Adding a pause at the peak of contraction of a pulldown – when the bar is at its lowest – can be a humbling experience. The amount of mid-back activation that's added by a simple one-second pause can create deep muscle soreness that lasts days after your workout. Try a wide reverse grip. The external rotation brings the rear delts into the mix as a bonus.
Traditional pull-ups and pulldowns simply pass through this region with limited regard for controlling speed. It's a true testament to your mid-back strength when you can control weight at your point of max contraction.
You can try these with pull-ups, but there's a high chance that your technique will be less than stellar. In the video, I had to drop the weight by more than 50 percent to maintain good form for all 8 reps. Even if someone only has to drop the weight by 10 percent, that's still significantly less weight than their total bodyweight. Hanging off a bar and trying to do the same thing with your pull-ups or chins will be even harder if you're a big dude. When it comes to isolating the muscles of the mid-back, less is usually more.