If you don't know your way around a weight room, heading to the gym can be intimidating -- and even dangerous. But paying attention to a few simple rules of proper technique can make you slimmer, stronger and healthier all over.

We spent an afternoon at Equinox with trainer and manager Rebecca Woll, learning the ins and outs of some of the most popular strength-training machines.

In the coming weeks, we'll be sharing Woll's thoughts on the biggest mistakes we all make while building muscle, plus her tips and tricks for better form. This week, we're perfecting the lat pulldown.

The Faux Pas: "One of the most common mistakes is to take the bar and pull it to the back of your head," says Woll, which puts a heavy load on your spine rather than working your muscles, and can hurt your shoulders if you don't have a big enough range of mobility. But even in a smarter position (more on that below!), Woll notices another mistake: shoulders that sneak up toward the ears.
2012-08-31-latpulldownbefore.jpg

The Fix: Start off by positioning your body correctly on the bench, with feet flat on the floor and knees bent at 90 degrees, in line with your hips, she says. Your legs should just touch the padded bar above them so that when you lean slightly back, your quads hit. Once the bench is positioned, stand up and grab hold of the bar where it bends and sit back down. "Lean a little bit back from your hips, bring the shoulder blades back and down and pull right to your chest and in a little," she says, then send the bar right back up. That slight lean means your core muscles will also be working, taking the pressure off of the lower back, she says.
2012-08-31-latpulldownafter.jpg

And as for those shoulders? "We want them to come down as much as possible," says Woll. As you raise the bar up, focusing on "sending everything down toward the ground," she says.
2012-08-31-latpulldownshoulders.jpg

Tell us how it goes in the comments below, and be sure to check back over the following weeks to fix your form on the row machine, the lat pulldown and more.

Check out more in our Fix Your Form series below:

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  • Pushups: The Faux Pas

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/08/fix-your-form-pushup_n_1500458.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect pushup here.</a>

  • Pushups: The Fix

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/08/fix-your-form-pushup_n_1500458.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect pushup here.</a>

  • Lunges: The Faux Pas

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/15/fix-your-form-lunge_n_1515388.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect lunge here.</a>

  • Lunges: The Fix

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/15/fix-your-form-lunge_n_1515388.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect lunge here.</a>

  • Crunches: The Faux Pas

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/22/fix-your-form-crunches_n_1533341.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect crunch here.</a>

  • Crunches: The Fix

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/22/fix-your-form-crunches_n_1533341.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect crunch here.</a>

  • Dumbbell Rows: The Faux Pas

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/29/fix-your-form-row_n_1546174.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect row here.</a>

  • Dumbbell Rows: The Fix

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/29/fix-your-form-row_n_1546174.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect row here.</a>

  • Planks: The Faux Pas

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/05/fix-your-form-planks_n_1567803.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect plank here.</a>

  • Planks: The Fix

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/05/fix-your-form-planks_n_1567803.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect plank here.</a>

  • Squats: The Faux Pas

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/12/fix-your-form-squat_n_1586844.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect squat here.</a>

  • Squats: The Fix

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/12/fix-your-form-squat_n_1586844.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect squat here.</a>

  • Bridges: The Faux Pas

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/19/fix-your-form-bridge_n_1606366.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect bridge here.</a>

  • Bridges: The Fix

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/19/fix-your-form-bridge_n_1606366.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect bridge here.</a>

  • Bicep Curls: The Faux Pas

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/26/fix-your-form-bicep-curl_n_1625129.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect bicep curl here.</a>

  • Bicep Curls: The Fix

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/26/fix-your-form-bicep-curl_n_1625129.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect bicep curl here.</a>

  • Overhead Press: The Faux Pas

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/03/how-to-exercise-dumbbell-overhead-press_n_1643324.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect dumbbell overhead press here.</a>

  • Overhead Press: The Fix

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/03/how-to-exercise-dumbbell-overhead-press_n_1643324.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect dumbbell overhead press here.</a>

  • Dips: The Faux Pas

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/10/how-to-exercise-triceps-dip_n_1659434.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect triceps dip here.</a>

  • Dips: The Fix

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/10/how-to-exercise-triceps-dip_n_1659434.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect triceps dip here.</a>

  • Side Lunges: The Faux Pas

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/17/how-to-exercise-side-lunge_n_1677034.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect side lunge here.</a>

  • Side Lunges: The Fix

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/17/how-to-exercise-side-lunge_n_1677034.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect side lunge here.</a>

  • Lateral Raises: The Faux Pas

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/16/how-to-exercise-lateral-raise_n_1677038.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect lateral raise here.</a>

  • Lateral Raises: The Fix

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/16/how-to-exercise-lateral-raise_n_1677038.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect lateral raise here.</a>

  • Crunches On A Ball: The Faux Pas

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/31/how-to-exercise-fix-your-form-ball-crunches_n_1719734.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect crunches on a ball here.</a>

  • Crunches On A Ball: The Fix

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/31/how-to-exercise-fix-your-form-ball-crunches_n_1719734.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect crunches on a ball here.</a>

  • Bench Press: The Faux Pas

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/07/fix-your-form-how-to-exercise-bench-press_n_1747599.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect bench press here.</a>

  • Bench Press: The Fix

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/07/fix-your-form-how-to-exercise-bench-press_n_1747599.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect bench press here.</a>

  • Bicycle Crunches: The Faux Pas

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/13/fix-your-form-how-to-bicycle-crunch-abs_n_1772855.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect bicycle crunch here.</a>

  • Bicycle Crunches: The Fix

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/13/fix-your-form-how-to-bicycle-crunch-abs_n_1772855.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect bicycle crunch here.</a>

  • Bridge On A Ball: The Faux Pas

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/21/fix-your-form-how-to-exercise-bridge-ball_n_1811672.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect bridge on a ball here.</a>

  • Bridge On A Ball: The Fix

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/21/fix-your-form-how-to-exercise-bridge-ball_n_1811672.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect bridge on a ball here.</a>

  • Leg Press: The Faux Pas

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/28/fix-your-form-how-to-exercise-leg-press_n_1833521.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect leg press here.</a>

  • Leg Press: The Fix

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/28/fix-your-form-how-to-exercise-leg-press_n_1833521.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect leg press here.</a>

  • Lat Pulldown: The Faux Pas

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/04/fix-your-form-how-to-exercise-lat-pulldown_n_1846635.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect lat pulldown here.</a>

  • Lat Pulldown: The Fix

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/04/fix-your-form-how-to-exercise-lat-pulldown_n_1846635.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect lat pulldown here.</a>

  • Torso Rotation: The Faux Pas

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/11/fix-your-form-how-to-exercise-torso-rotation_n_1870821.html" target="_hplink">Find out why you should stop using the torso rotation machine here.</a>

  • Torso Rotation: The Fix

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/11/fix-your-form-how-to-exercise-torso-rotation_n_1870821.html" target="_hplink">Find out why you should stop using the torso rotation machine here.</a>

  • Chest Press: The Faux Pas

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/18/how-to-exercise-fix-your-form-chest-press_n_1884554.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect chest press here.</a>

  • Chest Press: The Fix

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/18/how-to-exercise-fix-your-form-chest-press_n_1884554.html" target="_hplink">Find out how to do the perfect chest press here.</a>

  • Assisted Pull-Ups: The Faux Pas

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/25/fix-your-form-how-to-exercise-pull-up-machine_n_1909397.html">Find out how to do the perfect assisted pull-up here.</a>

  • Assisted Pull-Ups: The Fix

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/25/fix-your-form-how-to-exercise-pull-up-machine_n_1909397.html">Find out how to do the perfect assisted pull-up here.</a>

  • Triceps Extensions: The Faux Pas

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/02/fix-your-form-how-to-exercise-overhead-triceps-extension-press_n_1929249.html">Find out how to do the perfect overhead triceps extension here.</a>

  • Triceps Extensions: The Fix

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/02/fix-your-form-how-to-exercise-overhead-triceps-extension-press_n_1929249.html">Find out how to do the perfect overhead triceps extension here.</a>

  • Seated Fly: The Faux Pas

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/09/how-to-exercise-fix-your-form-seated-fly_n_1948942.html">Find out how to do the perfect seated fly here.</a>

  • Seated Fly: The Fix

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/09/how-to-exercise-fix-your-form-seated-fly_n_1948942.html">Find out how to do the perfect seated fly here.</a>

  • Reverse Fly: The Faux Pas

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/16/how-to-exercise-fix-your-form-reverse-fly_n_1967258.html">Find out how to do the perfect reverse fly here.</a>

  • Reverse Fly: The Fix

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/16/how-to-exercise-fix-your-form-reverse-fly_n_1967258.html">Find out how to do the perfect reverse fly here.</a>

  • Abductors/Adductors: The Faux Pas

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/22/fix-your-form-how-to-exercise-hip-abductor_n_2001455.html">Find out why you should stop using the abductor/adductor machine here.</a>

  • Abductors/Adductors: The Fix

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/22/fix-your-form-how-to-exercise-hip-abductor_n_2001455.html">Find out why you should stop using the abductor/adductor machine here.</a>

  • Row Machine: The Faux Pas

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/08/fix-your-form-how-to-exercise-row-machine_n_2089918.html">Find out how to use the row machine properly here.</a>

Photos by Damon Dahlen, AOL

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