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   H   ang out at any gym
       long enough and
   you’re sure to overhear the
   big, burly guys bantering
   about how much they can
   bench. Ever heard one of
   them brag about how
   much he can “pulldown”?
   Probably not. Vanity and
   our natural tendency to ex-
   ercise the muscles on the
   front of the body, lead
   many weight trainers to
   neglect the muscles of the
        Balance between the muscles on the
   front and back of the body is key to creat-
   ing a healthy and strong upper body. Be-
   cause most people – athletes and non-ath-
   letes alike – do not display this strength
   symmetry, the lat pulldown is a machine
   that is ideal for just about everyone.
        Many people overdo chest work, and
   the result is weak lats and traps and strong
   pecs. This resulting imbalance can wreck
   havoc on the shoulder joint; the strong
   muscles tend to dominate movement pat-
   terns and place unnecessary strain on the            1
   rotator cuff and connective tissue that are
   designed to keep the joint healthy.
        It is not uncommon to see people de-
   velop shoulder pain or shoulder joint im-
   pingement problems from muscle imbal-          tery of proper movement patterns should        VARIATIONS AND MODIFICATIONS
   ance. To ensure the benefits of the exer-      be the primary goals of every exerciser.             • For most exercisers, the bar should
   cises are realized, muscle balance and mas-         Weak back muscles are easily spotted:     be pulled down to the front rather than the
                                                  ears are usually in front of the shoulders     back of the head. Pulling the bar behind the
                                                  and hips, and the shoulders slope forward      head may lead to rotator cuff strain or in-
     This regular feature is presented            unattractively. Strong back muscles pull the   jury.
     to help you teach and coach your             body back into a more appropriate mili-              • In the absence of a high pulley ma-
                                                  tary-type posture: chest up and out, chin      chine, a dumbbell pullover is the next
     clients to use exercise equipment            slightly tucked in and spine neutral.          best exercise to train the lats. Lay supine
     in the most safe and effective                    Aesthetics aside, whether you’re a pro-   on a bench and grasp one dumbbell with
                                                  fessional athlete or an amateur gardener,      both hands. Hold the dumbbell overhead
     manner.                                      weak back muscles will increase your           at arms length, keep the abs tight (naval
                                                  chances of muscle strains and injury.          pulled up and in) and feet up on the end of

    HOW TO DO IT                                   COMMON ERRORS
    1. Hold the bar with as wide a grip            X Initiating each pulldown by leaning back to create momentum and creating
  as possible.                                       a rocking motion.

    2. Tuck the thighs under the pads              X Letting the scapula elevate (as the bar goes up) and depress (as the bar
  so they are held firmly.                           comes down) throughout the exercise.

    3. Keep the feet flat on the floor             X Not keeping the navel pulled up which lets the trunk go lax.
  with knees at 90 degrees.
                                                   X Flexing or crunching at the spine as the bar is pulled down.
     4. Lean back slightly to create a
  clear path for the bar to pass by the            X Leaning back too far (which shifts some of the work to the trapezius and
  face as it is pulled down.

    5. Contract the abdominals and
  pull the navel up and in to stabilize
  the trunk and create a neutral spine.

    6. To initiate the pull, and for bet-
  ter isolation of the lats, depress and
  retract the scapula prior to adduct-
  ing the upper arms.

    7. Pull the bar to a level between
  the chin and clavicle; think about
  driving the elbows towards the floor.

     8. Visualize the lats doing the pull-
  ing, especially during the initiation
  of the pull.

     9. Keep the shoulder blades re-
  tracted and depressed throughout
  the exercise; keep the earlobes far
  from the shoulders. Think of having
  a “long neck.”

     10. As the bar goes up, let the lats      2
  experience a complete stretch and

  their full range of motion, but con-
  tinue to keep the shoulders de-

     11. Keep the torso completely
  still throughout the exercise.              Primary:
                                              latissimus dorsi
    12. Exhale as the bar comes down          Secondary:
  and inhale as it rises.                                                 3
                                              biceps brachii

the bench. Slowly lower the dumbbell          of the exercise. Focus on ensuring that     back muscles, perform a barbell bench
(with arms straight) to a position behind     the exerciser demonstrates trunk and        press or dumbbell chest press. Include in-
the head to achieve a maximal stretch of      scapular stability and proper breathing     cline presses as well to train the upper
the lats. Contract the lats and pull the      technique.                                  portion of the pectoralis major. FTC
dumbbell back to the start position.
     • A wide-grip chin up will also ef-      COMPLEMENTARY EXERCISES                     Bart Arnold (M.Sc., P.F.L.C., University of
fectively train the lats muscle. Exercisers       • Team the lat pulldown with the        Saskatchewan faculty member, Level 4 cer-
unable to lift their own body weight will     seated row. This exercise strengthens       tified coach) is the strength and condition-
                                                                                          ing coordinator for the University of
need a spotter for assistance.                the remaining key muscles of the back –
                                                                                          Saskatchewan football team. He has over
                                              the rhomboids, lower-trapezius and mid-     15 years experience in strength and condi-
COACHING TIPS                                 trapezius.                                  tioning for athletes competing in the WHL,
     • Trainers should stand behind their         • Also include chest exercises. To      AHL, NHL, CFL, CIS and at many national
clients and encourage a smooth execution      achieve balance between the chest and       and international events.

                                                                                                                  FITNESS TRAINER 35