Can You Do Lat Pulldowns on a Functional Trainer?

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It’s a rarity that gyms don’t have a lat pulldown but is it possible to do the same on a functional trainer with the same effectiveness?

Yes. We can do a lat pulldown on a functional trainer, given that it has a bar attachment and a weightlifting bench.

Using these provisioning, it is possible to perform different kinds of exercise variations that differ only slightly but help target the same muscle groups.

The only downside is the restrictions in the possible weight ranges as there is no leg lock available.

Can We Use a Functional Trainer for Lat Pulldowns?

As the name suggests, the lat pulldown has a bar (located just above the individual using the gym equipment) that can be pulled down.

This action mainly targets the latissimus dorsi muscle, in short, the lats, and hence, this piece of equipment—lat pulldowns—is named so.

Attached to a cable, the bars can be pulled, which in turn lifts the weight stack. Anyone interested in performing the lat pulldowns can sit on a bench and keep the legs stable by placing them under two foam pads.

No wonder that the lat pulldowns are a great piece of gym equipment that’s a part of every individual’s workout routine. So, many of you might wonder whether it is possible to replicate these exercises using a functional trainer.

Basically, a double pulley gym machine, a functional trainer is designed to fit any cable attachment to the suitable cable for the individual.

There is no hardship in keeping a bar on the pulley, but the main concern regards the sitting movement, as staying steady while pulling is a big question mark.

But, for those still interested in replicating a lat pulldown machine’s functionalities with a functional trainer, keep the following things in mind:

Bench

Most individuals perform exercises using a lat pulldown in a seated position. It is a well-known fact that most functional trainers don’t include a bench.

Hence, the best solution is to purchase a weightlifting bench separately and combine the exercises.

Some trainers do come with a bench, and this bench stays connected to the trainer’s frame. Such models don’t suit our requirements, and the best solution is to get a separate bench for use.

A bench that has a fully adjustable backrest is one of the best choices for regular workout routines.

Such benches help individuals do many different exercise variations, and above all, such adjustable benches are heavier comparatively, making these models a good choice for performing lat pulldowns.

Be sure to go for a model whose legs don’t keep protruding outside to stay close to the ‘real’ lat pulldown position.

Choose any bench with solid construction with ample adjustable levels and can withstand high maximum user load limits.

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Leg Lock

Though combining benches with a functional trainer is normal, the problem is that most benches don’t have a leg lock (like a lat pulldown machine) to keep us stable.

The locks become even more important when lifting heavyweights as the body doesn’t stay stable during such times. The heavyweight actually lifts the person.

It is not a problem for those using lightweight, but once individuals start using heavier weights, it becomes an issue. Whereas, on a lat pulldown machine, our legs stay balanced using the two rollers keeping the body stable.

Sadly, most weightlifting benches don’t have this provision which means that it is almost impossible to stay down when using heavyweights.

But there are a few critical things that we could do:

  • Choose a model that has a leg lock
  • Wedge the feet right under the functional trainer
  • Wedge the feet under the bench

Wedging our legs using other things might not seem ideal, but it is an effective solution.

Even though we could get a bench that has a leg lockdown to solve our problem, such provisioning might intrude on our regular exercise routines. But, if the bench comes with a leg lock that could be easily removed, that’s a good option.

When the feet are wedged under the bench but the body is still pulled up, try putting a couple of heavyweight plates on top of the legs.

Never put the plates on the bench as we don’t want to cause trouble to the foot by getting hurt from a falling plate.

Bar Attachment

For those wishing to mimic the working of a lat pulldown precisely, getting a solid bar and placing them at an angle would do the job.

Choose from any of the two bar models—one kind of bar works well for a single pulley while the other has a cable attachment on either side.

Bars that come with cable eyelets on both sides are called cable barbells. Using them, we can perform lat pulldowns and try doing various barbell exercises using the functional trainer.

One good thing here is that most trainers are provided with both attachments.

The next big step is setting up the equipment, and once again, we have two ways to do so:

Functional Trainer Lat Pulldown Option #1:

Make use of a single pulley, a normal bar attachment, and a simple bench without any leg lock to set up.

Place the pulley in the highest position possible and push the bench right close to the edge that’s there under the pulley.

Set the bench such that you can sit right under the pulley/bar—for this, the bench’s seat must be in contact with the upright post, hence why we choose a bench without foam pads.

If there are foam pads, these keep sticking out, and hence, the seating position of the individual is pushed rather back.

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Stay seated under the pulley in a comfortable position where the face and the privates stay close to the upright post, catch the bar, sit down, and do the exercise variations.

If there’s a need to be held down, make a note of where it’s alright to wedge the feet. Instead, there’s also a provision to squeeze the upright post using the legs, but this placement restricts the cable’s movements too.

Functional Trainer Lat Pulldown Option #2

The second way is not much different from the first way as we are doing the same movement, but the main difference lies in the setup. Rather than pushing the bench to the single pulley, the bench is neatly placed between the two pulleys.

In this case, it is ok to use a bench with detachable foam leg locks as there is no need to stay very close to the upright post.

Once the setup is done, the main concern now is to be cautious of the attachments used for doing the lat pulldown.

Rather than using a bar that connects to the cable only at the center, get hold of a bar attached to two cables, one on either side.

With such an arrangement, we can pull down even when not seated. All the exercises performed here use the same muscles, but the resistance is pretty high as we use dual weight stacks instead of one.

The balancing is also slightly different due to this, but as mentioned previously, the effect remains unchanged as the same muscles and movements are used.

We can also use a barbell attachment that has a single eyelet. All we must do is attach both the cables to the same eyelet. But, this also means that the weight stacks must be lifted a little higher to get sufficient cable length.

Individuals might face difficulty lifting a heavyweight stack and then connecting it to the bar using a single hand. But, when two individuals do the same action, it becomes easier.

Alternatives

If you are one of those individuals who doesn’t have a bench, don’t worry. Many other options are using which we can perform the same exercises.

The positions and the attachments used might be different but the muscles used are similar.

You might have a lat pulldown and sometimes might feel monotonous performing the same workouts. During such times, these alternatives might prove to be effective variations that are also interesting to do.

Kneeling Pulldown

We sit down and work out using the bench. Without a bench, we can perform the same exercises and activate the same muscles simply by kneeling instead of sitting on the bench.

Place a soft pad to support the knees, make the entire workout routine comfortable, and avoid rug burns on the knees.

Do single or double pulley variations depending on the type of bar attachment you have.

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Remember that using the double pulley model adds more comfort as the face doesn’t come in close contact with the metal pole.

But, on the downside, there is actual weight limitation when it comes to doing kneeling pulldown.

In the absence of someone to hold you by the waist and keep you stable, there is no way that the body remains without moving off the floor.

Half-Kneeling Pulldown

Quite similar to the kneeling pulldown, but here, we use only one knee to kneel instead of using both the knees.

So, the other leg can be used to brace yourself, making it better stabilizing for the individual. Apart from this, the movements and the possible positions are the same.

D handle Pulldown

There is no hard and fast rule that we should use a bar, especially when we don’t have one with us or don’t wish to use one.

Make use of the normal D handles by attaching them to two pulleys on either side. Thereon, use a bench for sitting down and exercise or if you don’t have a bench, do the kneeling or half-kneeling alternatives as per comfort levels.

Both the weight stacks are completely independent in their movement, and their resistance path is also different.

The resistance is in the up and down direction when it comes to a bar. But, when we use D handles, the cable and the resistance both are at a slight angle.

There is no disadvantage here, and it’s only that the muscles are targeted differently.

Pull-Ups

If none of the alternatives given above work per your comfort level, try doing pull-ups and chin-ups.

Difficulty-wise, these are rather more difficult to perform, but the movement pattern is similar.

Functional trainers generally come with built-in pull-up bars, and hence, the need to procure at an additional expense is ruled out.

Individuals finding it difficult to perform full repetitions can be uncomfortable doing pull-ups initially.

But, the stamina levels can be built in various ways though this might not be possible for all individuals.

Let’s summarize the various alternative options available to us:

  • Single pulley pulldown with bar
  • Single pulley kneeling pulldown using the bar
  • Double pulley pulldown using barbell attachment
  • Double pulley half-kneeling pulldown using barbell attachment
  • Double pulley half-kneeling pulldown using D handles
  • Double pulley kneeling pulldown
  • Double pulley kneeling pulldown with barbell attachment
  • Double pulley D handle pulldown

Given these many alternatives, there should at least be one variation that works well for all individuals.

If all of these sound complicated, and for those wishing for a crisp and neat alternative, it is always advisable to get the real lat pulldown machine.

In reality, these machines don’t occupy more space than you assume, and cost-wise, too, they are much cheaper than what most of us assume.