When it comes to building muscle through rowing, movement quality is just as important as raw strength. Mindlessly slinging weight from one end to another might look impressive, but you end up leaving plenty on the table due to suboptimal usage of the target musculature. While lat pulldowns are great for building the lats along a vertical plane of movement, there are ways to make an already effective exercise even more so.
Like the supramaximal one-arm cable row, the two-to-one lat pulldown uses unilateral pulling mechanics to build muscle more efficiently. Unilateral movements allow for greater attention to be paid towards moving properly due to its simpler structure. With vertical pulling, there is a tendency to utilise more of the arms instead of the back. This is a very common movement error in beginners, although it can resurface with intermediate trainees as well.
Location and equipment courtesy of TripleFit
The set-up is simple and straight-forward enough: taking your usual position with the lat pulldown, perform the movement as how you usually would. Upon reaching the bottom position, release one hand and lower the weight slowly. Once your arm is fully extended, resume a two-handed grip and repeat the motion.
Using submaximal loading with the two-to-one lat pulldown is great way to really dial in your vertical pulling mechanics. Adherence (or lack thereof) to the basics of proper pulling (e.g. depressed shoulders, extended thoracic spine, contraction of the lats) will be evident with this pulldown variation due to the greater level of “feel” associated with this exercise. If you've been pulling more with your arms all this while, the two-to-one lat pulldown will expose this via fatigue in the arms instead of the lats.
Employing tempo and one-and-a-half repetitions can make the two-to-one lat pulldown even more demanding in terms of generating metabolic stress and create muscle damage, so feel free to experiment to find the ideal setup for your situation. Try performing a few sets at the end of a back workout to really send a message to your body!