Pull-Up Progression: Lat Pull-Downs

My SMART goal for the rest of 2010 is dead-hang pull ups.   So how to get from dead-hang... to pull-up!?

Pull Up Progression #1:  Lat Pull-Downs, 3 Ways

We have all seen people at the lat pull-down machine, hauling away on the bar.  Shoulders a-poppin, torso a-rockin'.  But is it strengthening their latissimus dorsi - those powerful pulling muscles?

Working in 3 sets of 10-12 Reps:

1. Grab the Bar and Pack your Shoulder Blades.  Draw the shoulder blades down and together, keeping your shoulders pulled away from your ears.  That's your starting point.

2.  Pull. Controlling the motion, draw down from under your arm pits to bring the bar to your collar bone.  Forget about your shoulders and biceps.  Squeeze under those armpits!

3. "Push." Control the return motion of the bar, picturing yourself do a very controlled push, keeping the shoulder blades packed back and the abs turned on.

Now Mix It Up!

1. Reverse Your Grip. Grab the bar with your palms facing in.  Your biceps will wake up... but keep squeezing under your arm pit.

2. Take it Narrow. A normal lat pull-down is done with the hands wider than the shoulders.  Bring it in to shoulder width and use a reverse grip.  Increase your weight as the help from your shoulders and biceps will make it easier.

3. Be an Eccentric. The eccentric muscle contraction is the force against gravity to keep you from just dropping the weight.  Work it!  Pull the bar to your chest with a powerful, quick (safe) motion, then release the plates as slooowwly as pooooosssssible, controlling the shoulder blades and the shoulders the whole way up.

The video has three options - neutral, reverse/close grip and eccentric motion.  Don't do all three in one set (I did it for demo purposes) but mix up your sets and lifts to keep your muscles guessing!

When you can lift 1/3-1/2 of your body weight, move on to Progression #2... coming up!