by Nick Nilsson
If you want to fully develop your back in terms of definition and detail, you have to go beyond just doing deadlifts, heavy rows and chin-ups for mass…you need to attack your lats with two distinct patterns of pulling movements…vertical and horizontal…done with strict form.
Vertical back movements consist of chin-ups, pull-ups and various forms of pulldowns. Horizontal movements are your rowing movements (in this case, horizontal means relative to the torso – a barbell row is in absolute terms a vertical path of movement as you row the bar up but the bar path itself is horizontal relative to where your upper body is positioned).
Now, most people instinctively realize this and train both patterns of movement in their back workouts…in separate exercises.
What if you could cover BOTH patterns of movement in ONE exercise…
That’s where THIS exercise comes in. I call it a Full-Range Pulldown, because it essentially takes your lats from full stretch (at the top of the pulldown) to maximum contraction (at the peak pull of a rowing movement) in one set.
It’s extremely intense and produces a MASSIVE contraction in the lats.
The first thing to note here is that you want to use a moderate weight. This exercise is all about form and tension, not blasting out reps with momentum. So take what you normally use for a set of pulldowns for 8 to 10 reps and reduce it by at least 1/3 to 1/2. You can always move up from there, as you can, but it’s critical to maximize the tension in the lats during the movement and going to heavy can diffuse that tension.
I prefer a V bar close-grip handle for this, but you can also use a straight bar and/or wide grip for the exercise.
Begin with a normal pulldown movement.
** On a side note, to really maximize lat involvement, I want you to take a deep breath IN as you pull the handle down to your chest. DO NOT exhale on the pull down as this will collapse your chest during the time you want to be puffing it out. Inhaling on the way down ensures better lat activation.
Now here’s the critical part…hold that handle position in space and lean back until your arms are straight again. This puts you in the position for the horizontal movement pattern of the lats.
Perform a “row” in that position, again inhaling and puffing your chest out to meet the handle as you pull it in, and striving to get your elbows back behind you as contract the lats as hard as you can.
Now it’s time to come back up to the start position of the pulldown. This can be done in one smooth movement, letting the handle come up as you go back to a vertical torso position.
Repeat the sequence for 6 to 10 total reps.
I can PROMISE you that at the end of the first set, your lats will be pumped up like crazy and you will have a POWERFUL lactic acid burn. This constant tension and dual movement pattern puts demands on the lats that they’re definitely not used to.
It’s one of my favorite exercises for carving great detail and definition into the entire back and it can be used by ANYONE at any training level, beginner to advanced.