When I first got into bike racing I always figured cheap sunglasses were just as good as the brand name.
I thought it was crazy for someone to spend more than $30 on a pair of shades much less $200.
After a few years of bike racing and really trashing my cheap pairs, I grew to love and appreciate the brand name frames.
The exact same thing happened when I traded in the lat pull down for the standard pull up.
Back in the day, I figured the two exercises did the same thing. They looked about the same and they worked the same muscles. So why bother jumping up on a bar when I have a fancy piece of equipment I can use?
However, once I made the switch to pullups, the pull down quickly felt like it was some sort of a cheap substitute.
Now I’m not saying the pull down is a bad move, I’m just saying that it can’t produce the quality of result that the pull up does.
My theory was further confirmed when I decided to play around on a lat pull after a year or two of doing nothing but pull ups.
Even though I wasn’t using the machine I still gained a surprising amount of strength and the weight I was pulling before felt easy as hell.
I also came across a story, on line, where a couple of body builders challenged a gymnast to see who could do the most reps on the pull down machine with the full stack.
The gymnast lost but only by 1-2 reps. But when the challenge was brought to the pull up bar the body builders didn’t even come close to matching the gymnasts strength and endurance.
This is a common theme I keep running accross since my conversion to body weight training. All of those years of weight lifting had limited functional carry over to applications where I had to move my body through space. However, body weight training continues to greatly improve my ability to both move through space and move heavy objects as well.
I don’t know why this is the case.
Maybe it’s because moving the body through space can potentially place more stress on the central nervous system.
Maybe it’s because I feel safer and more comfortable with body weight powered exercise so I push myself harder.
Maybe it has something to do with open vs closed chained exercise.
But for right now, I don’t know nor do I really care.
All I know is that my body weight training is still making lifting heavy things easier be it lifting a treadmil or carrying a box up some strairs.
The messege I really want to convey is this.
The pull down is fine, but it’s most certainly not a replacement to the pull up. It’s like a cheap knockoff.
There is simply no substitute for the pull up and if you’re not doing them on a regular basis you’re seriously missing out.
If you’re considering the pull up may be out of your league then fear not my friend. I have a cool video tutorial in the works showing how anyone can perform a pull up no matter what their level of strength is.