Tip: A Different Way to Do Pulldowns

Finish off your back day with this unique variation for complete back development.

A former coach used to have me do pulldowns on my knees with a narrow neutral grip, and I'm still doing them years later, but with a couple adjustments. A tip from Nick Tumminello inspired me to try these with a diagonal torso angle (instead of a completely upright torso), and that change actually made it a lot more effective.

Kneeling Pulldown, Diagonal Torso

Leaning back forced me to have to sit down on a leg. So play around with the degree of your torso angle until you can get the tension where you want it.

The second adjustment was putting one foot in front. You don't have to, but I've found that it helps me stay anchored on the ground a little better when I'm using more weight than my bodyweight.

The kneeling pulldown will hit your back in a different way than the standard (not-from-the-floor) pulldown, but consider it supplemental rather than a priority. You'll probably want to do them at the end of your workout because you can't really load them quite as heavily as you might need to. There are two reasons for this:

  1. If you load it with too much more than your own bodyweight you'll need to fight gravity as your body tries to rise off the floor. That's why I keep one leg bent out in front.
  2. There's actually not enough weight in the stack. You'll notice that I'm using almost the entire stack. Trust me, that's not because I'm crazy strong. I can use the whole stack and, I suspect, that I'm able to do so because of the advantage you get by being on the floor instead of seated, the way you are with traditional pulldowns.

So, if you're not a person who can use the entire stack on any cable exercise, you'll feel like a rock star doing this. And bonus – people who aren't familiar with this exercise might assume you're stronger than you really are when they see you using the whole stack, or anywhere near it. And I'm a fan of that.