Updated: Apr 5
Wanted to give a little background on a couple of movements that came up during one of my classes last week - the behind the neck lat pull down and the Sotts press.
The lat pull down is probably the more common of the two movements performed and is generally performed along the frontal plane. Occasionally you will see the lat pull down executed by bringing the bar down behind the head instead of down to the chest with the shoulder blades pinched. You also may have heard that pulling the bar down behind your neck is not proper technique. This is true, but it's true because now you're not working your lats anymore - it's more pecs and biceps instead of lats. As long as you know that, have proper form as well as mobility in those areas and don't overload the bar, there is no reason why you cannot use the lat pull down to build strength in those areas.
The Sotts press is the "push" movement to the lat pull down. This can be performed standing or in an overhead squat position with the latter requiring much more flexibility in the spine and hips to execute the full movement. The Sotts press, with respect to the upper body only actually will work the fronts of the shoulders, contrary to what you might think just looking at the movement.
Both movements put a lot of the work into your shoulder muscles so it's important to be mindful of the amount of work you do with these smaller muscles to prevent over training, tearing or major injury.
If your over all goal is to develop your back muscles, it is best to stick with the lat pull down from the front. In addition to that, pull ups (palms facing away from you) will help add that tapered look to your back giving the illusion of a smaller waist - this goes for men and women. If you don't have pull ups quite yet, you can do banded pull ups, horizontal pull ups or negatives when you get yourself up to the starting position of a pull up and slowly lower yourself down from the bar. Scaling a movement is the best way to work up to the full movement without risking injury and therefore should not be considered "cheating".