Ever notice that nearly every senior age man does lat pull-downs by lifting his butt off the seat before each pull?
This is about senior age men who appear to be either fairly new to strength training, or – if they’ve been strength training for years, they seem to be locked into a longstanding approach of incorrect form.
It’s vital to point out that these particular older men are in better shape than they would be if they were not going to the gym at all.
But this doesn’t mean it’s safe to raise one’s butt off the seat in response to letting the bar fly up due to a weight load that’s too heavy.
“Anytime you lift so much weight that you can’t properly control it, you’re putting yourself at risk for injury,” says Dr. Jasmine Marcus, a physical therapist and certified strength and conditioning specialist based in Ithaca, NY.
“If the bar flies up too quickly, it can yank your shoulder awkwardly.”
Furthermore, it’s logical to assume that these men want to build muscle and/or strength, and are probably frustrated over why – after all the lat pull-downs they’ve done over an ample period of time – they’re still stuck at the same stack of weights.
What’s with older men letting the bar fly up and their butt come way off the seat?
Perhaps this older generation associates more aggressive, whole-body movement — as opposed to more static and controlled movement with just the upper body — with youth and vitality.
However, if they want to get their whole body involved in a strength training movement, they’re much better off with the following:
#2. Dumbbell or kettlebell squat to overhead press
#3. Walking dumbbell or weight plate lunge to overhead press.
#4. Kettlebell swing
#5. Battle rope
The tire flip and sled pull or push are two additional options for whole-body movement.
But what if whole-body involvement is not what these older men are aiming for? What if it’s just general physical fitness?
That still doesn’t excuse bad form with the lat pull-down.
Lifting the butt off the seat while the bar flies up encourages an erratic, yanking motion that can cause stress injuries to the shoulder joint and possibly elbow joint.
Furthermore, it doesn’t optimize the back and arm fitness that the lat pull-down has the potential to do.
And if these men want to build size in their lat muscles or arms, the butt off the seat and yanking approach won’t cut it because this method diffuses or de-isolates muscle recruitment.
To isolate or spread the muscle recruitment thick, one must keep their rump smack on the seat throughout the entire exercise.
Proper Form for the Lat Pull-down
#1. The leaning back should not exceed 30 degrees. If your spine angle exceeds 30 degrees, this doesn’t mean you won’t benefit, and in fact, it’s a nice variation when everything else is done correctly.
But this exercise is meant to be done fairly upright, especially since leaning back can result in being accidentally bumped by people walking by.
#2. Hand width can vary. The farther apart the hands, the more latissimus dorsi recruitment.
#3. While your butt is firmly on the seat, pull down the bar, keeping head in neutral position, rather than looking up at the bar (other than initially looking up to grab the bar and make sure your hands are evenly placed).
#4. The bar should end up between chin and top chest height.
#5. Keep your forearms vertical at all times.
#6. With control, release the bar upward. Do not let it fly up. Do not let your butt leave the seat.
If you cannot perform the lat pull-down following these guidelines, the weight is too heavy.
Poor Form May Also Be Fueled by Ego
The more you let your butt go off the seat as the bar is released and then pulled back down, the heavier you can set the resistance.
Some older men want to be seen using a heavy weight load – the pin “way down there.”
The much heavier weight is being moved partially by the legs. This will be obvious to experienced gym users.
Isn’t it okay for much older people to cheat with strength training?
Actually, the aged population is the LAST population that should cheat when lifting weights.
After all, it’s easier for a 70-year-old shoulder joint to get injured from bad form than it is for a 30-year-old joint.
What about young people who perform the lat pull-down with unsafe form?
It’s usually after they’ve performed several repetitions correctly. Then they lose strength and cheat to get in several more reps.
At least some of their routine is done correctly. And maybe down the line, they’ll hurt a joint; maybe not. But why take the chance?