Pull-ups are one of the best exercises you can possibly perform for the back muscles, but for many people—most people—it’s very difficult even to do a single bodyweight pull-up, let alone a full, effective set.
– TJ Lynch
The Avenger Pulldown
Our Avenger Pulldown is a fantastic machine because of its versatility, which begins with four different varieties of grips to choose from. There’s the supination, the pronation, the neutral, and my favorite—the reverse grip. I like this one in particular because there is no strain on the shoulders, you get the best stretch and it hits deep into the lats.
The handle options allow me to target the muscles of the back from a variety of different angles. I use a pronated grip with a mid-range, continuous non-stop action movement and also a reverse grip, pausing at the bottom of the movement so as to create a better stretch and contraction.
Anytime you are able to adjust the handles and your grip, you are placing greater tension on different areas of your back.
With the versatility of this Pulldown you are going to be able to work your lats in a safe & effective way using the several different grip adjustment options. You can even face into the machine and use it standing up as another option.
As good as the previous machine, the Hammer Strength Pulldown, was—and it remains one of the best pieces Hammer Strength makes—this Avenger Pulldown is far superior. The variety of handle options make the Avenger a better option than the Hammer Strength machine in that they also move out and in with you rather than being in a fixed position. This is important because it impedes the tendency of the forearms to take over the movement…obviously not desirable when the target muscle groups are in the back, but surprisingly common with machines that are limited by fixed positions. In replacing the Hammer Strength we lose its iso-lateral arms, but with the Avenger Pulldown’s fused movement arm you can generate more power and control with each repetition.
I like to seek out the rare Avenger equipment—and this Pulldown is an excellent example—because not only is it built amazingly well, but it also hits the targeted muscle properly. The designers understood training and how to create the proper strength-curve on the machines. On most pulldown machines, the tension in the muscle is consistent throughout the range of motion when there should be a slight reduction in tension at the bottom of the motion, as there is with the Avenger. This reduction contributes to the delivery of a better contraction.
It’s all about the ‘feel’ with the Avenger equipment, including this pulldown machine. If you know how to position yourself correctly, and you know how to properly train your back, you’re going to get one of the best workouts possible with this pulldown movement.
Pull-ups are one of the best exercises you can possibly perform for the back muscles, but for many people—most people—it’s very difficult even to do a single bodyweight pull-up (let alone a full, effective set). Many people’s shoulder structure simply can’t handle a pull-up due to pre-existing injures, and many people simply are just not strong enough for this exercise. Here’s where the Avenger Pulldown comes in: it puts you in a safe and effective position, it reduces the possibility of injury, and it really targets the muscles you want to strengthen. Even if you can do effective pull-ups, it would be good to incorporate this machine and add variety to your training.
Some people are close-minded or anti-machine, and I can understand why as most machines on the market today are, in my opinion, not very good. The strength curves are off, they feature poor adjustability, and usually there is a lot of friction. But some negativity comes from a user’s lack of understanding and not taking the time to find proper settings and developing a good feel for the machine. My advice is to give the machine some time and get a few workouts on it before you automatically pronounce it a bad machine. When you really know how to use it correctly you will absolutely see results, and you will come to appreciate the machine on another level. You will be able to detect how well it has been designed and manufactured. I will say that there is nothing like the freedom you get from free weights…they have been an important part in my training and will always be. I look at machines as useful tools for strength training and transforming the body by being able to work the muscle in a safe and effective manner. I look at this machine and every machine as something I am going to master and use to recruit every possible muscle fiber I have on each and every rep, flexing the working muscles and creating the change.
Carefully selected machines like our Avenger Pulldown are great tools to work with for everyone, whether you are a beginner or are highly advanced.
One of the most common errors I see on the Pulldown is that people put the seat down too low, and the weight hits the ceiling. I also see people lean back way too far and pull too much with their arms. If you’re driving the weight and hitting the ceiling do not continue the set, but stop, adjust the seat higher, and don’t lean back so much. You want a pulldown movement, not the rowing movement that results from incorrect adjustment and poor form. You want to lift your rib cage high, keep your chest up, stretch forward, and then, as you drive the elbows down, retract your shoulder blades while lifting your rib cage and chest up and out as high as you can. To fully stimulate the lats you must have a good arch in your back. If you are rounding your shoulders your posture will only get worse. Maintain an arch in your back so you improve posture and get good development.
Knowing how to correctly use the machine is the key to better results. It isn’t always so much that people are doing their sets incorrectly, but by making adjustments to your form you will get more out of the movement. In many cases, if people truly knew the correct form and adjustments, they’d get 10 times the benefit from the exercise. Some people are just moving weight. I teach my clients about form and feel and how to work the muscle…how to break down muscle fiber and build it back up through exercise and nutrition. Used correctly from week to week, you will feel a difference in muscles you aren’t normally used to working properly.
Do’s and Don’ts
Do retract your shoulder blades with every rep. If you don’t, you won’t get full contraction of your lats.
Do drive with your elbows.
Do take a light grip. A tight grip will lead to your arms taking over the movement.
Do maintain a nice, smooth rhythm through the range of motion.
Don’t bend your wrists when you grip the handles.
Don’t hunch forward or lean back. Sit up straight with ribcage up high, stomach in and your chest up high.
Don’t round your shoulders. If you are rounding your shoulders and they are coming forward, you’re defeating the purpose of the movement, and your posture will actually get worse, not better.
Don’t overload the pulldown with weight. I see this often…people loading the machine with too much weight. You don’t need a ton of weight to perform your sets properly and get results.
“Make A Muscle”
Ask someone to ‘make a muscle’ and they automatically flex the bicep…you’re not seeing anyone flaring their lats! In some ways back-work is unique because it’s less intuitive than, say, working your biceps. You can’t see your back muscles but you can learn to feel them. With time and practice you can develop a good mind-muscle connection.
Because you really can’t see your back, most people aren’t focused on their back muscles or on training them. But by training your back properly on a machine like Fitness Incentive’s Avenger Pulldown, you’ll change your whole structure. Your chest lifts up, and your shoulders go back. You’re going to be able to take in more oxygen. You’re going to have better posture, be stronger and stand taller. You will look and feel better. It’s an incredible feeling when you get the most from your training and see and feel the results from week to week.
TJ Lynch is an ACSM & IFA certified Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor, and a former Long Island Natural Bodybuilding champion. TJ specializes in getting people of all ages in the absolute best shape possible. He is also an expert at showing his clients how to get the most of their time in the gym, as well as educating each individual how to fuel their body properly both before and after they workout. An aficionado and collector of vintage weight training equipment, TJ is one of Fitness Incentive’s most popular and successful trainers and has been with us since 2008.