The Wide Grip Pulldown to the Front is one of the most widely known back exercises.
The mechanics of the movement are very similar to the Close Grip Pulldown, with the only major difference being the wider, overhand grip.
How to Do Wide Grip Pulldowns to the Front:
Take a wide grip with your palms facing forward.
Don't grip excessively wide, though. About 4 to 6 inches outside shoulder width is fine (too close will involve the biceps too much while too wide will reduce the amount of weight you are able to use).
Start with your torso vertical and your arms overhead.
As you begin to pull down, lean back slightly, arching your lower back and puffing your chest out to meet the bar. This isolates the lats better. Pull the bar down to your mid-pecs, concentrating on pulling with your back muscles rather than pulling with the biceps.
When you get to the bottom of the movement, try to squeeze your shoulder blades behind your back for a second then slowly let the bar go back up.
Tricks for Performing Wide Grip Front Pulldowns:
1. Two part movement
This movement should be done as a two-part movement to work your back best. Try this little exercise to get a feel for the movement:
- Start by sitting in the pulldown machine grasping the bar with your arms fully extended overhead.
- Allow your shoulders to shrug up, letting the weight stretch your shoulders.
- Now try dropping your shoulder girdle. This is the opposite movement of when you shrug your shoulders; it is the down part. The arms should not bend in this part of the movement. Your shoulders should just drop down a few inches.
- Practice this short movement a few times.
- Once you have the feel for that, add this to the pulldown movement by first shrugging down, then pulling the bar down the rest of the way.
- You should feel a difference in your back immediately as this technique will lock your lats into activation.
- Repeat this technique at the start of every rep.
2. Knee in the back
A good way to get the feel for the proper technique at the bottom of the movement is to have somebody put his or her knee in your mid-back on your spinal column.
- This will force you to wrap your back around it, arching the back and puffing out the chest.
- Focus on trying to squeeze the knee with the shoulder blades to feel the movement.
3. Breathe backwards
It is a little known but important trick that you should breathe backwards when doing pulldowns and chins (especially pulldowns). Here is the sequence.
- At the top, inhale deeply, hold it and pull down.
- Exhale as you let the bar up.
- The reason for this is that the chest should be puffed up when you are pulling down to maximize tension on the lats.
- When you exhale, you collapse your chest, caving it in and increasing the work on the biceps. This is the opposite of what you want to do.
- By holding a deep breath, you puff the chest more and arch your back more, greatly increasing the effect of the exercise.
4. Getting into position
If you have trouble getting the weight into position at the start of the rep, try this trick.
- First, remove the pin from the weight stack.
- Then, pull the bar down to a level where you can easily reach it from a sitting position under the hip pads.
- Finally, place the pin back inside the stack at the weight you will be using for your set.
This trick will allow you to get into and out of the pulldown machine without worrying about what is happening to the bar and the weight.
Common Errors in the Wide Grip Front Pulldown Exercise:
The errors include those mentioned with Close Grip Pulldowns. Some specific ones for this exercise include:
1. Pulling down behind the neck
This is also known as the Behind-the-Neck Pulldown exercise.
- It is not a good exercise and can lead to shoulder problems in the long term.
- The position of the arms in the shoulder sockets is a sensitive one.
- Even with enough flexibility to do the exercise properly (which few people have) there is still a large risk of injury.
- The shoulders are just not designed to work with resistance in that position.
2. Taking too wide or too narrow a grip
If you find your biceps are more fatigued than your back, your grip is too narrow. If you have a very small range of motion, your grip is probably too wide.
The grip you should be taking is at or near the point where the bar starts to bend down.
The longer your arms are, the further down the bent part you can safely grip. The shorter your arms are, the closer in your hands will need to grip.
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