Lat Pulldowns are one of my favorite exercises down on a machine. I primarily stick with barbell, dumbbell and bodyweight movements – whether I’m training athletes or just someone getting ready for beach season.
However, the Lat Pulldown is an extremely effective exercise that definitely has a place in almost any workout program.
In this guide, I’m going to teach you how to do Lat Pulldowns along with coaching points to focus on and a few Lat Pulldown variations as well.
Table of Contents
How To Do Lat Pulldowns
- Lat Pulldown Machine or Lat Pulldown Rack Attachment
- Latissimus Dorsi
- Lower Trapezius
- Forearm Flexors
- Biceps (Biceps Brachii, Brachialis, Brachioradialis)
- Depending on the machine or attachment that you’re using the setup may be a bit different.
- Regardless of the setup, try to position your torso predominantly upright with a very slight lean back.
- Grab the bar* just outside shoulder width grip with an overhand grip.
- Now, pull the bar down to your chest, squeezing the lats hard at the bottom.
- After a quick pause at the bottom of the rep, slowly bring the bar back up to the starting position.
- Repeat for the designated number of reps.
*This is assuming you’re using a standard long Lat Pulldown Bar. If you’re using a different attachment, this is going to vary.
Stay in control of the weight. By far the most common mistake I see lifters make is using way too much weight and rocking and swinging all over the place to try to get the weight to move.
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with pushing yourself with heavier weight, but make sure you’re able to maintain proper technique.
Some benefits of incorporating Lat Pulldowns into your exercise routine include:
- Improved posture: Strong lats can help support good posture, which can reduce the risk of back pain and improve overall health.
- Increased upper body strength: Lat pulldowns can help improve strength in the upper body, including the back, shoulders, and arms.
- Enhanced athletic performance: Strong lats can improve your performance in activities that require pulling movements, such as rowing, swimming, and climbing.
It’s important to note that lat pulldowns are just one part of a well-rounded exercise routine. In order to see the full benefits, it’s important to also incorporate other exercises that target different muscle groups and engage in regular cardiovascular activity.
How Many Reps?
Lat Pulldowns are an upper-body supplemental strength exercise. I recommend 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps.
Lat Pulldown Alternatives
Don’t have a Lat Pulldown machine or attachment? Don’t worry. Here are a couple of alternatives that you can try out instead.
Need more options? Here are my 10 favorite Lat Pulldown alternatives.
Technically, I would consider Lat Pulldowns an alternative to Pull-Ups and not the other way around but here we are.
Pull-Ups are arguably the king of all upper body exercises. They’re also basically the exact same movement pattern to a Lat Pulldown. So, if you don’t have a Lat Pulldown available (or even if you do), switch to Pull-Ups if possible.
If you can’t do Pull-Ups (yet!), Band Pulldowns may be a good alternative.
Loop a resistance band (you’ll probably need one of the stronger resistances – a green band is typically a good option) around a pull-up bar rack and sit or kneel below it.
Now, perform pulldowns the same way you would if you had the full Lat Pulldown cable setup.
You don’t have a Lat Pulldown machine, you can’t do Pull-Ups and you don’t have any bands. Now what?
Try Inverted Rows. They can be done with nothing more than a barbell sitting on a rack and they’re still one of the best movements for building a strong back.
Lat Pulldown Variations
Because of the dozens of different attachment handles there is an almost limitless amount of variations you can do with Lat Pulldowns. Here is probably the most popular of them:
This is pretty self-explanatory. Instead of using a wide overhand grip, use a more narrow underhand grip.
This is the equivalent of doing Chin-Ups (narrow underhand grip) versus Pull-Ups (wide overhand grip).
More Links and Info
Need more ideas for your upper body workouts? Check out the Upper Body Strength Section of our Exercise Library.