How To Do Lat Pushdowns

Kelsey Lensman, ATC


This is one of the hardest movements when it comes to back because it is truly a “mind-muscle connection” that you have to feel in order to get the most out of it! But, there are a few tips that may help with that! Moral of the story: don’t get discouraged if you have no idea what the heck you’re doing. I got you!

How to Set Up:

  1. Set cable high with a wide bar cable attachment (can be curved or straight, the wider the better)
  2. Slight bend at hips/knees (keep it relaxed) and place hands face down (pronated) on bar
  3. Keep slight bend in elbows (not locked out, not fully bent)
  4. Squeeze shoulder blades down and back
  5. Place most of pressure through pinky side of hand and rotate the outside of your elbows in towards your body: “Break the Bar” – Pretend like you are trying to break the bar like you break a stick (you’re locking those lats in)
    1. Essentially you’re externally rotating your shoulder by driving that elbow in
  6. Keep that position through entire set (HUGE)
  7. Feel a stretch in your lats at the bottom: Hands should be above head
  8. Keep back straight. No curve or bending at back!

 How to Complete:

  1. With shoulder blades down and back, weight in the outside of hand, lats locked in (break the bar), and slight bend in hips/knee – DRIVE elbows down to hips
  2. While driving elbows, think about squeezing your shoulder blades down and back even more!
  3. BREATH OUT when driving bar to hip
  4. Bring your chest and upper body through (like Superman)
  5. When bar gets to hips, FULL squeeze of shoulder blades together at the end (THIS PART IS HUGE) – hold for 1-2 seconds to really FEEL it
  6. Slowly return to initial position by SLOWLY (hit that negative/eccentric for extra challenge)


  1. Lock lats in
  2. Squeeze shoulder blades down and back to begin
  3. Drive ELBOWS/hands to hips
  4. FULL squeeze of shoulder blades together at the end

Mistakes people make:

  1. They start in poor position with forward rounded shoulders (not locking shoulder blades in)
  2. Keep elbows completely straight and then start to feel all pressure in elbows
  3. VERY STIFF: Keep that soft bend in elbows, knees, and hips – feel the movement, don’t make it rigid
  4. Stand up straight, so don’t get full stretch in lats by sinking under your arms at the bottom
  5. Hold the bar without thinking about breaking the bar and putting pressure more in outside of hands
  6. They round shoulder blades throughout entire movement: NO NO NO
  7. They go to quick and don’t get that full activation at the end of the movement with squeezing shoulder blades together

POSITIONING IS HUGE! Shoulder blades. Shoulder blades. Shoulder blades. Go lighter and focus on the FEEL. If you can’t feel it, you’re not doing it – so break that down and then work up with weight! No shame in taking baby steps! As always train hard AND train smart.

Kelsey uses the Max Effort Muscle protein to refuel and recover after her workouts!