Yesterday I noticed that the lat on my left side looks smaller than on my right side. So I thought maybe I'm lifting uneven when doing Lat Pulldowns. In training today I really focussed on activating both sides of the lats evenly and noticed that my left biceps feels sore significantly quicker than the right one, which, to me, means that on the left arm my biceps takes over a lot of work the lats would have done. So I'm in fact lifting unevenly what results in the smaller left lat.

What can I do about that problem, apart from focussing on activating the lats evenly/focussing on activating the left lat instead of the left biceps. Maybe some pre-activation would help?

I'm doing regular Lat Pulldowns with an Overhand Grip, 3 sets x 10-12 reps. Other than that, I also do Cable Rows for my upper back. I'm not able to do Lat Pulldowns "one armed", because in my gym there is no such machine that allowes that. Only a cable machine with one cable.

  • Something to consider...it can very difficult to activate muscles evenly in bilateral movement. Your dominant side will typically do more work than the weaker side. Through the mind-muscle connection, that Dark Hippo alluded to, you can focus at moving at the pace of your weaker side, instead of just passively performing an exercise. One common reason for the the stronger side to take over is because of moderate to extreme strength asymmetry. This can be remedied by performing extra sets during your workout on your weaker side. – Sean Perkins Dec 11 at 20:32
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Have you tried a straight arm pulldown? Basically, stand in from of the pulldown machine, grab the bar at shoulder height, and with straight arms, bring the bar down to where it naturally reaches at about mid-thigh (there's a lot of info out there for the movement if that doesn't make sense).

In your case, it has the benefit of removing the biceps from the movement, and concentrating more on the lats.

If you have somewhere to hang from instead of the pulldown machine, you could start to work towards a front lever, which requires a vary large around of lat strength.

Another way to reinforce the mind-muscle connection when performing a pulldown is to have someone touch or gently poke the lats (or, in your case, the left lat) while you're performing the movement.

If you can perform single arm pulldowns (if there's no suitable handle, just remove the bar and grab the cable directly for lighter activation sets) you can place your "off" hand on the lat of the working side, which also helps activate the muscle / improve the mind-muscle connection. You could also purchase an exercise band to recreate this if you really can't use the lat pulldown machine one handed.

  • A straight arm pulldown is essentially a pullover am I right? (alteast thats the name I know this exercise under). I guess that can be also done unilateral in order to hit the imbalances? – Suimon Dec 8 at 9:31
  • @Suimon Kind of. A pullover is generally done lying on a bench, and involves more thoracic extension with the arms overhead and the weight is pulled down until perpendicular to the upper body, a pull down is done standing and start, at about shoulder height, coming down to thigh height at the end. They do both hit the lats, but in different ranges of motion. – Dark Hippo Dec 8 at 10:22

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