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Lat Pulldowns vs Pull Ups
Are cable pulldowns just as good as pull-ups or chin-ups?
Chin-ups or pull-ups are vastly superior than pulldowns for many reasons. If you look outside of bodybuilding, the athletes with the best back development are kayakers and gymnasts. Why? Because their conditioning programs are centered around the chin-up and it's variations. And just to make sure we're speaking the same language, chin-ups are done with a supinated grip (palms facing you) and pull-ups are done with a pronated grip (palms facing away and knuckles facing you).
1) Chin-ups or pull-ups trigger and involve more motor units than pulldowns. For any given number of reps, a chin-up will always create more demand on the motor-unit pool. Why? Because in a chin-up, you have to move around a fixed object; in pulldowns, you move a free-moving object around you. Any time you move your body through space, you are required to recruit stabilizer and assisting muscle groups to execute that particular movement. There is also more neurological stimulation which is now being researched as the key component to maximum muscle growth.
2) In chin-ups, you cannot use the lower back to move the load; thus, the overload on the back and upper-arm muscles is ensured. No matter what, free body movements like the chin-up are strict compound exercises requiring the targeted muscle groups to do the work.
3) The strength gains in chin-ups and pull-ups are functional. When you improve your chin-ups, you improve your ability to do certain real-life tasks, such as climbing over a fence. This is one of the reasons pull-ups are preferred over pulldowns to test the functional strength of police recruits, SWAT, and Special Forces types of candidates.
Compound free body movements will always be superior muscle building exercises, they're always tough and that's why they work!
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