There are many different ways to improve your current exercise routine. What about doing lat pulldowns with a dumbbell, what will the effects be?
The lat pulldown is an exercise done with a cable machine or resistance bands where you pull down a bar with the help of your lats (latissimus dorsi muscle).
Due to the angle holding a dumbbell instead of a cable or resistance band will only make the movement easier for your muscles. This is the opposite of what you want when trying to build muscle.
However, there is a way to do the same movement as the lat pulldown with a dumbbell that does engage similar muscles in a similar way. This movement is called the dumbbell pullover exercise.
You simply lie down on a weight bench, hold one dumbbell in your hands, move your hands back and down, and then back upwards with the help of your lats.
Keep in mind that dumbbell pullovers can be bad for your shoulders. If you have shoulder injuries or sensitive shoulders you may want to stick to other exercises.
Whether you should add this dumbbell version of the lat pulldown or alternatives to your routine ultimately depends on things like your personal situation, personal preference, and training goals.
How to do a dumbbell lat pulldown
For dumbbell lat pulldowns/pullovers you will need something to put your shoulders on and a weight to move.
A weight bench and a dumbbell are ideal but you can also use things like a quality plyo box or a sturdy chair or weights like a barbell, kettlebells, certain weight plates, etc
To do a dumbbell lat pulldown/pullover take the following steps:
- Lie on a weight bench with your head on the end of the bench. Hold the dumbbell in your hands.
- Extend your arms upward until they are slightly less than stretched and point them up.
- Slowly move back your arms as far as comfortable. To engage your back muscles more instead of your lower chest bring your elbows slightly away from your body. Your arms stay slightly less than stretched throughout the exercise.
- Move your arms back to the position in step 2 in a controlled motion.
Keep your movements slow and controlled to make your muscles really work hard and to avoid bad technique. If you feel your lower chest muscles working a lot harder than your latissimus dorsi your technique may be off.
Even with the right technique, dumbbell lat pulldowns are not for everyone. If you have any shoulder issues you may want to pass on this exercise.
Dumbbell lat pulldown muscles worked
Dumbbell lat pulldowns/pullovers are mainly a lat muscle isolation exercise or a chest isolation exercise depending on how you do them. Muscles like your triceps may have to work to a certain extent to keep your arms straight.
This is slightly different from the actual lat pulldown where your biceps have to work a certain amount too. Even so, in both the cable lat pulldown and lats-focused dumbbell pullover, the main focus is the latissimus dorsi muscle.
The way you build muscle in places like your lats is by engaging these muscles so that they get damaged enough.
This may sound counterintuitive but this damage makes it so your body repairs these muscles, and adds a bit more to be better prepared to exert similar efforts in the future.
Doing the lat pulldown at exactly the same angle with a dumbbell in your hands will not do much for your lats. By holding a dumbbell it just becomes easier for your latissimus dorsi to pull your arms down thanks to gravity.
By gradually increasing the resistance during the lying version of the dumbbell lat pulldowns/pullovers as you get stronger, you are better able to damage the muscles in a shorter amount of time.
If you don’t overdo it, give your body enough nutrients, and give your muscles enough rest this can in turn lead to faster and more lat muscle gain.
Dumbbell lat pulldown benefits
Some people question how useful dumbbell lat pulldowns/pullovers can be but this exercise can offer you some of the following amazing benefits:
- Stronger muscles: Lying dumbbell lat pulldowns are a type of resistance training that can help you strengthen your muscles.
- Can help with losing weight: Doing dumbbell lat pulldowns likely requires more energy than your regular daily activities. Extra muscle mass also helps with burning more calories. Both of these aspects can help with, but are no guarantee for, weight loss.
- Improves mood: Exercise like dumbbell lat pulldowns promotes the release of substances that help you feel good.
- Slows down aging: Doing dumbbell lat pulldowns won’t influence how many days have passed since you were born. However, exercise can slow down the progress of certain aging markers that are correlated with negative health effects.
- Improves sleep: Exercise like dumbbell lat pulldowns can improve the quality and duration of your sleep which in turn offers many important benefits.
While inevitably some workouts are better for some of these dumbbell lat pulldowns/pullovers benefits, it is amazing that you can get so many important benefits from adding one activity to your routine.
The main thing to keep in mind is that dumbbell lat pulldowns/pullovers can be hard on body parts like your back, elbows, and shoulders, even if you implement the right technique.
If you are sensitive in these areas you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. Especially if you have any shoulder pain, you may want to talk to your primary care provider before implementing dumbbell lat pulldowns/pullovers into your workout routine.
How heavy your dumbbell should be for dumbbell lat pulldowns/pullovers varies from individual to individual. If you are not sure how much resistance would be right for you, you can start with a light or no dumbbell and slowly build up from there.
If you feel pain in any body parts it may be a sign you are overdoing it. In that case, you may need some rest, better lifestyle habits, a less intense workout schedule, or it may be a sign that dumbbell lat pulldowns/pullovers are not (yet) for you.
Dumbbell lat pulldown alternatives
While dumbbell lat pulldowns/pullovers can be a good addition to your workout routine, there are also some alternatives for training similar muscles as the regular lat pulldown.
Some of these dumbbell lat pulldown/pullover alternatives include:
- Pull-ups (with a dumbbell between your feet)
- Bent-over rows
- Renegade rows
- Straight arm kickbacks
Which one of these options is the best depends on things like your personal situation, training goals, the equipment you have available, etc.
Many people will benefit a lot from adding dumbbell lat pulldowns/pullovers with the right technique to their routine. They can be a great exercise option to strengthen and grow your latissimus dorsi muscle.
One thing you need to remember is that doing dumbbell lat pulldowns/pullovers can be hard on body parts like your back, elbows, and shoulders, even if you implement the right technique.
If you are sensitive in these areas you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. Especially if you have any shoulder pain, you may want to talk to your primary care provider before doing more dumbbell lat pulldowns/pullovers.
If you feel pain in any body parts it may be a sign you are overdoing it. In that case, you may need some rest, better lifestyle habits, a less intense workout schedule, better technique, or it may be a sign that doing dumbbell lat pulldowns/pullovers is not for you (yet).
Also keep in mind that consistency is a big factor in a workout plan. The more you love the exercise you do the easier it becomes to do it consistently.
If doing dumbbell lat pulldowns/pullovers is a workout you love, great. If not, dumbbell pullover alternatives and other exercises can also offer a lot of benefits.
If you do decide to implement dumbbell lat pulldowns/pullovers more, make sure you give your body enough nutrients, rest, and sleep to repair and grow your muscles.