you do the exercise correctly.

Those who struggle to develop their lats, typically have overly developed traps (which raise the shoulders up); this causes poor posture, and it makes the lower lats more difficult to grow. For lifters with this problem, it’s worth ditching the shrugs for a couple of months, and instead opting for the straight arm lateral push down – to help improve your posture, and aesthetics.

How to Do the Straight Arm Lateral Pushdown…

First attach a straight bar to the high pulley machine and stand back approximately 2 feet from the machine. Grab the handle with your palms facing down and hold your torso tight. While keep your arms straight, pull the bar straight down until it nearly touches your thighs. Allow your shoulder to move through their natural motion and then return to the starting position. Start with a light weight on this movement to get the feel of it, because you may have to adjust how far away you stand from the machine depending on the length of your arms.

Straight Arm Lat Pushdown Exercise Information
Muscle Group: Back
Secondary Muscles: Chest and Shoulders
Movement Group: Isolation Exercise
Required Equipment: High Pulley Machine

Other Lat Exercises

Alongside the straight arm lateral push down, other great lat exercises include: wide grip pull ups, and lateral pull downs. The key, in order to stimulate the lats, is to keep your shoulder blades pinned down (don’t shrug up), instead imagine pulling down with the lat muscles, and keeping your chest high.

It’s important to get the mind to muscle connection right, otherwise you will use other muscles in the back (mid traps, rhomboids, shoulders, etc). If necessary, drop the weight and focus on form.

Other great lat exercises include the DB pull over – this was one of Arnold Schwarzeneggers’ favourite exercises – he attributed it to expanding his rib cage, which gave him a bigger chest.

The DB pull over can be used to stretch the pecs, whilst strengthening the lats. It’s very similar to the straight arm lateral pull down, although it’s probably a little harder to isolate the lats, compared to using the cables (like on the straight arm lateral pull down).

How to add the straight arm lateral push down into your routine 

Like with any training program, it depends on your goal. You could add in the straight arm lateral pull down at the end of your workout as a finisher e.g.

Back workout 1

  • Deadlifts – 3 sets x 5-8 reps
  • Wide pull up – 3 sets x 8-12 reps
  • Bent over BB row – 3 sets x 8-12 reps
  • Straight arm lateral push down – 3 sets x 10-15 reps

Or, if lats are a muscle group that you really want to develop, then you could try…

Back workout 2

  • Straight arm lateral push down (aim to activate the lats before training) – 3 sets x 10-15 reps
  • Snatch grip deadlift – 3 sets x 5-8 reps
  • Wide pull up – 3 sets x 8-12 reps
  • DB pull over – sets x 10-15 reps

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