Lat Pull Downs:
Before you begin, adjust the height of the seat so you can sit comfortably, and adjust the height of the roller-pads so that they hold your legs down firmly. Before you grab the pull-down bar, check the weight stack to make sure it’s not set too heavy for you. Also, before you sit down, make sure you have an even grip on the bar. Most pull-down bars are slanted at both ends. Use the angles on the bar to make sure your grip is even. For example, if you place your middle finger on top of the bend in the bar on one side, make sure you set the same finger on top of the bend on the other side. It is important that your grip is even on both sides of the bar; if not, your lat muscles may develop unevenly. Once you have an even grip on the bar, sit down and make sure you are firmly secured in the seat. Lift your rib cage, which causes your back to arch. When you are in this posture, look up slightly towards the bar. To execute your technique on the lat pull-down, you must start each repetition by depressing your scapulas; in other words, lower your shoulder blades. This ensures that the actual motion of pulling down the bar focuses the work on your lats and not your biceps. Do not squeeze the bar too tight. Pull the bar to about the level of your chin for maximum contraction. Do not pull the bar all the way down to your chest. When you pull the bar too far down, it becomes all arms at this point. Keep it at chin level for maximum contraction. Raise the bar with control and do not snap your elbows at the top of the motion. Make sure you get a full stretch at the top of each rep. This will lengthen your lats for better results. KEY POINT! Stay in control when doing a lat pull down. If you are not in control, you can easily pull the long head of your triceps tendon which is attached on to your scapula (Shoulder blade) This is because your lat muscle is attached to the groove of the humerus bone, known as the (Intertubercular groove) and they both extend, adduct the arm. If the lats give out, then all of the stress will be on the long head of the triceps which can cause a tendon tear.
Form: Squeeze your back tight by bringing your shoulder blades together, and then lift the bar off the rack. Make sure you are balanced before stepping back into squatting position.
To begin, place the barbell on your upper back, and not on the bony part of your vertebrae. Specifically, the bar should be resting against the superior trapezius muscles, not farther up the back where the bar would sit on the bony part of the neck. Make sure your grip is even on both sides of the bar and keep your elbows in tight where they will squeeze your shoulder blades and your trapezius muscles by bringing the elbows in toward your body. This squeeze should make your entire upper back tight, a solid platform for the barbell. This way, your back keeps the bar firmly in place and won’t allow the bar to move. Step back from the rack and take a shoulder width stance. Turn your feet out at about a forty five degree angle. Begin your squat by bending from your hips, pushing your hips to the rear; in other words, stick your butt out! Go down to about a ninety degree angle. Keep your head up, looking forward and not to the ceiling. By keeping your hips out to the rear and your head up, you will create a natural arch in your back. In other words, this posture will keep your back flat. Come back up to an up-right position. When you’re coming out of your squat, keep your head up and press your hips forward until you are back at the starting position.
Tips for spotting and benching:
For the spotter: Always keep your eyes on your workout partner during the bench press. When spotting, use a mix grip hand position, In other words, make sure one hand is facing down and the other is facing up when your hands are on the bar. This is known as a mix grip. This type of grip is much more secure than having both hands face down or up.
Remember to stay close to the bar and keep your knees bent to protect your back while spotting. When spotting with dumbbells, spot on the triceps (the back of the upper arm) near the elbow. Dumbbells are much harder to spot, so please be careful.
For the person benching: Starting the lift, slowly pick up the bar off the uprights. Do not bring the bar down to your chest right after picking it up from the uprights. Make sure you have good balance with the bar over your chest before lowering it down.