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Lat Pull Downs vs Pull Ups

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.

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