The lat pull down machine is designed for the purpose of compound exercise, specifically exercise meant to both develop and then stress the lat muscle, which is short for lattisimus dorsi. To familiarize yourself briefly with just what exactly your lat muscle is, do the following. Thrust your elbow into the air so that it is 45 degrees from being vertical. Turn it in a gentle arc downwards and back until it finishes its movement and is pointing at the ground in a 45-degree angle. The resulting bunched up feeling in your back is your lat muscle. The lat pull down machine is recommended for beginners who want to start doing back work, because of its compound exercise properties.
Targeted Body Parts
During lat pull down machine workouts, you will notice that the muscles in your biceps and middle back get quite some attention. The reason that these two muscles are primarily targeted is because of the machine's compound exercise properties, where it needs motion in two joints (in this case, the elbow and the shoulder) in order for it to be used properly. Because of the muscle groups this machine targets, it is often used as a precursor to getting people to do correct-form push ups and chin ups. The reason for this is because the motion of a regular chin up, for example, is quite similar to the motions required by the lat pull down machine.
Proper and Safe Use
To use the machine correctly, sit on its bench and ensure that your feet are firmly planted on the ground. Grip the machine's overhead bar in a pronated grip, which is defined as a grip with your palms facing downwards. Make sure your hands are at shoulder-width apart on the overhead bar as you finally go to the most important move: The downward pull. Using your arms held perfectly straight, pull down your shoulders, but without bending your elbows. Pull down also by using your back muscles (your lats) and your arm muscles at the same time. At the moment that your upper arms become parallel to the floor, pull back immediately with the muscles of your middle back as well as your elbows; also make sure to touch your chest with the overhead bar. You finish the last movement by pushing out your chest.
Through slight variations on the grip, you can create new exercises on the lat pull down machine. For instance, instead of holding your hands on the overhead grip at a shoulder wide distance, increase this distance to double in length, or alternately, hold your hands as close together as inside the shoulder, and then repeat the above method. You can also change your hand position on the overhead bar from pronated to supinated or even parallel. Doing this will change the paths of your elbows as you do a repetition and, thus, exercise a different portion of your muscles.