No matter how long you’ve been training for, there’s always something to learn. Although we may think that after a few years of lifting weights we know pretty much all there is to know, it’s common for us to fall into some bad habits which lead us to performing some exercises either incorrectly or ineffectively.
Within this article I’m going to highlight a few of the most common mistakes when it comes to; range of motion, form, speed and methods of training.
Exercise One: Lat Pull-Down
The key here is in the name. This movement is a “pulling” exercise which primarily engages the Latissimus-Dorsi. Most people do well for the first half of the movement, but the problem starts when the shoulders begin to take over once the bar reaches in line with the face; this then becomes a pushing movement to force the bar downwards towards the floor.
How to Perform a Lat Pull-Down Effectively
Create a small arch in your back when performing this exercise (as close to 11° as you can); a good way to do this is by leaning slightly backwards, retracting your shoulder blades and looking up to the top of the cable.
Once you’ve adopted this posture, try to maintain it as best you can throughout the whole movement; bring the bar down by pulling through your elbows, let the bar touch the top of your chest and then perform the eccentric motion slowly back to the top.
- Don’t use a grip too narrow or too wide; keep your hands in line with your elbows
- Keep your head neutral with your spine
- Keep your shoulder blades retracted
- Pull until the bar reaches the top of your chest, and then slowly release
- Perform the concentric contraction for 2 seconds and the eccentric part of the movement for 3 seconds
In order to aid your grip with this movement you may benefit from some lifting straps.
Exercise Two: Triceps Push-Down (Cable: Rope)
One of the most popular exercises for targeting the triceps is the rope extension; it’s a great way to hit the three heads from a neutral grip (or hammer grip). The main issue when performing this exercise is the range of motion. If your elbows come forwards you’ll take some of the tension off the triceps and allow the shoulders to become involved.
How to Perform a Triceps Push-Down Effectively
Ensure you bring your elbows back at the beginning of the exercise and keep them in the same place throughout the whole motion. The only body part that should move is your lower arm in order to wholly isolate the triceps effectively.
Select a very light weight to begin with and make sure you use perfect form when performing this exercise to reap the full benefits.
- Take hold of the rope with a neutral grip, take a step back, push your bum out and create a small arch in your lower back
- Pin your elbows back and position your chest above where your hands begin the movement
- Your hand should begin the movement parallel with the floor; push the rope downwards until your arms are fully extended and then gradually allow them to raise back up to the starting position before your next repetition.
- Control the whole movement and use a tempo of 2-0-3-0 per repetition to maintain tension throughout
Exercise Three: Cable Pull-Overs
Once again, this movement is a “pulling” motion used to target the Latissimus-Dorsi. Using a cable from the highest setting you’ll need an EZ Bar attachment for the most comfortable grip. A lot of people tend to go for a straight bar and pronate their wrists (palms facing down), but this just puts more emphasis on the shoulders and encourages you to push the weight with some help from the triceps too.
How to Perform Cable Pull-Overs Effectively
First off, supinate your wrists so that your palms face upwards. Hold the bar at shoulder-width, using the groove of the bar to rest your pinky finger. Push your bum out, lift your chest up and allow your arms to reach out in line with your head and spine.
Once you’re comfortable, pull back through your elbows and use a levering motion to bring the bar to your lap. Keeping your posture firm, slowly guide the bar back to its starting position and continue the exercise.
- Always keep your head aligned with your spine
- Pull through your elbows and keep a supinated grip
- Create a slight bend at the knees in order to maintain a strong posture
- Keep your bum out, and create an arch in your lower back while bringing your chest up
- Exaggerate the eccentric portion of this movement by releasing the bar as slowly as possible throughout the correct range of motion to ensure you engage your lats
If you’d like some extra help with your grip you could even use some Liquid Chalk.
About The Author
George Platt (BA, Hons.) is a Personal Trainer, Online Coach and Fitness/Nutrition Writer. George’s passion for physical activity and health developed from a young age after having open heart surgery. You can find out more about George via his website or Instagram: @GeorgePFitness93.