you can have a very slight bend in your arm doing the pulldowns. That's what I do and I feel it's more elbow friendly and doesn't fatigue the triceps.
Don't give up on the pre-exhaust, but remember it's not about moving the weight, it's about feeling the rep.
Not to worry I haven't given up.
Serious question: can you flex your lats? Try it, put your hands on your hips and try and do a lat spread pose. I'll be dollars to doughnuts you can't do it very well. That's bad. Practise really flexing and squeezing your lats, then when you do the pulldowns, at the bottom of the rep squeeze your lat like when you're flexing. This is massively important.
I can't really do this. If I lift my arms up a bit and crouch down, like Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk, then I can feel them.
My trainer once asked me to flare my lats and I did. He said, "no flare your lats." I said, "Um, I am." he said, "uh...."
you shouldn't be using much weight for the pre-exhausting, shoot for sets of like 15 or so, with a 2 second squeeze and 3 second negative.
Right, I'm using about 20# and up to 30, but nothing that would cause me to grit my teeth and lose the mind-muscle connection.
But I'm not doing this as a pre-exhaust for anything. I do it on off-days. Is there something I'm missing here?