Today was back day which is one of my weaker body parts. I decided to put it at the front of the workouts for week two of the YRT trainer. As we become creatures of habit, chances are you are making some subtle mistakes in the gym that you don’t even realize. When I say mistakes, I am referring to improper form or form that can use a slight tweak to get maximum benefit. Sometimes it takes an outside source to get this corrected, such as someone pointed it out to you, reading about it or seeing someone else doing it differently.
Often I have seen people at the gym leaning backward when doing lat pulldowns. I always thought this was improper form, as I had read many times that your back should be straight up and down at a 90 degree angle. After all, you are doing lat pulldowns, not cable rows, right?! Sometimes it seemed they were doing this to get extra leverage/momentum when doing the pulldowns (ie: cheating). I am one for strict form to get maximum benefit out of the exercise, so I always have kept my back straight up and down and never “swung” the weight to get any extra leverage.
While it can “cheating” if you are swinging your body and arms while leaning backward with the momentum of the lift, research shows that leaning back while performing lat pulldowns increases the activation of your lats.
So this morning at the gym I put it to the test. Just how much to “lean back” was not mentioned, though if you lean back too much, you are coming closer to a row than a lat pulldown. I leaned back back at just a 15-20 degree angle, while still keeping my back straight, and performed all my sets as instructed in my YRT Week 2 Back Workout.
There were three things that I noticed after leaning back. The first is that I seemed to able to bring the bar down further without putting stress on my delts. This by itself will no doubt be activating the lat muscles more since I am getting a better range of motion. The second was that it seemed I could do a little more weight, which again will potentially increase both strength and size. Lastly, I had a better pump than normal. While pumps can vary by the day and the workout done, it seemed my lats were definitely getting a better workout by leaning back than they normally do.
While there was not a huge difference in doing lat pulldowns white leaning backwards as opposed to being straight up and down, any extra benefit you can get while doing your exercises is always worth it. So if you are currently doing lat pulldowns with your back straight up and down, try leaning back a bit and see if you don’t get a better lat workout!