The lat pulldown is an upper body strength exercise that targets the upper back, but it is also effective in building overall upper body strength. It is a staple lat exercise, especially for anyone not yet strong enough to do pull-ups.
There are several variations to the pulldown (for example the underhand grip pulldown shown here), however in this post we will focus on two.
Lat pulldown behind the neck vs. standard wide-grip pulldown
Behind the neck lat pull down has been considered as a dangerous exercise and is excluded from many training routines.This is mainly due to an extreme external rotation which may potentially cause injury.
Some people like this variation because it places a different angle of emphasis on the traps, which they believe will lead to better results.
Research has shown that the posterior delt (shoulders) and biceps brachii (arms) demonstrated higher activity during the behind-the-neck variation.
Numerous studies concluded that the wide-grip pulldown to the front of the neck produced greater muscle activity in the latissimus dorsi (back) than any of the variations.
Looking at the evidence, the front pulldown is the clear-cut winner when compared to the rear version. Not only is the muscle activation to the latissimus dorsi similar or better when performing the exercise to the front, the risk of potential shoulder injuries, neck injuries, or nerve injuries is also reduced.
Have a look at both videos and see for yourself which one looks less awkward and less painful to watch? Give it a go and decide.