Forget about trying to fit the picture on the machine! Remember that everybody has a different structure and fits machines differently.
Give this a try next time you do a lat pull down exercise:
Set up: Checking how much shoulder flexion you have. Make sure that all the motion is coming from the shoulder only and not from the spine. Shift your body position to allow your shoulders to flex to where you have previously reached and grab the bar from there.
Hand placement on the bar: keep your arms outside shoulder width when gripping the bar.
Execution: Although it might not seem very natural to you, try to initiate the movement by bringing the shoulder blades down before bringing your arms down to your side. Keeping the shoulders elevated decreases the participation of lats in the exercise and instead might emphasize elbow flexors more in an attempt to just pull the bar down with the hands.
Also allow the shoulder blades to slide upward on the eccentric part of the exercise. Try this as two separate movements at the beginning until it feels more natural. Then progress to a fluid motion by bringing the scapula down and following the motion by bringing your arms through an arc towards your side. Don’t worry about getting the bar right down to your chest as this might involve more internal rotation from the elbow flexors instead of the exercise consisting predominantly of the shortening of the lats muscles. Only bring the bar down to where your elbows can reach on your side while staying in the same plane of motion.
Note that the above is only true to someone using a lat pull down exercise to stimulate the Latissimus dorsi muscles in a frontal plane motion. Making sure that you know your goals with a particular exercise is crucial and should dictate your whole workout program. Also, decide where you want to be on the continuum of rehabilitation to athletic performance and make sure you are using the appropriate training philosophies for your objectives. Choose wisely, not because you read it in a body building magazine or because your friend did that in a class and it worked for them.
Thinking outside of the box:
Make your exercise different by changing the bar, or trying different planes of motion to perform any pulling movement. This would vary the muscles used to perform the movement and make sure that you are getting more out of your workout!
Make an appointment today to check your technique on the lat pull down.