Forgotten Exercises: The Clasp Pulldown

Today’s short post is something of a new departure for me. Usually when detailing a forgotten exercise, I can cite an early proponent, the history of the exercise and its place within the current strength and iron community. Despite my best efforts, I simple haven’t been able to track down the history of the present exercise.

This exercise was shared with me a few years ago in the Hercules Gym in Dublin, a fantastic training facility established in the 1930s. Done on the Lat Pulldown machine, the ‘Clasp Pulldown’ hits the chest as opposed the back muscles. So without further ado, we’ll go through the exercise, its benefits and where you might incorporate it into your training. It goes without saying that if you know the actual history of the exercise, comment!

How to Perform the Exercise

Using the seated row handle attachment on the Lat Pulldown machine pull the handles to the chest. On the concentric phase of the lift i.e. when bringing the handle to the chest, you bring your elbows in together. For ease this is usually done when the elbows are at chin height. The elbows will remain together until the handles have passed back over the head. If done correctly you’ll feel an intense stretch in the chest muscles. The only video demonstration I’ve found does a good job putting imagery to words.

The Benefits

I’ve previously detailed my recurring shoulder injuries on this website. When the shoulder gremlins come, I switch over to the clasp pulldown. This means that I can continue to train chest while giving my shoulders a rest. Furthermore, the pump experienced on this exercise is often far more intense than the bench press or dumbbell flies.

Furthermore for friends new to training, I like to use this exercise to get them used to cultivating a mind-muscle focus. The stretch on the chest is too obvious to ignore. They then find it easier to focus on the chest when doing the more traditional exercises.

Incorporating the Clasp Pulldown

As a change to my usual style of training I’ve begun to play around with slower eccentrics and concentrics on all my lifts. It’s here where the Clasp Pulldown really comes into its own. Both myself and my friends have experienced good success using a two seconds down, hold, two seconds up tempo. Do this as a finisher to your chest workout and you’ll truly appreciate its effectiveness.

Though not adverse to using a natural tempo, I feel that slower tempos on this exercise work best. That was how I was taught and its how I explain it to others. Now if I could only discover the history of it I’d be happy!

As always…Happy Lifting!


As a follow up, I tracked down the bodybuilder who first showed me this exercise. His answer? The lift had been shown to him in the 1970s when he began training. Now to track down his teacher…

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