Although Australian bodybuilding legend Lee Priest hasn’t competed since 2013, when he won the NABBA Universe title, his physique updates prove he still has great conditioning. The six-time Mr. Olympia competitor was inducted into the Muscle Beach Hall of Fame in Venice, CA, on May 30, 2022. Priest made his Olympia debut in 1997 with a sixth-place finish, ahead of other top athletes of that era, including Chris Cormier (eighth) and Ronnie Coleman (ninth).
To compete amongst the highest level like “The Blonde Myth,” building a dense back and barn door lat spread is non-negotiable. A video was published on the Sam’s Fitness — Gym Equipment YouTube channel on March 16, 2023, of Priest demonstrating how to correctly perform the close-grip and wide-grip lat pulldowns. Check it out below:
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Lee Priest’s Lat Pulldown Tips
Priest dismisses the claim that building a broad back results from using a wide grip on lat pulldowns. In his opinion, a wide back primarily spawns from genetics. However, he recommends using a grip that is comfortable at about shoulder width. He uses a close grip to build thickness in the mid-back.
Priest expressed the importance of staying upright and squeezing the lats as the weight is pulled down toward the chest. Otherwise, the arms are likely biased and perform the bulk of the work.
“Once you get that feel [practicing the movement with no weight], put on 30 pounds to feel what it’s like with a little bit of weight,” said Priest. “Then try and keep that same feeling as you go heavier. If you start losing that feeling in your back, you know it’s more arms than back.”
Leaning back a bit as the weight is pulled toward the chest is acceptable. Leaning back too much, though, takes engagement off the back muscles. Stay upright while pulling the weight as far down as possible without disengaging the back. Priest urged to never bring the weight down in front of the torso past the chest.
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Weight, Sets, and Reps
Priest demonstrated the close-grip and wide-grip lat pulldowns without weight. He advised using lighter weights on the exercise to activate the muscle fibers in the back — building mind-muscle connection. Once the lifter feels no tension in the back, it’s indicative that the weight is too heavy. By failing to pull from the elbows, it’s likely the lats are not appropriately activating.
Priest recommended four to five sets of eight to 12 reps, highlighting that weight should not be the priority for lat pulldowns. Slower contractions that allow the lifter to sufficiently activate the lats are what counts.
“Sometimes, when I demonstrate the movement going slower and squeezing it, I feel it more than when training it at home with heavier weights,” said Priest. “Sometimes I forget [to focus on feeling the movement] and start pulling and not contracting.”
Priest told viewers to “leave the ego at home” when training the back. Bodybuilding is about training muscles, not movements.
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Featured image: @leepriestofficial72 on Instagram