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  1. #1
    Registered User banky41's Avatar
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    Pull ups VS Lat pull downs

    was wondering how much of a difference there is between the two as far as muscles used is. the reason I ask, tried some pull ups during my last back work out and found I needed a lot of assistance (like 140lbs) where as doing the lat pull downs I can do two reps at my own body weight (250lbs). while doing pull ups I could feel it a lot more in the arm pit area.

    thanks
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  2. #2
    Registered User GeneralSerpant's Avatar
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    You have to keep your body straight when you do pull-ups. It trains a lot of smaller muscles to stabilize the body rather than just anchoring your thighs into pads.

    Try different grips widths, and check out the difference in lat involvements compared to shoulder and body firmness.

    edit: All and all, you can put a lot more explosive force into the pull-downs and you are just accomplishing the exercise. It doesn't 'quite' translate the same to pull-ups, and if you were trying to be patient and keep body steady at all, then your explosive force was compromised (it also probably gets compromised from just not being anchored to anything).
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  3. #3
    Balkan Lifter NyC_BosaNaC's Avatar
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    pullups and chinups with good form beats lat pull down any day
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  4. #4
    Registered User nateridesbikes's Avatar
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    I used to to lat pull down before i could do pull ups. Now i only do pull ups. moral of the story.... pullups ftw.
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  5. #5
    DETERMINED1 firefox16's Avatar
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    i do both...

    lat pulldowns are great if you cant lift yourself without assistance or if pullups are too easy.

    the reason you can lift your body weight on a lat pulldown is because it uses a cable that goes around one or mutiple pulleys. so even if the weight you select says "200 lbs" lifting it might feel more like 150 lbs
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  6. #6
    Registered User NIguy's Avatar
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    as I've got heavier and stronger I have moved towards doing more pulldowns than pullups/chinups.
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  7. #7
    Banned Tyciol's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by banky41 View Post
    was wondering how much of a difference there is between the two as far as muscles used is. the reason I ask, tried some pull ups during my last back work out and found I needed a lot of assistance (like 140lbs) where as doing the lat pull downs I can do two reps at my own body weight (250lbs). while doing pull ups I could feel it a lot more in the arm pit area. thanks
    Have you looked closely at the pulley mechanism used in your machine? Basic lat pulldowns are equivalent, you're pulling down with the force needed to move that amount, meaning if you can do a pulldown with your bodyweight, doing a pull up should be not problem. The basic pulley is this type:
    (btw, the force on the pulley in that left pic would be 200N, and basically invert the blue pulley on the right to match left illustration)
    With this much of a discrepency (you're talking about needing assistance with over half your weight) it makes me suspicious you might have a mobile pulley system which assists using the weight. Like perhaps you're only lifting half as much on the stack (125) which would explain the pull ups difficulty.

    If it resembles the above, that's an example of how you could be pulling with half the force of the weight, which sounds like the simplest approximation to explain your issue. Basically: 125+140=265.

    Originally Posted by GeneralSerpant View Post
    You have to keep your body straight when you do pull-ups. It trains a lot of smaller muscles to stabilize the body rather than just anchoring your thighs into pads.
    This is doubtful, gravity pulls the body straight down. You'd be using more 'core' muscles and all that if you weren't keeping straight, because they'd be actively using extra energy to contort you into strange positions.

    Try different grips widths, and check out the difference in lat involvements compared to shoulder and body firmness.

    Muscles do work to hold the body together and fight the traction forces in a pull up, but this occurs in lat pulldowns in the same way.

    Originally Posted by GeneralSerpant View Post
    you can put a lot more explosive force into the pull-downs and you are just accomplishing the exercise. It doesn't 'quite' translate the same to pull-ups, and if you were trying to be patient and keep body steady at all, then your explosive force was compromised (it also probably gets compromised from just not being anchored to anything).
    I have no idea what this means. The anchoring comes into play as you approach your body weight, and it simulates doing a pull up with yours knees raised, there's not much of a difference besides that.

    Originally Posted by NyC_BosaNaC View Post
    pullups and chinups with good form beats lat pull down any day
    Why? Beats it how?

    Originally Posted by nateridesbikes View Post
    I used to to lat pull down before i could do pull ups. Now i only do pull ups. moral of the story.... pullups ftw.
    That's not a moral, pull ups are just more fun to do because moving yourself through space feels awesome, it's a more exclusive club because the lat pulldown's something a wider variety of people can use. That doesn't make it inferior, it just means you need to be exceptional to do pull ups and it feels good to show it off. That doesn't mean we should pretend it has magic properties.

    Originally Posted by firefox16 View Post
    the reason you can lift your body weight on a lat pulldown is because it uses a cable that goes around one or mutiple pulleys. so even if the weight you select says "200 lbs" lifting it might feel more like 150 lbs
    To turn 200 into 150 would be a rather odd mechanism. Pulleys themselves do not inherently reduce the force needed to pull, they can actually increase resistance via friction. It's only certain pulley designs (which the pictures above explain) which aid the lift.

    Originally Posted by NIguy View Post
    as I've got heavier and stronger I have moved towards doing more pulldowns than pullups/chinups.
    Cool story bro.
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  8. #8
    Registered User Runner99's Avatar
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    lat pulldowns are to pullups as leg press is to back squats.

    you want lats you best please the gods by making human sacrifices at hte pullup bar
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  9. #9
    Registered User tomsfish's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by firefox16 View Post
    i do both...

    lat pulldowns are great if you cant lift yourself without assistance or if pullups are too easy.

    the reason you can lift your body weight on a lat pulldown is because it uses a cable that goes around one or mutiple pulleys. so even if the weight you select says "200 lbs" lifting it might feel more like 150 lbs
    i wish that was the case,i can knock out tons of bodyweight pulls.i can barely do a few reps at my weight on the pulldown.
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  10. #10
    Registered User nateridesbikes's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Runner99 View Post
    you want lats you best please the gods by making human sacrifices at hte pullup bar
    LOL this^
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  11. #11
    Registered User banky41's Avatar
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    thanks Guys (gals?) lots of good info here. I will continue to do both in my workouts and see how it goes. and yes I would like to please the gods so I will do pull ups. having naturally big legs for my whole life pull ups and I do not have a good relationship. but I am going to change that.

    need to get that spread a whole lot bigger.


    thanks again.
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  12. #12
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    Originally Posted by Tyciol View Post

    If it resembles the above, that's an example of how you could be pulling with half the force of the weight, which sounds like the simplest approximation to explain your issue. Basically: 125+140=265.
    Why would you assume that lat pull-downs resemble this type of pulley?

    The first picture you show says 100N in one direction outward equals the weight pulling the line down. When you do a lat pull, you aren't pulling 200N to keep the weigh stable, the weight is always a constant 100N on its own, subtracting from the 200N.

    You'd be using more 'core' muscles and all that if you weren't keeping straight, because they'd be actively using extra energy to contort you into strange positions.
    Who said anything about core? The tendency of keeping the body straight is resembling hyper-extension 'opposite' of hip contraction. If it's easier to contract hips and abs to stabilize the back, then keeping the hips not contracted is working to keep the body relinquished of stabilization.

    I have no idea what this means. The anchoring comes into play as you approach your body weight, and it simulates doing a pull up with yours knees raised, there's not much of a difference besides that.
    this is because you never seem to get the concept of stabilizing. Same reason seated shoulder press is harder than standing, and same reason standing calf-raise is easier than seated.

    If the hips are anchored into the seats with tension, they are contracting and making the pull-down easier.

    It also seems you are saying it's conventional to do pull-ups in fetal position.
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    Switch it up in my opinion.
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  14. #14
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    There's a big difference. Your own experience has shown you that the machine is simply easier than a real pullup. I've screwed around a lot with both and found that the machines are basically useless BS compared to real pullups, and that if you no longer get benefits from pullups you should get a belt and do weighted pullups.
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    Pullups for me have given better results in size and lat width...
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    When I started doing pull-ups is when I started getting comments about how large my back is. Pull-ups are essential in my opinion. If you can do both, do both though.
    I ALWAYS rep back. srs. Just add "rep back" to your comment.
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    Weighted pullups

    /thread

    There's really no comparison. The lat pulldown is a cable exercise, and has all of the pros and cons thereof. No one considers cable movements superior to their freeweight counterparts and the lat pulldown is no exception. TBH, a comparison of barbell rows to pullups would be more sensible.
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  18. #18
    oldballs oldballs's Avatar
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    you are a big guy so pull ups are going to be harder for you. keep trying and never give up and years from now when you need a weight belt with a 45 lbs plate hanging from it to get a good workout you will be happy. very happy.
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    Registered User Pump Freak 86's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by oldballs View Post
    you are a big guy so pull ups are going to be harder for you. keep trying and never give up and years from now when you need a weight belt with a 45 lbs plate hanging from it to get a good workout you will be happy. very happy.
    And you'll finally know what it feels like to be a brotha. BA dum pshhht.

    Seriously though, I use both lat pulldowns and pullups in my routine and I like both. But one is a bit more heavy duty than the other, all things being equal. You should have a wide variety of vertical and horizontal pulling movements in your lifting vocabulary. Pullups work your lats in a more natural fashion than cables. Constant tension, the defining feature of cables, are not more effective than freeweight movements. In fact, they are slightly inferior (but are better than other machine types).
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  20. #20
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    Originally Posted by MrMisanthrope View Post
    There's a big difference. Your own experience has shown you that the machine is simply easier than a real pullup. I've screwed around a lot with both and found that the machines are basically useless BS compared to real pullups, and that if you no longer get benefits from pullups you should get a belt and do weighted pullups.
    With only real experience doing Pull-ups, I could not pull-down my own weight. Upon stricter form, I was able to do progress to my body-weight equivalent, and now it's opposite, except that I use wider range pull-ups than pull-downs.

    Either way, with both exercises, I try to never use momentum.
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    you guys have me looking forward to my next back workout. I will start with pull ups, and try to get the most out of them. old balls, I will be dreaming tonight of that day in the gym when I have a 45 lb plate around my waist while doing pull ups

    what do you guys think of this workout for my back. (I also do traps that day)

    5 sets pull ups
    3 sets seated rows
    3 sets Lat pull
    3 sets bent over rows w/BB
    4 sets deadlifts

    is there any glaring omissions that I should be doing?

    thanks again for all the chatter.
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    I woud say pull ups for mass and pull down for strength
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    Originally Posted by banky41 View Post
    you guys have me looking forward to my next back workout. I will start with pull ups, and try to get the most out of them. old balls, I will be dreaming tonight of that day in the gym when I have a 45 lb plate around my waist while doing pull ups

    what do you guys think of this workout for my back. (I also do traps that day)

    5 sets pull ups
    3 sets seated rows
    3 sets Lat pull
    3 sets bent over rows w/BB
    4 sets deadlifts

    is there any glaring omissions that I should be doing?

    thanks again for all the chatter.
    That's what I like to hear!
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    oh, and I like bent over reverse flies on my back day, even tho most consider then a delt exercise
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    Originally Posted by NIguy View Post
    as I've got heavier and stronger I have moved towards doing more pulldowns than pullups/chinups.
    Same for me. It's just a whole different ball game when you pack on well over 50 lbs of muscle (my normal weight would probably be around 185-190). Jay Cutler can hardly do pull ups at all. Maybe 3 or 4... then he needs an assist. Totally fresh, he might be able to do more... but not all that many. He couldn't do 10 to save his life. This is something that's hard to appreciate, unless you've actually experienced it.
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    Aside from all the debate of pull-down vs pull-ups... From my personal experience I used assisted pull-ups to help me achieve bodyweight pull-ups. Months ago I couldn't do a single BW pull-up in any grip. First I started with close, became efficient, then moved on to wide grip. Went from doing 0 pull-ups a few months ago to doing 12 or more depending on the grip.

    The way I see it is... if you want to get good at a particular motion then practice that motion. While pull-ups and pull-downs are similar it's not the same. Do straight sets of assisted pull-ups and ever week lower the weight (since less weight = less assistance)

    The biggest thing that I can point out is make sure you're sticking your chest out and squeezing your lats when doing a pull-up. That helped me the most.
    Last edited by v8hemi; 06-24-2011 at 06:58 AM.
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    Talking

    Originally Posted by Tyciol View Post
    Have you looked closely at the pulley mechanism used in your machine? Basic lat pulldowns are equivalent, you're pulling down with the force needed to move that amount, meaning if you can do a pulldown with your bodyweight, doing a pull up should be not problem. The basic pulley is this type:
    (btw, the force on the pulley in that left pic would be 200N, and basically invert the blue pulley on the right to match left illustration)
    With this much of a discrepency (you're talking about needing assistance with over half your weight) it makes me suspicious you might have a mobile pulley system which assists using the weight. Like perhaps you're only lifting half as much on the stack (125) which would explain the pull ups difficulty.

    If it resembles the above, that's an example of how you could be pulling with half the force of the weight, which sounds like the simplest approximation to explain your issue. Basically: 125+140=265.

    This is doubtful, gravity pulls the body straight down. You'd be using more 'core' muscles and all that if you weren't keeping straight, because they'd be actively using extra energy to contort you into strange positions.

    Try different grips widths, and check out the difference in lat involvements compared to shoulder and body firmness.

    Muscles do work to hold the body together and fight the traction forces in a pull up, but this occurs in lat pulldowns in the same way.

    I have no idea what this means. The anchoring comes into play as you approach your body weight, and it simulates doing a pull up with yours knees raised, there's not much of a difference besides that.

    Why? Beats it how?

    That's not a moral, pull ups are just more fun to do because moving yourself through space feels awesome, it's a more exclusive club because the lat pulldown's something a wider variety of people can use. That doesn't make it inferior, it just means you need to be exceptional to do pull ups and it feels good to show it off. That doesn't mean we should pretend it has magic properties.

    To turn 200 into 150 would be a rather odd mechanism. Pulleys themselves do not inherently reduce the force needed to pull, they can actually increase resistance via friction. It's only certain pulley designs (which the pictures above explain) which aid the lift.

    Cool story bro.
    WOW. I wasnt trying to think that much lol
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    Originally Posted by Tyciol View Post
    Standard post length.
    Jeeeeeezus. How about you share what your experience with pulls ups taught you instead of that mess of text?
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    Originally Posted by Runner99 View Post
    lat pulldowns are to pullups as leg press is to back squats.
    This is not an apt comparison. While the open vs. closed chain concept is there, leg presses are a much more different exercise to squats. Lat pulldowns are far more similar to pull ups. Leg presses change the angle at the hip by pre-flexing it. Squats also require balancing to prevent falling over. You can't fall over during a pull up, so the stability difference between open/closed chain is not the same as in pressing.

    Originally Posted by tomsfish View Post
    i wish that was the case,i can knock out tons of bodyweight pulls.i can barely do a few reps at my weight on the pulldown.
    Hm, are you using the same grip? Pulling at the same angle?
    Originally Posted by GeneralSerpant View Post
    Why would you assume that lat pull-downs resemble this type of pulley?
    I'm not. I've seen some lat pulldowns using this type of pulley, I've also seen many kinds using the basic pulley.

    I was guessing this type of assistance pulley might be what the OP's using to explain the huge difference in strength. Being able to lift your bodyweight on a pulldown and needing over half your weight in assistance to get a pull up is a huge difference, a halfing pulldown seems like it could explain it.

    Originally Posted by GeneralSerpant View Post
    The first picture you show says 100N in one direction outward equals the weight pulling the line down. When you do a lat pull, you aren't pulling 200N to keep the weigh stable, the weight is always a constant 100N on its own, subtracting from the 200N.
    I'm not sure what you're talking about here. The 200N is the amount of weight on the pulley, the amount of weight the machine has to hold up. It's like a teeter totter with 100lbs on each side, the middle is holding 200lbs.

    Originally Posted by GeneralSerpant View Post
    Who said anything about core? The tendency of keeping the body straight is resembling hyper-extension 'opposite' of hip contraction. If it's easier to contract hips and abs to stabilize the back, then keeping the hips not contracted is working to keep the body relinquished of stabilization.
    I may need some more coffee today, I'm having trouble understanding this too. Could someone possibly rephrase?

    Originally Posted by GeneralSerpant View Post
    you never seem to get the concept of stabilizing. Same reason seated shoulder press is harder than standing, and same reason standing calf-raise is easier than seated.
    These aren't the same at all, these exercises contain incredibly different factors. First off: pushing and pulling are very different movements and have very different stability components. Believing what applies to a pressing movement would apply to a pulling movement is a bad assumption.

    Originally Posted by GeneralSerpant View Post
    If the hips are anchored into the seats with tension, they are contracting and making the pull-down easier.
    The motion of a pulldown occurs in the upper body, I don't see how being seated would make this easier. You still have to exert the same amount of force to get the bar down.

    Originally Posted by GeneralSerpant View Post
    It also seems you are saying it's conventional to do pull-ups in fetal position.
    No, but it's been done. People even do L-pull ups. Those of us who have the doorway bars which are low to the ground are forced to raise our knees up to avoid hitting the ground when our arms straighten.

    I actually don't find sitting to be very comfortable and enjoy how when you have a high enough bar, you can let the legs hang, and the hip flexors get a nice stretch. That's yet another reason why pull ups feel better and are a lot more fun. That might motivate people to do them more often and progress faster.

    But that said: I don't see how it has anything to do with how much work needs to be done in the upper body for pulling. In terms of core stability, exerting pressure on the upper thighs would probable mean more hip flexor (and hopefully also ab) involvement, whereas with extended hips (perhaps bent knees) we might have a more balanced posture that allow the lower back to bear some of the load too.

    Originally Posted by GHODT55 View Post
    I woud say pull ups for mass and pull down for strength
    I don't understand this.

    Originally Posted by rbt View Post
    WOW. I wasnt trying to think that much lol


    Originally Posted by joelash302 View Post
    Jeeeeeezus. How about you share what your experience with pulls ups taught you instead of that mess of text?
    I am, I haven't trained much with either exercise, but pull ups feel more awesome to do and are more comfortable for my hips and spine. But I like how you can set pulldowns to a lighter setting and work endurance, not an option for pull ups until you build up to a high amount, which is pretty tough.

    Originally Posted by v8hemi View Post
    if you want to get good at a particular motion then practice that motion. While pull-ups and pull-downs are similar it's not the same.
    Except for the hip posture thing, it actually is the same motion in terms of the joint movement. The difference is our sensation of moment: what we hold is stable in up versus mobile in down. Our body is mobile in up versus stable in down. There's a different sensation in a pull up because your eyes perceive you moving through space, and maybe the inner ear senses it or something too. How much do factors like that matter to movers though?
    Last edited by Tyciol; 06-24-2011 at 08:46 AM.
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    Just throwing my two cents, On the assisted pull ups, each week you do them, use less weight for the assist. Say you go today, and use 100lbs assist, next week only use 90lbs. assist. FORCE the gains!!!! You can do it man!!! Good luck!
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    Btw, you do realize, that all that really matters is how you feel it in your back muscles, right? It seems like you guys are putting way too much thought into this.

    Next thing, you're going to start talking about how many kilojoules are generated when the cable/belt rolls over the pulley system.

    It's not that hard. Bio-mechanically, they're very similar. You work the muscle, not the weight. Or 'exercise variant', in this case. Simple fact is, if you weigh more than about 250, you tend towards the machine. Or maybe you lighter guys would like to start doing weighted pull ups?
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