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Why You Should Not Do Behind-The-Neck Lat Pull Down?

August 18th, 2013 · No Comments ·


Lat pull down is a favorite exercise in gym. No doubt, if done correctly, lat pull down help obtain “V” shape. However, I have seen some are doing pulling the bar behind their head with the belief that by pulling the bar down behind the head, they get a fuller contraction for the lats muscles. I used to do it too when I first started working out, but immediately advised by a fitness instructor not to do it. Yes, behind the head lat pull down should be avoided. Why? We will find out the reasons.

Why You Should Not Do Behind-The-Neck Lat Pull-Down?

  1. First, let’s take a closer look at shoulder joint. Shoulder joint is made of ligaments and connective tissue which are designed to restrict external rotation and movement away from the mid line of the body.

    • Now, when you perform the behind the head pull down, if the machine fails to allow you to position the cable hangs directly above the base of your neck behind your neck (about where a necklace will run behind your neck), when you try to pull the bar, it is most likely your shoulders will move beyond its optimal range of motion. Your arms normally will rotate backwards at the shoulder joint to get the bar past the head.




    • The humerus are laterally rotated to its absolute end point, which is the most dangerous place to stress the joint. Any joint in any exercise at its end point is a very dangerous point to train.
    • Muscles that do this movement are known as rotator cuff. These muscles are relatively weak compared to lat muscles. In other words, when you set up the weight for your lat muscles, the weight will be far too heavy for the rotator cuff to sustain and therefore may injure them.
    • Now, if you pull the bar in front of you while sitting with good upright posture, you are far less likely to force the shoulder joints into a damaging position.


  2. It is still possible to do lat pulldown correctly even behind your head provided you MUST:
    • Not bend forward and protrude your head forward.
    • Keep your forearms as vertical as possible while pulling the bar down. By doing this, you will ensure your rotator cuff is not strained.
    • Only people with very flexible shoulder joints can keep their spines straight enough to do pull down correctly. Sad to say, most are not that flexible.
  3. In fact, from biomechanically, it is not really natural movement and may cause excess strain on the upper spine and neck.
  4. Also, some tend to hit the back with the bar which could injure cervical vertebrae.

I strongly discourage people to pull the bar behind the head. Do it in front of the head since you can get the same benefit too. In fact, the damage on the rotator cuff can be permanent. So, why risk of the possibility of injuring your shoulders for doing behind the lat pull down exercise?



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