Poor Form Fix: Pulldowns

Before I get started, I thought I’d give you a brief update as to how my goals for the end of July are coming along.  As of this morning, I’ve got 4 more pounds of fat to lose and 2 more pull ups to get.  Getting pretty close.  I have to say that the “Alpo Diet” has me pretty focused and might be one of the most motivating tools I’ve ever used to keep myself on track.

Working in a gym, it’s not uncommon to see people butchering just about every exercise known to man.  Poor form is all over the place.  And, sometimes it’s pretty hard to watch.

One exercise I see butchered pretty frequently is the pull down.  While pull downs are a far cry from pull ups as far as difficulty and stability necessary to perform, they can be a great precursor to the pull up, especially a for teaching the scapulae to retract and depress.

Unfortunately, what I see most often when people do pull downs is something along the lines of this:

Here’s what they should look like:

There are a host of things wrong with the form demonstrated in the first video, but I’m going to focus on three key points that I often see missed in the gym.

First is the issue of the “angle of pull”.  In the first video, the dude is leaning back so far that he is performing more a row movement then he is a pull down.  A pull down should be an almost vertical line of pull, where as in the video, there are moments where the line of pull is much closer to horizontal to his body.

The Fix: Keep your body almost vertical.  If you have to lean back to get the weight down, you’re not strong enough to use that weight.  Drop it.

Second is the issue of range of motion.  If you notice in the first video, in the first few reps, the bar is barely getting to his chin and by the end it’s closer to his nose.  While pulling through a shorter range of motion allows someone to pull more weight and make them feel awesome, it makes them just look like an idiot to anyone in the know.

The Fix: Pull the bar to your collar bone.  You shouldn’t be barely clearing the bar with you chin but rather pulling clear to the top of your chest.

Lastly is the issue of scapular stability.  Comparing the two videos above, you’ll notice there’s a big difference in what happening in the traps. In the first video, there is zero scapular stability.  You can tell this by the “shrugging” that happens at the top of each rep.  His traps come clear up by his ears.  If you watch my video, you’ll notice that my traps stay downand there is no “shrugging” happening.

The Fix: Keep your shoulder blades “tucked in you back pockets”.  This is a cue I use for a ton of exercises, including the pull down.  What this cue does is, it helps people’s shoulder blades from sliding all over the place and keeps them fixed-tucked in and down-where they should be.

Making these few changes can have a profound impact on the efficacy of your pull downs.  These changes also make the exercise a whole different animal.

Give them a shot.  You may have to drop some weight at first, but the benefits will be worth it in the long run.

Here’s to lifting smart!


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