A wide, muscular back is the cornerstone of an impressive physique. After all, what's the point of having big arms and a broad chest if your back looks like a wet noodle?
Fortunately, achieving a broad, muscular back is not as difficult as you might think. All you need is a lat pulldown workout. Lat pulldowns target the large muscles of the back, known as the latissimus dorsi, or "lats" for short.
Lat pulldowns can help you build a wider, thicker back when performed correctly. However, many people don't perform this exercise correctly. As a result, they don't get the full benefit of the exercise, and their back development suffers.
This blog post will show you 10 different lat pulldown variations and how to do them perfectly for maximum utility.
What is Lat Pulldown?
A lat pulldown is a strength training exercise that targets the latissimus dorsi, or "lats" - large, triangular muscles that run from the lower back to the upper arm. The lat pulldown is performed by sitting in a lat pulldown machine with a weight attached to a pulley overhead.
The pulldown is one of the most versatile exercises you can do at the gym. It works your back, arms, and shoulders simultaneously, making it a great exercise for upper body strength. And because there are so many variations, you can always find a new way to challenge yourself.
The exercise begins with the arms extended overhead and the hands gripping the bar. The exerciser then pulls the bar down to chest level, leading with the elbows. The lats are the primary muscle group worked during this exercise, but the biceps and shoulders also receive some work.
The lat pulldown can be performed with various grips, including an overhand, underhand, and neutral grip. The exercise can also be varied by changing the width of the grip. Not only that, standing, sitting, or even kneeling while performing this move can make a huge difference.
Lat pulldowns can be performed with bodyweight, free weights, or weight machines.
1. The Standard Pulldown
This is the most common variation of the lat pulldown exercise that gives your back muscles a good hit despite being very simple and straightforward.
- Simply sit down on the bench with your legs tucked under the pads.
- Place your hands shoulder-width apart.
- Pull the bar down to your chest.
- That's one rep.
- Make sure to keep your elbows close to your sides throughout the exercise.
- Perform as many reps as you can.
2. The Wide-Grip Pulldown
The wide-grip pulldown is a great exercise for targeting the lats. Lats are responsible for bringing the arms down and back, making them an important muscle group for activities like rowing and swimming.
- The wide grip pulldown is performed by sitting at a lat pulldown machine and gripping the bar with a wide, overhand grip.
- From there, simply pull the bar down to chest level, maintaining a strong posture throughout the movement.
- Remember to keep your elbows close to your sides and resist the temptation to swing the weight - this exercise is about controlled movement.
3. The Reverse-Grip Pulldown
This variation is performed with a supinated grip (palms facing you), which targets the lower fibers of the lats. It's a great exercise for adding width to your back.
- Start by sitting at a lat pulldown machine and adjusting the seat so that your knees are at a 90-degree angle.
- Next, grab the bar with an underhand grip and then position your hands so that they are shoulder-width apart.
- Slowly pull the bar down from there until it is level with your chin.
- Be sure to keep your elbows close to your sides throughout the motion.
- Finally, return the bar to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
Note: If you are new to this exercise, starting with a lighter weight may be helpful until you get the hang of the movement.
4. The Close-Grip Pulldown
The close-grip pulldown is performed with a close grip on the bar (hands placed close together). The minor change in the placement of hands makes all the difference. It becomes an upper back muscle specialist with this slight change of grip.
- Sit at a lat pulldown machine with the weight stack set to your desired weight.
- Then, grasp the bar with a narrower grip than shoulder width.
- Simply pull the bar down to your chest while keeping your elbows close to your sides.
- Be sure to keep your upper body still and your shoulders pulled down and back throughout the movement.
- Reverse the motion and return to the starting position.
- Repeat for desired reps.
5. The Single Arm Kneeling Pulldown
This unassuming movement is often overshadowed by its more popular cousin, the seated lat pulldown. But the kneeling single arm lat pulldown is a powerful exercise in its own right and can be a valuable addition to your workout routine.
The kneeling position helps effectively engage arms and shoulder muscles along with the lats- the primary target. Additionally, this exercise allows you to use a greater range of motion than the seated lat pulldown, which can help you build muscle.
And because you're not anchored in a machine there is an added core stimulus involved.
- Start by kneeling on a mat or bench.
- Use a cable machine, grasp the handle with a neutral grip.
- If using a resistance band, anchor it to a sturdy object at about head height.
- Pull the handle down towards your shoulder and keep your back straight and your core engaged.
- Squeeze your lat at the bottom of the movement, then slowly return to the starting position.
- Repeat for 10-12 reps per side.
6. The Isometric Pulldown
The humble isometric pulldown is often overlooked in favor of fancier-looking exercises. But while it might not look as impressive as, say, a muscle-up, the isometric pulldown is one of the most effective exercises for building back strength and size.
- Grasp a bar with an overhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart.
- From there, you simply pull down as hard as possible, using your back muscles and hold the weight in the bottom contraction for as long as possible.
- The key here is to maintain tension - don't let your body relax at any point.
7. Standing Straight Arm Lat Pulldown
The standing straight arm lat pulldown is another great way to add core stability to your usual lat pulldowns. It engages and strengthens the lower back and helps build more muscles in your arms and shoulders. Plus, it is so simple to execute. There is no complexity involved at all.
- Stand in front of a cable machine with attachment set around head level and grasp the rope with a neutral grip.
- Pull the rope down to your hips, then return to the starting position.
- Make sure to keep your core engaged throughout the entire range of motion to prevent your lower back from arching.
- Release and extend your arms upward in a controlled fashion.
- This is one rep.
- Repeat the desired number of reps.
8. Supinated Machine Lat Pulldown
The supinated machine lat pulldown is a great way to target your lower lats (a problem area for most people). This grip on your lats can help alleviate your lower back pain caused by weak muscles in that area.
- To do this exercise, sit on a lat pulldown machine with your feet flat on the ground.
- Grasp the bar with an underhand grip.
- Pull the bar down to your chest, then return to the starting position.
- This is one rep.
- Repeat for the desired number of reps.
9. Single Arm Lat Pulldown
While the traditional two-arm lat pulldown is a great exercise, the single arm variation allows you to focus better on each side of the back individually. It can be performed with a cable machine or a resistance band anchored to a sturdy object.
- Grasp the handle with one hand and pull it down to your side, keeping your elbow close to your body.
- Contract your lat muscles as you perform the movement.
- Slowly return to the starting position.
- Repeat for 8-12 reps before switching sides.
10. Face Pulls
Face pulls are among the best moves that help correct poor posture and evenly develop strength throughout the upper back musculature. Poor posture often leads to rounded shoulders, which can result in hunched posture popularly referred to as 'text neck' these days.
Face pulls may not be as flashy as deadlifts or as popular as pull-ups, but they're a crucial part of any well-rounded back workout.
- Start by attaching a resistance band to a sturdy object at about shoulder height.
- Step back until there is tension on the band, and then grip the band with your hands about shoulder-width apart.
- Pull the band towards your face, maintaining a neutral spine throughout the movement.
- Be sure to squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement.
1. What is an alternative to lat pulldowns?
Lat pulldowns are perfect for those trying to strengthen their back muscles and add more stability to their midsection. They work on shoulders and arms alongside building and sculpting the back muscles. However, you need the machine to do them effectively.
You can do pull-ups or inverted rows if you don't have access to a lat pulldown machine. They work the same muscles as lat pulldowns, and you can do them at home without a machine.
2. What do different grips on lat pulldown do?
Different grips on lat pulldowns help target the lats in many different ways, isolate the back muscles more efficiently, improve the range of motion, and target specific parts of the lats. Various grips also make this move more of a compound movement where other connected muscles like shoulders and arms are engaged.
3. Can you do lat pulldowns with resistance bands?
Yes. You can do lat pulldowns very easily with a resistance band. Here's how to do it:
- After securing your resistance band to a raised fixture, sit or kneel down on the ground.
- With arms extended and palms facing downwards, grab hold of the band.
- Next, pull downward with your lats as far as possible before squeezing them tightly at the bottom.
- Finally, slowly return to the starting position.
4. Is lat pulldown the same as pull-up?
The lat pulldown is a machine-based routine in which you draw a bar toward your chest. The pull-up is a bodyweight exercise in which you hang from a bar and extend yourself until your chin is over the bar. Both work the same muscles- back, shoulders, and arms.
There you have it! Our top 10 lat pulldown variations will help you build muscle mass and endurance in your backside! Whether you are looking for new ways to challenge yourself or want to spice things up, we hope this list helps! With slight changes in grips, you can expect big, most notable effects in no time.