According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, men 21 years and older should be able to perform five to nine strict pullups on average, 13 or more pullups is considered excellent. On average, women tend to have more difficulty performing pullups. One or two pullups is considered excellent for women.
Pullups are a great test of strength in the back, shoulder and arm muscles. They can be done with minimum equipment and because pullups require so many muscle groups, they make for a great fat loss exercise as well.
While the pullup is a great exercise, the lat pull-down cable machine is a great option for many. For those who are unable to perform a chin up (palms facing you) or pullup (palms facing away), the lat pull-down is an excellent way to build strength and develop muscles in the upper back. The lat pull-down machine is also a great way for beginners and intermediate individuals to learn how to use their back muscles properly. It allows trainees to strengthen and target the latissimus dorsi, a very large muscle that is responsible for pulling exercises. While there are numerous benefits with the lat pull-down, the behind the neck variation of this exercise has its drawbacks.
The problems start at the neck. Because of the bar, the neck is forced forward too much and the shoulders are then put into a position of extreme external rotation while also being hyper-extended. All of this puts the shoulder at a mechanical disadvantage. What does this mean? It’s bad for your shoulders, neck and spine.
By pulling the weight in front of your body, not only is it safer, but you will be able to do more weight and reps. This version is much safer for the shoulders, neck and spine.
There are a ton of different grips and handles that you can choose from and I would recommend trying them all and picking the one that feels most comfortable. To integrate the core, try the lat pull down standing, in a split stance or keeling position to challenge the back muscular while forcing the core to stabilize. This makes the lat pull a more total body and “bang for your buck” exercise.
Kyler Crouse, BS, CSCS, FMS is a personal trainer and strength coach who trains at Sierra Athletic Club and in the homes of clients in the greater Lake Tahoe area. Crouse specializes in performance enhancement and injury prevention. Visit www.KCstrength.com for more information.