Back Muscles - Straight Arm Pulldown

Back Muscles - Straight Arm Pulldown

Learn how to do straight arm pulldowns. The straight arm pulldown is an exercise for the back muscles where you pull down a bar with extended arms. This exercise works the lattissimus and partially also the pectoralis minor chest muscle. Find more exercises for your back muscles at weight training and bodybuilding.


  • Stand in front of a lat pulldown machine and grasp the bar with an over-grip or put your palms flat on the bar (palms facing down). Grasp the bar with your hands between 1 and 2 shoulder widths apart. The elbows should be slightly bent. Bend your legs a little and keep your abdominals tight. The upper body should not move much when you pull the bar down. It doesn't really matter if you keep your trunk vertical. As long as you don't create momentum or stress your lower back, it's ok if you bend forward a bit.
  • Pull the bar down towards your thighs without bending the elbows and exhale. Press your shoulders down and back and squeeze your back muscles when the bar touches your thighs. You can move back a little as you pull the bar down, so that your upper body is vertical, but don't lean forward and don't try to create momentum with your upper body.
  • Then let the bar move back up to the beginning position and inhale at the same time. Stop when the bar reaches head height and then pull it back down again. You can lean forward slightly as you raise the bar, or keep your upper body still throughout the entire exercise. Either way, make sure you keep your abdominals tight. The up motion should be slightly slower than the down motion. Some people like the top position of the straight arm pulldown to be over head height. That's ok as long as your shoulders feel comfortable. The higher you raise the bar, the more your back muscles are stretched at the top position.


  • Don't create momentum with your upper body when you do straight arm pulldowns for your back muscles.
  • Keep your abs tight.
  • Lock your lower body and your wrists.
  • Even though this exercise is called "Straight Arm Pulldown", your arms should not be fully extended. To protect your elbows, bend your arms slightly.