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How To: Straight Arm Pulldown

Straight Arm Pulldown

The straight arm pulldown is an isolation exercise targeting the lats, not to be confused with various versions of the triceps pushdown.
In order to feel and perform the straight arm pulldown correctly you must start light and learn to pull through the lats as opposed to the arms, watch the video below to see correct form.

Movement: Isolation

Targets: Back

Required: Cable Machine + Straight Bar Attachment

Optional: N/A

Straight Arm Pulldown Form:

With your straight bar attached to the top pulley of your cable machine grip the bar with a slightly wider than shoulder width grip.

Take 3 steps back before bending your torso forward 30 degrees and fully extending your arms (while maintaining a slight bend in the elbow).

Squeeze your lats together while maintaining straight arms to pull the bar down until your arms are next to your upper legs.

Slowly return the bar to the top pulley starting position with straight arms.

Straight Arm Pulldown Variations

Straight Arm Rope Pulldown

The big benefit of the rope pulldown over the bar pulldown is the ability to further stretch and contract your lats at the bottom of each rep.
With form being identical the 1 second contraction is far more effective when performed with a rope as you're able to pull the rope apart and squeeze at the same time, unlike the mere downward pull and contraction with the straight bar.

See also
How To: Foam Roll ITB

Common Straight Arm Pulldown Mistakes

Using Partial Range Of Motion

Each repetition should begin with your arms fully extended below your torso and end with the barbell up against your torso with your shoulder blades squeezed together.

Jerking Your Body To Complete The Repetition

The duration of the repetition should be slow and controlled, the top (contraction) portion of the repetition is by far the hardest, and if you're jerking your entire body to get the contraction this is a clear sign it's time to lower the number of repetitions per set.

Not Squeezing The Shoulder Blades Together

Every back exercise comes down to getting the correct contraction - the contraction is a result of squeezing your shoulder blades together and tensing your back muscles as you've pulled the weight towards your torso. You cannot get this contraction without squeezing the shoulder blades.

I feel as if I repeat this point far too often, however for years I was merely training my back without contracting the muscles correctly... needless to say for a few years my back lagged behind the rest of my physique in terms of both size and strength.

Similar & Substitute Exercises 

  • Bent Over Row
  • Seated Cable Row
  • Lat Pulldown
  • Pull-Ups

Any Questions Regarding The Straight Arm Pulldown? Ask Below!

Scott J.
Scott J.
I’m SJ. I’m a fitness enthusiast and published author. I transformed my body from a skinny fat 135lbs with 18% body fat to a solid 192lbs at 8% body fat. I became qualified in a field I was passionate about. I founded several online businesses that allow me to pursue ideas and projects in my life that I am passionate about without having to constantly worry about money. I published several eBooks explaining the training and dieting techniques I used to achieve the body I have today. I learnt a plethora of new information on dieting and fitness by reading and applying what I read, to find out what does work and what doesn’t work, because as I’m sure you’ve noticed the health and fitness industry is full of non-sense claims and BS. I found out what was true and what worked for me and applied that knowledge. And you bet I had fun during the whole process.

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