Best Lat Pulldown Variations – Exercises for Back Strength & Shape

Last Updated on the June 24, 2020

Do you want to build a big back that looks like an airfield? Or, you are simply bored with the same exercises on the lat pulldown machine and wish to modify your back workout?

I have good news for you because I’m going to show you some lat pulldown variations that will boost the size of your back. Also, you can target one particular muscle group better to get rid of your weak points. So, your back training will be more versatile and effective.

1. Single Arm Lat Pulldown Exercise

single arm version

 

Single-arm movements are great to cure muscle imbalances. For example, if one side is stronger than the other. Also, because the load is on one side, your core muscles are activated to keep the balance of the body. To sum up, you can improve the symmetry of your body.

This exercise is an excellent alternative for a single-arm dumbbell row if, for a reason, you do not want to do that.

Instead of the bar, attach a single handle. Sit on the bench, fix your knees, and grab the handle. Pull down by keeping your arm close to your torso until your elbow is behind your trunk. Then, slowly with a controlled technique, return the weight to the starting position.

If you have not done this exercise before, you may find it hard to keep your upper body vertical since the resistance wants to tilt out of your balance. You may help yourself by grabbing the upright with your other hand. Even better if you use light loads first, and gradually increase the resistance so that your muscles get used to the new practice.



2. Wide-Grip Reverse Lat Pulldown

reverse grip variation

Reverse grip pulldown

Another excellent exercise for lower lat development and for strengthening your lower back. However, if you have problems with your wrists, you may find it uncomfortable to perform it, because of the underhand grip.

Because of the reverse grip, you can focus on back muscles much better as if you were doing the traditional front pulldown. Also, it’s a great progression exercise for chin-ups if you want to start bodyweight training.

By the way, the best is if you combine it with close grip pull down exercise, which targets the middle parts of your back.

The starting position and almost the whole motion is virtually the same as the regular lat pulldown form with shoulder-width. But because of the reverse grip, at the top of the movement, you can’t straighten your elbows, but that isn’t a problem.

3. Straight Arm Lat Pulldown

This is a great variation to isolate your lats. However, most of the gym-goers do it incorrectly.

  • Grab the lat bar a few inches wider than shoulder-width. You can bend your elbows slightly so that you can target your lower latissimus accurately.
  • When you pull the bar down, keep your torso straight and lean forward about 70-80 degrees.
  • At the end of the motion, pull as much as you can. So, your shoulder blades come close to each as near as possible.
  • At the top of the movement, stop for a moment, and squeeze your muscles.
  • Finally, slowly let the bar back to the starting position with straight arms.

4. Narrow natural grip V-bar pulls (close grip lat pulldown)

close lateral pull down

V bar pulldown

Because of its nature, among the lat pulldowns, this provides the strongest grip and a good range of motion. Therefore, you can lift a heavy weight that leads to more effective muscle mass and strength development. Actually, this is my favorite cable machine exercise.

The focused areas are your latissimus dorsi, but also your core, and biceps are activated. Hence, it’s a great compound move for strength.

The starting position is the same. Pull the V-bar towards your lower chest while your elbows go backward without a momentum. When the handle reaches your upper chest, you may stop for a moment and tighten your back. You can lean back a little that helps the execution and muscle activation.



5. Alternating lat pulldowns

alternating

 

In this variation, the range of motion is the shortest. Still, because of the alternating pulling and standing position, we can target the lats well. Anyway, it’s a sort of variation of the first exercise on this list. Although, in this case, both sides are still working since one performs the pulling move while the other arm holds the weight and gives counterbalance.

There is no need to use heavy resistance, it’s better to do high reps (25-30) and do it as back workout finisher for pumping.

7. Seated Row

  • Starting position: Depending on the device, sit on a bench or on the floor and grab the close grip handle.
  • Put your feet against the lat machine with your knees slightly bent to maintain a neutral spine.
  • Keep your shoulders down and your chest out. This posture will help to keep your shoulder blades pinched and get the proper range of motion throughout the whole exercise.
  • Now pull the bar towards your torso.
  • When the bar reaches your body, squeeze your back.
  • When you let the bar backward, make it with a controlled technique. Do not just drop it.
  • Breathe in when you let the weight back, and out when you pull.

Reasons to do these exercises

As we mentioned before, with the help of these variations, we can strengthen the back muscles from different angles for size and definition. Also, we can make the routine more versatile.

However, a lot of people have problems with how to do lat pulldowns correctly. And, these practices help to improve the correct for. Hence, they are ideal progression lat exercises for beginners. They just need to use lighter resistance that they can comfortably handle so that resistance does not go detriment to the correct form.

Note for home training: While we are talking about lat machine exercises, you can do these practices at home with the help of rubber bands or similar equipment. Fix it somewhere higher, and sit on a chair instead. A bit more complicated, but still much better than nothing.

FAQ

What are the lat pulldown benefits?

It’s compound exercise meaning that it works more than one muscle group at once. But, the min targeted muscle group is the latissimus dorsi. Another benefit is that thanks to the equipment, we can set the resistance to our level of strength. Also, it’s useful to improve your pull-up strength.

List of muscles:

  • Teres minor
  • Teres major
  • Infraspinatus
  • Biceps brachii
  • Brachioradialis
  • Brachialis
  • Posterior deltoid
  • Middle and lower trapezius
  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Palms
lateral pulldown muscle groups

Wide-grip lat pulldown muscles worked

Which grip is the best?

That depends on your aims. If you want to broaden your back, the wide grip is the winner. If you’re going to focus on your lower lats and lift heavier weights to build strength, then the close grip is the winner. The best is if you regularly switch grip widths.

I believe versatility is vital for development. If you always do the same back exercises, the muscle fibers get used to and stop growing.

Are behind-the-neck lat pulldowns bad?

The behind-the-neck lat exercise shares the people. The fact is that the National Council on Strength & Fitness has already done a study about it. The result was that pulling the bar behind the neck is least efficient than pulling at the front. Plus, it can lead to cervical spine injury and puts stress on the shoulder joints.

To sum up

I hope you like these lat pulldown machine exercises, and you will include them in your workout one or more. You will not regret it since your back training will be more complete leading to a v-taper back. If you know other variations, please let us know in the comment section below.

Last updated on October 19, 2020 11:27 pm
Sources
1. Signorile JF, Zink AJ, Szwed SP. A comparative electromyographical investigation of muscle utilization patterns using various hand positions during the lat pull-down. Journal of strength and conditioning research. 2002;16(4):539-546. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12423182.

‌1. Sperandei S, Barros MAP, Silveira-Júnior PCS, Oliveira CG. Electromyographic analysis of three different types of lat pull-down. Journal of strength and conditioning research. 2009;23(7):2033-2038. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181b8d30a

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James Wright

James (36) has been working out since he was 15 years old. He has a home gym where he pumps iron, does bodyweight workouts and boxing. He likes sharing his experiences with others who want to build a better physique.

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