Pretty much any personal trainer will tell you to not bother doing your lat pull downs behind your neck and instead instruct you to pull towards your chest. Yet, if you walk into any gym, you’ll see people pulling that bar towards their back- behind the neck. Personally, before I even knew much about fitness, it looked painful to me… and as I learned about the body, it was easy to understand why. This article on bodybuilding.com (one of my favorite websites) gets into the nitty gritty of research behind both approaches. Here’s the summary decision:
“Looking at the evidence, the front pull-down is the clear-cut winner when compared to the rear version. Not only is the muscle activation to the latissimus dorsi similar or better when performing the exercise to the front, the risk of potential shoulder injuries, neck injuries, or nerve injuries is also reduced.
Furthermore, the practicality of performing the lat pull-down behind the neck is limited; this movement has little carry-over to any athletic activities or daily functional tasks. Hence, the critics are right: There’s really no good reason to perform pull-downs behind the neck—and several good reasons not to.”