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Top Lat Pulldown Variations For A Large Back

Variations of lat the pulldown aren't just the spice – they're the secret ingredient in our workout recipes. It's about tapping into the untapped reserves of our back muscles through proper use of this already effective exercise in new ways.

You can capitalize on these precision-targeted methods to sharpen specific regions of your back. Each variation is a deliberate choice, a desirable move in your search to build a back that's not just stronger, but chiseled to perfection. 

Let's uncover the hidden potential of the lat pulldown machine, where true strength meets sculpted artistry.

Remember, your fitness journey is a lifelong commitment, and expanding your exercise routines can make it both exhilarating and fulfilling. So, let's dive right in!

best lat pulldown grip

Table of Contents

  1. Top Lat Pulldown Variations Explained
  2. Other Lat Pulldown Variations You Can Try
  3. Perfecting Lat Pulldown Workouts With The Right Grip
  4. Frequently Asked Questions
  5. Wrapping Up

The Best Lat Pulldown Machine Variations

 Other Effective Lat Pulldown Variations You Can Try

Top Lat Pulldown Variations Explained

In this section, we'll explore effective variations of the lat pulldown exercise, focusing on targeting the lats – a key muscle group in your back. These variations are tried-and-true, designed to enhance your strength and endurance in this crucial area.

Now, let's get into the specifics of each variation.

Wide Grip Lat Pulldown

  • Exercise Description: The Wide Grip Lat Pulldown is a powerful variation of the classic lat pulldown, designed to widen and strengthen your upper lats. It's a favorite of both fitness enthusiasts and advanced bodybuilders alike.

  • Grip Position: Your hands need to be spaced well beyond shoulder width on the bar, with an overhand grip that's about as wide as your wingspan allows.

  • Targeted Muscles: This exercise primarily targets the upper portion of your latissimus dorsi, highlighting the outer lats, and also targets supporting muscles like the biceps, rear deltoids, and rhomboids.

  • Benefits: The Wide Grip Lat Pulldown is a back-building powerhouse, essential for composing that sought-after V-shaped torso while also improving overall back strength and shoulder stability.

wide grip

How to perform Wide grip?

To perform this exercise, follow these steps:

  1. Sit down at the lat pulldown machine and grab the bar with your hands wider than shoulder-width apart, using an overhand grip.
  2. Keep your back straight and chest slightly puffed out, with a slight lean backward.
  3. Start the movement by pulling the bar down towards your upper chest, focusing on squeezing your shoulder blades together.
  4. Lower the bar in a controlled manner until it's just above or lightly touching your chest.
  5. Slowly release the bar back to the starting position, fully extending your arms and feeling a stretch in your lats.
  6. Throughout the exercise, ensure your core is engaged and your movements are controlled and calculated, avoiding any swinging or jerking motions.

Close Grip Lat Pulldown

  • Exercise Description: The Close Grip Lat Pulldown is a great variation that shifts the focus slightly more towards the center of your back, offering a great way to alter your back training routine and target those difficult middle and lower lats.

  • Grip Position: Your hands will be much closer together, typically using a V-bar attachment or a straight bar, where you grip less than shoulder-width apart with palms facing each other or towards you.

  • Targeted Muscles: It primarily zeroes in on the mid and lower portions of the latissimus dorsi, while also giving a good workout to your biceps, middle back, and lower traps.

  • Benefits: This exercise is a brilliant choice for enhancing the thickness and strength of your back, contributing to a more balanced and powerful upper body.

 close grip

How to perform Close grip?

  1. Attach a V-bar or use a straight bar on the lat pulldown machine, and sit down with your knees secured under the pads.
  2. Grasp the bar with your hands close together, using either a neutral grip (palms facing each other) or an underhand grip.
  3. Sit upright with a straight back and engage your core.
  4. Pull the bar down smoothly towards your chest, focusing on driving your elbows straight down to your sides.
  5. As the bar reaches just below chin level or touches your upper chest, squeeze your shoulder blades together, highlighting the contraction in your lats.
  6. Slowly extend your arms back to the initial position, controlling the weight as you return.
  7. Throughout the movement, ensure your motions are controlled and focused, abstain from leaning back or using momentum to lift the weight.

Neutral Grip Lat Pulldown

  • Exercise Description: The Neutral Grip Lat Pulldown is a versatile and joint-friendly variant of the classic lat pulldown, with a unique blend of back and arm engagement, perfect for those looking to add variety to their back workouts.

  • Grip Position: For this exercise, you'll use a neutral grip (palms facing each other), usually on a dual handle attachment, where your hands are spaced shoulder-width apart.

  • Targeted Muscles: This exercise targets the latissimus dorsi, with a more balanced distribution across the entire muscle, and also targets the biceps and middle back muscles.

  • Benefits: It's excellent for developing both width and thickness in the back while being easier on the shoulders, making it a go-to for those with shoulder issues.

neutral grip

How to perform Neutral grip?

  1. Attach a dual handle bar to the lat pulldown machine and sit down, securing your knees under the pads.
  2. Grab each handle with a neutral grip (palms facing each other), hands shoulder-width apart.
  3. Sit up straight with an engaged core, maintaining a neutral spine.
  4. Pull the handles down smoothly towards your shoulders, driving your elbows down and slightly back.
  5. Continue pulling until your upper arms are parallel to the floor or the handles are at shoulder level, focusing on squeezing your shoulder blades together.
  6. Slowly release the handles back up to the starting position, fully extending your arms and feeling the stretch in your lats.
  7. Throughout the exercise, keep your movements controlled, ensuring you're using your back muscles to perform the movement rather than momentum.

Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown

  • Exercise Description: The Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown is an effective twist on the conventional lat pulldown, with a unique angle that emphasizes the lower lats and adds a great bicep engagement, best for those aiming to assort their back training.

  • Grip Position: You'll use an underhand grip (palms facing you) on the bar, with your hands placed around shoulder-width apart or slightly narrower.

  • Targeted Muscles: This exercise targets the lower portion of the latissimus dorsi, while also giving your biceps and forearms a solid workout.

  • Benefits: The Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown is beneficial for enhancing the definition and strength of the lower lats and improving bicep involvement, making it a dual-threat for back and arm development.

Video Creator Credit: Rob Riches

How to perform Reverse grip?

  1. Attach a standard bar to the lat pulldown machine and sit down, placing your knees tightly under the pads.
  2. Grasp the bar with an underhand grip, hands about shoulder-width apart.
  3. Sit up tall with a straight back, engaging your core and ensuring a slight lean back.
  4. Pull the bar down towards your chest, driving your elbows down and back, focusing on engaging the lower lats.
  5. Continue the movement until the bar is near or lightly touches your chest, ensuring to squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  6. Gradually extend your arms back to the starting position, controlling the weight as you go back up.
  7. Keep your movements smooth and controlled throughout the exercise, avoiding any swinging or momentum to maximize muscle engagement.

    Supinated Lat Pulldown

    • Exercise Description: The Supinated Lat Pulldown, often same with the Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown, is a supreme variation that places more emphasis on the lower lats and arms. 

    • Grip Position: Your hands will be in a supinated position (palms facing towards you), around shoulder-width apart, providing a comfortable yet effective grip for this variation.

    • Targeted Muscles: It focuses on the lower latissimus dorsi, while also giving your biceps and forearms a strong workout, making it a dual-purpose exercise for back and arm strengthening.

    • Benefits: This exercise is great for sculpting the lower part of the lats and enhancing bicep strength, adding a valuable dimension to your upper-body workout routine.

    supinated lat pulldown

     How to perform Supinated Machine Lat Pulldown?

    1. Sit down at the lat pulldown station and secure your knees under the pads.
    2. Grab the bar with a supinated grip (palms facing you), hands positioned about shoulder-width apart.
    3. Keep your back straight and chest slightly puffed out, with a small lean back.
    4. Start the pull by bringing the bar down towards your chest, focusing on driving your elbows straight down.
    5. Continue pulling until the bar reaches near your chest, ensuring to contract your lats fully at the bottom of the movement.
    6. Slowly release the bar back to the initial position, fully extending your arms while maintaining control.
    7. Throughout the exercise, maintain a steady pace and controlled motion, avoiding jerky movements or swinging to ensure maximum muscle engagement.

      Narrow Grip

      • Exercise Description: The Narrow Grip Lat Pulldown is a mighty variation of the lat pulldown that brings a more intense focus to the middle and lower regions of the lats, offering a fantastic way to change and step up your back workout.

      • Grip Position: You'll use a close grip, with a V-bar or a straight bar, where your hands are positioned just a few inches apart for a more concentrated pull.

      • Targeted Muscles: This exercise targets the central and lower portions of the latissimus dorsi more intensely, while also engaging the biceps, rear deltoids, and the middle back.

      • Benefits: It's excellent for developing the depth and density of the back muscles, contributing to a more complete and dominant upper body physique.

      narrow grip

      How to perform Narrow Grip?

      1. Attach a V-bar or use a straight bar on the lat pulldown machine and sit down, securing your knees under the pads.
      2. Grasp the bar or handles with your hands close together, using either a neutral or an underhand grip.
      3. Keep your back straight and chest up, engaging your core.
      4. Pull the bar or handles down towards your chest, concentrating on driving your elbows straight down by your sides.
      5. Continue the movement until the bar is close to or lightly touches your chest, squeezing your lats at the bottom of the motion.
      6. Slowly extend your arms back to the starting position, controlling the weight on the way up.
      7. Throughout the exercise, ensure smooth, controlled movements, avoiding any swinging or jerking motions to maximize the effectiveness of the workout.

      Other Lat Pulldown Variations You Can Try

      Beyond the classic and top lat pulldown variations, there are other variations that can also bring a fresh challenge to your workout routine.

      So, roll up your sleeves (figuratively, of course), and let's explore some of these that you can try in your next workout session!

      V-Bar Lat Pulldown

      • Exercise Description: The V-Bar Lat Pulldown is a dynamic and effective variation, using a unique V-shaped bar to offer a different angle of resistance.

      • Grip Position: You'll grip the V-bar with both hands close together, palms facing each other for a deeper and more concentrated pull.

      • Targeted Muscles: This exercise targets the middle to lower latissimus dorsi, while also engaging the biceps, rear deltoids, and the middle back muscles.

      • Benefits: The V-Bar Lat Pulldown is beneficial for enhancing the thickness and overall development of the back, leading to back strength and aesthetic.

      Video Creator Credit: MyTraining App

      How to perform V-Bar Lat Pulldown?

      1. Attach a V-bar to the lat pulldown machine and sit down, placing your knees securely under the pads.
      2. Grasp the V-bar with your hands close together, palms facing each other.
      3. Sit up straight with your core engaged and maintain a slightly arched back.
      4. Pull the V-bar down towards your chest, driving your elbows straight down and slightly back.
      5. Continue the movement until the V-bar is near or touches your chest, focusing on squeezing your lats at the bottom of the motion.
      6. Slowly extend your arms back to the starting position, controlling the weight as you return.
      7. Throughout the exercise, keep your motions controlled and focused, ensuring you're using your back muscles to perform the movement rather than relying on momentum.

      Standard Lat Pulldowns

      • Exercise Description: The Standard Lat Pulldown is a classic upper body exercise that has earned its stripes in both home gyms and commercial setups. This exercise is a staple for those looking to sculpt a strong, well-defined back.

      • Grip Position: You'll grasp the bar with a wide overhand grip, positioning your hands a bit wider than shoulder-width apart. 

      • Targeted Muscles: Primarily, it hones in on the latissimus dorsi, the large muscles of the back, while also engaging the biceps, shoulders, and to some extent, the middle back and lower traps.

      • Benefits: Standard Lat Pulldown is your ticket to improved back strength, better posture, and enhanced overall upper body aesthetics.

      standard lat pulldown

      How to perform Standard Lat Pulldown?

      1. Sit down at the lat pulldown station and grab the bar with your chosen grip.
      2. Lean back slightly, puffing your chest out.
      3. Pull the bar down smoothly towards your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together at the end of the movement.
      4. Slowly extend your arms back up, maintaining control throughout the movement.

      Remember, it's not just about pulling the weight down; it's about engaging those lats and controlling the weight both ways.

      Single Arm Lat Pulldown

      • Exercise Description: The Single Arm Lat Pulldown is a one-sided exercise that focuses on each side of the back, perfect for addressing muscle imbalances and honing in on the latissimus dorsi with precision.

      • Grip Position: You'll use a single handle attachment, gripping it with one hand in an overhand (palms facing away) or neutral (palms facing each other) position.

      • Targeted Muscles: This variation works one side of the latissimus dorsi at a time, also engaging the biceps, rear deltoids, and stabilizer muscles in the back and core.

      • Benefits: The Single Arm Lat Pulldown is excellent for isolating each side of the back, fostering balanced muscle development and increasing core engagement for stability.

      Video Creator Credit: Chris and Eric Martinez

      How to perform Single Arm Lat Pulldown?

      1. Attach a single handle to the lat pulldown machine and sit down, securing your knees under the pads.
      2. Grasp the handle with one hand in either an overhand or neutral grip.
      3. Sit up straight, engaging your core to maintain a stable posture.
      4. Pull the handle down towards your shoulder, focusing on driving your elbow down and squeezing your lat at the bottom of the movement.
      5. Continue the pull until your hand is near or just past your chest, ensuring a full contraction of the lat muscle.
      6. Slowly return the handle to the starting position, fully extending your arm and controlling the weight throughout.
      7. Complete your set on one side before switching to the other arm, ensuring equal work on both sides for balanced development.
      8. Throughout the exercise, maintain controlled, deliberate movements, avoiding any swinging or jerking motions.

      Behind The Neck Lat Pulldown

      • Exercise Description: The Behind The Neck Lat Pulldown is a controversial yet effective variation of pulldown, targeting the upper back muscles differently. However, it's important to approach this exercise with caution due to its possible strain on the shoulder joints.

      • Grip Position: You'll use a wide overhand grip, with hands placed significantly wider than shoulder-width apart on the lat pulldown bar.

      • Targeted Muscles: This exercise targets the upper portions of the latissimus dorsi, along with the trapezius, rear deltoids, and teres major.

      • Benefits: This variation can help develop the width of the upper back and improve postural muscles when performed correctly and safely.

      Behind the neck lat pulldown

      How to perform Behind The Neck Lat Pulldown?

      1. Sit at the lat pulldown station, securing your knees under the pads.
      2. Grab the bar with a wide overhand grip, well beyond shoulder width.
      3. Lean back slightly and tilt your head forward to prepare for the movement.
      4. Pull the bar down smoothly in an arc motion towards the back of your neck.
      5. Gently touch the bar to the base of your neck, ensuring no strain or discomfort.
      6. Slowly extend your arms back to the starting position, controlling the weight and movement.
      7. Perform the exercise with controlled, slow movements, and avoid jerking or using momentum.
      8. Caution: If you have any shoulder issues or discomfort, it's advisable to avoid this exercise or you can just do other lat pulldown machine alternatives.

      Perfecting Lat Pulldown Workouts With The Right Grip

      To optimize your lat pulldown workouts, it's vital to select the right grip, in addition to using the best lat pulldown machine, and also you must know the common mistakes that you need to avoid, as these factors greatly influence the efficacy of your exercises and the specific muscles engaged.

      Grip Width Matters

      When it comes to lat pulldown variations, finding the right grip width is vital for targeting specific muscles and guaranteeing an effective workout.

      In general, there are three primary grip widths:

      1. Close Grip: This variation highlights the lower lats and has a slightly greater range of motion.
      2. Medium Grip: Same with a shoulder-width grip and provides a balance between upper and lower lat activation.
      3. Wide Grip: This grip targets the upper lats, with a pronated forearm being recommended as the excellent variation for engaging these muscles.

      To determine the best lat pulldown grip for your goals, consider incorporating a mixed approach, using different grip widths to work on each part of your lats and obtain a well-rounded workout.

      Common Mistakes To Watch For

      • Incorrect grip width: Select a grip that is at least as wide as your bi-acromial width, which is the distance between your shoulders' most lateral boney tips. Proper grip width will ensure optimal muscle activation.
      • Using momentum: Focus on keeping the movement slow and controlled, removing any bouncing or swinging that could affect your proper form and muscle engagement.
      • Incomplete range of motion: Fully extend your arms at the top of the movement and pull the bar down to your upper chest in a controlled manner for maximum benefit.
      • Overloading on weight: Choose a weight suited to your strength level and remember that using heavier weights with poor form can lead to injuries.

        Frequently Asked Questions

        What are the benefits of lat pull downs?

        Lat pulldowns offer a range of benefits for your upper body. They strengthen the latissimus dorsi (lats), leading to improved back definition and posture, while also enhancing overall upper body strength in the shoulders, arms, and upper back.

        What is the difference between lat pulldown and pull ups?

        The main difference between lat pulldowns and pull ups lies in their mechanics: Lat pulldowns are performed on a machine where you pull a weighted bar down towards you, making it easier to adjust resistance and focus on form. Pull-ups are a bodyweight exercise where you lift your body up to a bar, relying more on overall body strength and engaging more stabilizing muscles.

        What is the difference between lat pull downs and cable row?

        Lat pulldowns and cable rows both focused on the back training - lat pulldowns focus on a vertical pulling motion from above to target the upper back, while cable rows involve a horizontal pulling motion, working both the upper and middle back.

        How many types of lat pulldown machines are there?

        There are primarily two types of lat pulldown machines: plate-loaded and selectorized machines, with variations in design and attachments offering different grip options and movement patterns.

         

        Wrapping Up

        It's not just about lifting weights; it's about a smarter, more tactical approach to fitness. By understanding and using these variations, we tap into the deeper promise of the lat pulldown machine - where strength training transforms into an art form.

        These lat pulldown exercises are more than just movements; they are the tools you need to sculpt a back that's not only muscular but aesthetically imposing. You're not just building muscles; you're framing a masterpiece.

        So, as we wrap up, remember that your fitness journey is unique and progressing, and incorporating these lat pulldown techniques will surely add an exciting new dimension to it. 

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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.