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13 Lat Pulldown Machine Exercises You Didn't Know About

Ever found yourself in a loop, wondering what more a lat pulldown machine could bring to your workouts? Gear up for 13 lat pulldown machine exercises that are about to transform your routine.

Perfect for gym enthusiasts craving new challenges and those eager to carve their back and shoulders with a twist. Say goodbye to the mundane and hello to variety—these exercises promise to unlock new levels of strength and aesthetics in your fitness journey.

Get ready to elevate your workout game!

lat pulldown machine exercises

Table of Contents

What Are The Lat Pulldown Machine Exercises You Should Know?

  1. Tricep Pulldown
  2. Straight Arm Pull-Over
  3. Standing V-Bar Row
  4. Standing Bicep Curl
  5. Face Pulls
  6. Cable Ab Crunch
  7. Overhead Tricep Extension
  8. Low Rows
  9. Bicep Curls
  10. Single Arm Standing Cable Row
  11. Lateral / Front Shoulder Raise
  12. Glute Kickbacks
  13. Resisted Calf Raises

Best Lat Pulldown Variations

Building a strong back is not just about looking good—it's the cornerstone of five-star fitness and your best defense against injuries. The lat pulldown is a hero exercise for sculpting your back muscles.

Let's dive into these three best lat pulldown machine variations that promise to supercharge muscle engagement and offer exceptional versatility in your workout regimen.

  1. Wide Grip Lat Pulldown: The wide grip variation is a must-try. This exercise targets the latissimus dorsi, which is crucial for a V-shaped back to make you appear wider and more powerful. Make sure your hands are slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and keep your elbows pointing out to the sides as you pull the bar down to your chest.

  2. Narrow Grip Lat Pulldown: This variation is great for focusing more on your lower lats and the overall development of the back muscles. By placing your hands closer together, about shoulder-width apart or slightly narrower, you engage the lower lats more, providing a well rounded back workout.

  3. Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown: Switching to an underhand grip (palms facing you) for this exercise can highlight the biceps and lower lats. This change targets these muscles, providing more isolation work while still keeping consistent with the pulling motion.

Related: Top Lat Pulldown Variations For A Large Back | Must Try

Game-Changer Lat Pulldown Machine Exercises You Should Try

In this section, we will introduce you to the transformative exercises that go beyond the conventional. Each exercise will be detailed pinpointing exactly which muscles you'll be engaging, noting any specific attachments required to enhance the move, and providing step-by-step instructions on how to execute each exercise with precision.

Get ready to redefine your strength training and bring a fresh challenge to your back, shoulders, and beyond!

1. Tricep Pulldown

The Tricep Pulldown on a lat pulldown machine is an excellent adaptation of the classic tricep rope pushdown. This exercise is a smart choice if you're looking to isolate and sculpt your triceps using the consistent tension that only a cable machine can provide.

Muscles Worked: The tricep pulldown zeros in on the triceps brachii, which comprises three heads: the long, medial, and lateral.

Attachment Used: For this exercise, a straight bar or a rope attachment works best. The straight bar allows for a more classic pulldown motion, while the rope attachment introduces an element of grip variation and a chance to refine muscle engagement through a slight outward flare at the bottom of the movement.

Tricep Pulldown

How to Perform the Exercise:

  1. Attach the chosen bar or rope to the high pulley of the lat pulldown machine.
  2. Stand facing the machine, with a slight bend in your knees for stability and your core engaged.
  3. Grip the attachment with an overhand grip (palms facing down) for the bar or with both hands for the rope, keeping your elbows close to your sides.
  4. Keeping your elbows stationary, exhale as you push the attachment down until your arms are fully extended.
  5. Focus on using your triceps to perform the movement, minimizing involvement from the shoulders or back.
  6. Pause briefly at the bottom of the movement to maximize triceps contraction.
  7. Inhale as you slowly return the attachment to the starting position, maintaining control and tension in the triceps throughout the movement.

The Tricep Pulldown is more than just an exercise; it's your hidden ace for arm strength and definition. So, next time you're at the cable machine, give your triceps the attention they deserve with this classic exercise.

2. Straight Arm Pull-Over

The Straight Arm Pull-Over on a lat pulldown machine is a great exercise if you're  looking to expand your workout repertoire with a move that's both effective and unconventional. This exercise takes the essence of the classic dumbbell pull-over and adapts it for the cable system with a continuous tension that's hard to beat.

Muscles Worked: This move targets your latissimus dorsi with laser focus, engaging these large back muscles in a way that fosters width and thickness. Also your triceps, deltoids, and core get a piece of the action, making for a well-rounded upper body challenge.

Attachment Used: You'll be buddying up with the lat pulldown machine again, but this time, opt for a straight bar attachment. It's all about maintaining that arm straightness throughout the motion, and the bar is your perfect partner in crime for this.

Video Creator Credits: Pure Gym

How to Perform the Exercise:

  1. Stand in front of the lat pulldown machine, feet shoulder-width apart, creating a stable base that's ready for action. 
  2. Grasp the bar with an overhand grip, hands positioned wider than shoulder width. 
  3. With arms extended and a slight bend in your elbows to protect the joints, lean forward slightly at the hips. 
  4. Pull the bar down in a wide arc, moving your arms straight down towards your hips. Imagine your arms are the hands of a clock, sweeping smoothly and steadily towards the 6 o'clock position, powered by the sheer strength of your back.
  5. Feel the contraction in your lats as the bar approaches your thighs, a moment where every muscle fiber seems to sing with effort and achievement. 
  6. Slowly return the bar to the starting position with control, resisting the pull of the weight as you extend your arms back up. 

          3. Standing V-Bar Row

          Unlocking the potential of the lat pulldown machine for more than just pulldowns, the Standing V-Bar Row redefines back day. This exercise repurposes the machine for an extreme rowing movement, targeting your back with a new perspective and engaging your muscles in a whole new way.

          Muscles Worked: This focuses on the latissimus dorsi, sculpting that sought-after V-tapered back. Your biceps, shoulders, and core also join the fray, ensuring a full-on upper body workout.

          Attachment Used: For this exercise, you'll switch out the standard bar for a V-Bar attachment. This V-shaped handle allows for a neutral grip, optimizing the alignment of your joints and muscles for a safer and more effective row.

          Video Creator Credits: Daru Strong

          How to Perform the Exercise:

          1. Stand facing the lat pulldown machine, feet planted firmly, a comfortable distance apart. 
          2. Grasp the V-Bar with both hands, palms facing each other. 
          3. Lean slightly forward from your hips, maintaining a straight, strong back. This is a strategic angle, positioning your body for maximum muscle engagement and efficacy.
          4. Pull the V-Bar towards your lower abdomen, driving the movement with your elbows. Picture your elbows as the driving force, pulling back as if trying to meet behind you, focusing the effort squarely on your lats.
          5. Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the peak of the movement, turning this moment into a powerful contraction.
          6. Slowly extend your arms back to the starting position, resisting the pull of the weight with a controlled, deliberate motion. 

          4. Standing Bicep Curl

          Standing Bicep Curl brings a fresh twist to the bicep-building classic. This variation leverages the unique resistance profile of the lat pulldown machine for a constant challenge to your muscles throughout the movement.

          Muscles Worked: This puts the spotlight squarely on your biceps brachii, etching in those peaks for a display-worthy set of arms. Your forearms and core muscles are enlisted to stabilize and support, making each curl a full-arm effort.

          Attachment Used: Swap out the typical lat bar for a straight bar or an EZ-bar attachment on the pulldown machine. This small change is your ticket to a smooth transition from back to biceps, keeping your workout dynamic.

          Standing Bicep Curl

          How to Perform the Exercise:

          1. Stand facing the lat pulldown machine, feet grounded and set apart with a natural, shoulder-width stance. 
          2. Grip the bar with an underhand grip, hands spaced in alignment with your shoulders. 
          3. With a slight bend in your knees for a resilient base, keep your elbows pinned at your sides, a silent promise that they're not going anywhere. This discipline is what keeps the focus on the biceps, turning every curl into a targeted strike.
          4. Engage your core and pull the bar down towards your thighs, bending only at the elbows. 
          5. Curl until your hands are near your thighs, biceps fully contracted and enjoying in the spotlight of tension. This is the top of the curl.
          6. Release with control, letting the weight ascend slowly, resisting its journey upwards. This controlled return is more than just the path back; it's an opportunity to maximize muscle growth, turning resistance into results.

          5. Face Pulls

          Face Pulls on a lat pulldown machine are a creative twist on the traditional face pull exercise, using the versatile setup of the lat pulldown to improve posture, shoulder health, and upper back strength. 

          Muscles Worked: This exercise targets the posterior deltoids, upper and middle trapezius, and the rhomboids with precision. 

          Attachment Used: The rope attachment is best for face pulls on a lat pulldown machine, allowing for a natural grip and letting you draw your hands apart at the peak of the movement for optimal muscle engagement.

          face pulls

          Photo credits: Muscle & Fitness

          How to Perform the Exercise:

          1. Attach the rope to the lat pulldown machine and adjust the cable pulley to a high position. 
          2. Stand or kneel a comfortable distance from the machine, facing it, and grasp each end of the rope with an overhand grip. 
          3. Initiate the movement by pulling the rope towards your face, separating your hands as they come closer to your ears. 
          4. Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together as you pull, transforming the exercise into a powerful engagement of the upper back. 
          5. Hold the peak position briefly, relishing in the contraction and the alignment of your posture at this apex. 
          6. Slowly return to the starting position, maintaining control and resisting the pull of the weight. 

          6. Cable Ab Crunch

          The Cable Ab Crunch on a lat pulldown machine is a smart adaptation that brings a new angle to core training. By using the lat pulldown for abdominal exercises, you utilize the machine's adjustable resistance to boost your core workout, making it a multifaceted tool for building strength and definition in your midsection.

          Muscles Worked: This exercise zeroes in on the rectus abdominis, the front sheath of muscles responsible for the coveted six-pack, while also engaging the deep core muscles like the transverse abdominis. 

          Attachment Used: A rope attachment is ideal for this exercise, allowing for a comfortable grip and letting you pull the weight effectively while maintaining proper form and maximizing the engagement of your abdominal muscles.

          Cable AB crunch

          Photo credits: PowerliftingTechnique.com

          How to Perform the Exercise:

          1. Attach the rope to the high pulley of the lat pulldown machine. 
          2. Kneel down facing the machine, grabbing the rope with both hands and bringing the ends down to either side of your head. 
          3. Engage your abs to curl your torso downward, directing your head towards your knees. 
          4. Focus on the contraction at the bottom of the movement, squeezing your abdominal muscles as if trying to wring out every bit of strength and definition from them. 
          5. Slowly return to the starting position, resisting the pull of the weight as you uncoil. 

          7. Overhead Tricep Extension

          The Overhead Tricep Extension adds a new element to tricep training by utilizing the vertical resistance, perfect if you're looking to step up your arm workouts and achieve that distinctive tricep definition.

          Muscles Worked: This exercise targets the triceps brachii with a focus that leaves no head behind—the long, medial, and lateral heads all get their share of the workload, promising a comprehensive tricep development.

          Attachment Used:tricep rope extension is ideal for the Overhead Tricep Extension on the lat pulldown machine. The rope allows for a natural grip and a slight outward flare at the end of each extension, which can improve tricep engagement and optimize muscle activation.

          Overhead Tricep Extension

          Photo Credits: Muscle & Strength

          How to Perform the Exercise:

          1. Attach the rope to the lat pulldown machine and adjust the pulley to the highest setting. 
          2. Face away from the machine and grab the rope with both hands, bringing it overhead with your elbows bent and pointed forward. 
          3. Keeping your elbows stable and close to your head, extend your arms to push the rope upwards. 
          4. Fully extend your arms, locking out at the elbows at the top of the movement to maximize tricep contraction. 
          5. Hold the top position momentarily, basking in the intensity of the tricep contraction. 
          6. Slowly lower the rope back to the starting position, maintaining control and keeping the tension on your triceps throughout the fall. 

          Remember, the key to progress is not just in the variety of exercises but in the precision with which they are executed. By focusing on the muscles worked, using the right attachments, and following the step by step instructions provided, you're setting the stage for a more effective and rewarding workout experience.

          Elevating Your Workout With The Low Row Machine

          In this bonus section, we're not just talking about exercises; we're expanding your workout vocabulary. After delving into the game-changer lat pulldown machine exercises, we're taking it a step further.

          Let's dive in!

          8. Low Rows

          Low Rows, a foundational exercise that turns the lat pulldown low row machine into your personal canvas for back sculpting. This move isn't just about pulling weight; it's an art form that engages your body and mind, demanding focus and precision to craft the strong, defined back you're striving for.

          Muscles Worked: The spotlight shines on your latissimus dorsi, turning each row into a stroke of strength. Also your rhomboids, traps, and biceps play key roles, blending to create a symphony of muscle engagement and growth.

          Attachment Used: V-Bar attachment is the perfect partner for Low Rows. This compact tool allows for a neutral grip, aligning your wrists, elbows, and shoulders in a way that maximizes engagement and minimizes the risk of injury. 

          low row machine

          How to Perform the Exercise:

          1. Sit tall and proud at the lat pulldown low row station, planting your feet firmly on the ground. 
          2. Grasp the V-Bar with both hands.
          3. With a braced core, initiate the row by pulling the V-Bar towards your abdomen. 
          4. As the V-Bar meets your torso, squeeze your shoulder blades together. 
          5. Slowly release the tension, letting the V-Bar guide you back to the starting position. 

            9. Bicep Curls

            Bicep Curls is a timeless classic that transforms the lat pulldown low row machine for arm sculpting. This isn't merely lifting; it's an act of chiseling, where each curl sculpts out the peaks of your biceps, crafting a well-proportioned arms.

            Muscles Worked: The spotlight in this performance is on the biceps brachii. But the cast includes the supporting muscles too—forearms and grip strength making each curl a coordinated effort of flex and finesse.

            Attachment Used: A straight bar attachment is your partner in the quest for bicep perfection. This bar sets the stage for a classic curl, giving you the perfect balance between challenge and control.

            bicep curl

            Photo credit: Fitness Institute

            How to Perform the Exercise:

            1. Stand before the lat pulldown low row machine, feet planted on the ground.
            2. Grasp the straight bar with an underhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart. 
            3. With elbows pinned to your sides, curl the bar towards your chest. 
            4. As the bar ascends, let your biceps swell with effort, peaking in a moment of exquisite tension at the top of the curl. 
            5. Release with control, letting the bar descend, slowly and with grace, each downward movement as much a part of the sculpture as the lift.

            10. Single Arm Standing Cable Row

            The Single Arm Standing Cable Row is a targeted exercise that uses the lat pulldown low row machine for focused back development and improved muscle balance. This emphasizes unilateral strength letting you work on each side of your back independently, ensuring even development and functional strength.

            Muscles Worked: This cable row exercise targets the latissimus dorsi on one side, allowing for concentrated effort on each side of the back. Secondary muscle groups include the biceps and rear deltoids, with the core in stabilizing your posture throughout the movement.

            Attachment Used: A single D handle grip attachment is used for this exercise, a direct and effective connection to the machine. This attachment allows for a natural range of motion and ensures that each pull is as effective as possible.

            Single Arm Standing Cable Row

            How to Perform the Exercise:

            1. Position yourself beside the lat pulldown low row machine, establishing a stable stance with your feet planted firmly.
            2. Turn slightly towards the machine and grasp the single handle with one hand, maintaining a neutral grip.
            3. Keep your core engaged and shoulders squared to provide stability and support for the movement.
            4. Pull the handle toward your torso, keeping your elbow close to your side, focusing on engaging the lat muscles as you perform the row.
            5. Allow for a slight rotation of your torso towards the machine at the end of the movement to deepen the muscle engagement.
            6. Pause briefly when the handle reaches your side to maximize the contraction in your lat muscles.
            7. Slowly return to the starting position, maintaining control and muscle engagement to ensure the effectiveness of this lat pulldown machine exercise.

              11. Lateral / Front Shoulder Raise

              The Lateral/Front Shoulder Raise is a versatile exercise that can be adapted to the lat pulldown low row machine, offering a fresh angle on shoulder training. This exercise targets the shoulder muscles from multiple angles, enhancing muscle tone and shoulder definition.

              Muscles Worked: This exercise focuses on the deltoid muscles, with the lateral raises targeting the middle deltoids and the front raises highlighting the anterior deltoids. The movement also engages the upper traps and the stabilizing muscles of the rotator cuff.

              Attachment Used: For this exercise, a single handle grip attachment is ideal. It allows for a focused and controlled movement, ensuring that each raise is precise and effective.

              Lateral Raise

              How to Perform the Exercise:

              1. Start by standing next to the lat pulldown low row machine, with a stable and balanced stance.
              2. Attach a single handle to the low pulley and grasp it with the hand closest to the machine for lateral raises, or with the hand furthest from the machine for front raises.
              3. For lateral raises, keep your arm slightly bent and lift the handle out to the side, up to shoulder level, focusing on engaging the middle deltoids.
              4. For front raises, rotate your body slightly to face away from the machine and lift the handle in front of you, up to shoulder level, targeting the anterior deltoids.
              5. In both variations, ensure that the movement is controlled and focused, with the core engaged to maintain stability.
              6. Pause briefly at the top of the raise to maximize muscle engagement before slowly lowering the handle back to the starting position.

              12. Glute Kickbacks

              Glute Kickbacks on the lat pulldown low row machine offer a unique way to target and strengthen the gluteal muscles, using the machine's cable system for a smooth and controlled resistance. This exercise is excellent for toning and lifting the glutes, contributing to a stronger, more defined lower body.

              Muscles Worked: The primary focus is on the gluteus maximus, the largest muscle in your glutes. The movement also engages the hamstrings and lower back to a lesser extent, making it a comprehensive lower body exercise.

              Attachment Used: A single ankle strap attachment is best for this exercise. It secures around your ankle, allowing you to connect directly with the cable and perform the kickback movement effectively.

              Glute Kickbacks

              How to Perform the Exercise:

              1. Attach the ankle strap to the low pulley of the lat pulldown low row machine and secure it around your ankle.
              2. Stand facing the machine, holding onto it for support, with a slight bend in your knees for stability.
              3. Shift your weight to your standing leg while keeping your core engaged and your back straight.
              4. Slowly extend the leg with the ankle strap back and upward, focusing on using your glute muscles to perform the movement. Ensure that the motion is controlled and that your hip is the main point of movement.
              5. Lift your leg as high as you can while maintaining proper form, and squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement for maximum engagement.
              6. Slowly return your leg to the starting position, maintaining tension in the glutes throughout the descent.

              13. Resisted Calf Raises

              Resisted Calf Raises using the lat pulldown low row machine offer a novel approach to calf training, using the machine's resistance to enhance the intensity of the exercise. This is perfect for strengthening and defining the calf muscles, adding a challenging twist to traditional calf workouts.

              Muscles Worked: This exercise targets the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles in the calves. These muscles are crucial for lower leg strength, stability, and movements such as walking, running, and jumping.

              Attachment Used: For this exercise, you can use a low row bar or a single handle attachment, depending on your preference and the setup of the machine. The key is to ensure that you can maintain a secure grip throughout the exercise.

              resistance calf raises

              Photo Credits: GILAXIA//GETTY IMAGES

              How to Perform the Exercise:

              1. Attach the chosen bar or handle to the low pulley of the lat pulldown low row machine.
              2. Stand facing the machine, with the bar or handle held at waist level. Use both hands for stability and maintain a slight bend in your elbows.
              3. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, with the balls of your feet on a raised platform or step if available. This elevation allows for a greater range of motion during the calf raise.
              4. Engage your core and keep your back straight as you slowly lift your heels, pressing up onto the balls of your feet and engaging your calf muscles.
              5. Rise as high as possible, focusing on squeezing your calves at the top of the movement for maximum muscle engagement.
              6. Slowly lower your heels back down below the level of the platform or step, stretching your calf muscles before starting the next repetition.

                Frequently Asked Questions

                How many types of lat pulldown machines are there?

                There are primarily two types of lat pulldown machines: plate-loaded and selectorized (with weight stacks). Each type can accommodate various grips and attachments for diverse workouts.

                What are the benefits of lat pulldowns?

                Lat pulldowns offer several benefits, including strengthening and widening the back muscles for improved posture and upper body strength, enhancing grip strength, providing a safer alternative to pull-ups for beginners or those with limited upper body strength.

                What is the best lat pulldown machine alternative ?

                One of the best lat pulldown machine alternatives is the pull-up. This exercise effectively target the same upper back and lat muscles, offering the added benefit of engaging more stabilizing muscles and promoting functional strength by leveraging your body weight as resistance.

                Your Creativity Creates More!!

                After exploring innovative lat pulldown exercises, we see that this moves open the door to endless possibilities. 

                Consider this an invitation to go beyond traditional workouts with the lat pulldown machine. Use what you've learned to tailor exercises to your goals, experimenting and listening to your body along the way. Armed with its potential, you're ready to transform the ordinary into something extraordinary. 

                In fitness, creativity is your greatest asset. Let it lead you to exciting discoveries and achievements in your workout journey. The lat pulldown machine is your canvas; now go ahead and create your masterpiece.

                 

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                About The Author

                Matt Gemkow, the author of this content section at Select Fitness USA, boasts more than 15 years of fitness experience. He started out in sports and athletic training for many years and has since 2014 transitioned into heavy-weight training and bodybuilding. As a result, he has become one of the most experienced fitness equipment experts out there, and a valuable source of information.