12 Lat Pulldown Exercise Variations for a Stronger, Wider Back

12 Lat Pulldown Exercise Variations for a Stronger, Wider Back

Using different angles and grip positions in lat pulldown exercises helps grow your back muscles better by working them from various directions, leading to a stronger and more developed back.
Image of a man doing lat pull down exercises. Source: Pexels

For a well-toned and powerful back, focusing on the lats is crucial. Well-developed lats give men a strong V-taper and make women’s waists look slimmer. The lat pulldown, which primarily targets your latissimus dorsi – the largest muscle in your back, can be tailored to target different muscle groups in varying intensities.

Many people might skip lat pulldowns, opting for rows and deadlifts instead. However, by not doing lat pulldowns, you’re missing out on key muscle growth. Pull-ups can be challenging to execute perfectly, so adding pulldowns can significantly help in building those impressive lats. Here, we explore twelve variations of this workout to help you break the monotony and amp up your back gains.

What is a lat pulldown?

The lat pulldown is an exercise designed to develop the back muscles. This exercise mainly focuses on the lats but also engages the biceps and middle back to a noticeable extent.

Since the back muscles benefit from varied training, trying different angles and grip positions is beneficial to enhance muscle growth in this area.

What are the benefits of lat pulldown exercises?

The lat pulldown serves as an excellent alternative to pullups or chin-ups, especially if you find these exercises challenging or are working towards mastering them. It engages many of the same muscles as pull-ups, albeit to a lesser degree.

Additionally, the seated position of the lat pulldown allows you to use your hip flexors and abdominals for stabilization during the exercise. In fact, one older study indicated that lat pulldowns might engage the abdominal muscles more than pull-ups.

The conventional lat pulldown is fantastic but there’s much more you can do to accelerate your muscle gains. While the standard move engages your lats, traps, and rhomboids, shaking it up with variations can engage supporting and stabilizing muscles, offering you a more comprehensive back workout.

12 Lat Pulldown Exercise Variations

Are you ready to elevate your back workouts? Check out these effective lat pulldown variations to boost your strength and muscle growth.

1. Wide Grip Lat Pulldown

This variation targets the lats extensively, enhancing the upper back’s width and contributing to a broader V-taper.

How to do it:

  • Sit at the pulldown machine and grasp the bar wider than shoulder-width.
  • Pull the bar down to chest level while squeezing your shoulder blades together.
  • Maintain a slight bend in the elbows throughout.
  • Slowly return to the starting position.

2. Close Grip Pulldown

The close grip pulldown isolates the lats more effectively, allowing for deeper muscle engagement.

How to do it:

  • Use a closer grip on the bar, keeping arms more vertical.
  • Pull the bar towards your chest, thinking of your hands as hooks.
  • Allow elbows to travel straight down.
  • Return slowly, feeling the stretch at the top.

3. Neutral Grip Lat Pulldown

This grip variation targets the entire back, with a specific focus on the upper portion of the lats.

How to do it:

  • Use a handle with grips at shoulder width, palms facing each other.
  • Slightly lean back to engage more muscles.
  • Pull the handles down smoothly, avoiding jerky movements.
  • Return to start without relaxing the muscle tension.

4. Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown

Primarily enhancing the lower lats, this variation also significantly involves the biceps.

How to do it:

  • Grip the bar with palms facing you, slightly wider than shoulder-width.
  • Pull the bar down while lifting your chest up.
  • Hold briefly at the bottom for maximum contraction.
  • Slowly release to the starting position.

5. Kneeling Lat Pulldown

Kneeling during the pulldown increases the range of motion and adds a stability challenge, making it suitable for individuals who are taller or seek more intensity.

How to do it:

  • Kneel behind the seat or in front of a cable pulley.
  • Perform the pulldown as you would in a seated position.
  • Focus on controlling the movement throughout.
  • Use core strength to maintain balance.

6. Single Arm Lat Pulldown

By isolating each side independently, the single-arm lat pulldown ensures balanced muscle development across the back.

How to do it:

  • Use a single handle attached to the pulley.
  • Pull down with one arm, aligning it with the cable.
  • Focus on a full stretch and contraction.
  • Repeat for equal reps on each side.

7. Straight Arm Lat Pulldown

This standing variation mimics the dumbbell pullover, focusing on stretching and contracting the lats without bending the elbows.

How to do it:

  • Stand facing the cable machine with a straight bar attachment.
  • Keep your arms straight and pull the bar down towards your thighs.
  • Pause at the bottom to maximize the lat contraction.
  • Slowly return to the starting position, maintaining arm straightness.

8. V-Bar Pulldown

The V-bar pulldown emphasizes the lower lats and reduces shoulder strain due to its neutral grip, which aligns the arms and shoulders more naturally.

How to do it:

  • Attach a V-bar to the pulldown machine.
  • Sit down and grasp the V-bar with palms facing each other.
  • Pull the bar down to your upper chest.
  • Slowly release the bar back to the starting position while maintaining control.

9. Behind the Neck Lat Pulldown

This variation targets the upper lats and rear deltoids, but it should be performed with caution to avoid shoulder strain.

How to do it:

  • Sit with your back to the pulldown machine.
  • Reach up and grasp the bar with a wide grip.
  • Pull the bar down behind your neck slowly and controlled.
  • Return to the start position without letting the weight stack touch down.

10. Supinated Grip Lat Pulldown

Using an underhand grip, this variation targets the lower lats and increases bicep involvement, making it an effective compound movement.

How to do it:

  • Attach a standard bar to the pulldown machine.
  • Sit and grasp the bar with an underhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart.
  • Pull the bar down towards your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together at the bottom.
  • Slowly extend your arms back to the starting position.

11. Rope Lat Pulldown

This variation utilizes a rope attachment to allow for a greater range of motion and helps target the lats at slightly different angles.

How to do it:

  • Attach a rope to the high pulley of a cable machine.
  • Kneel or sit facing the machine, grabbing the rope with both hands.
  • Pull the ends of the rope down to your sides, keeping your hands apart at the bottom.
  • Slowly let the rope return to the starting position, extending your arms fully.

12. Band-Assisted Lat Pulldown

Ideal for those who are building up to heavier weights, the band-assisted pulldown reduces the load, allowing for more controlled movement and form.

How to do it:

  • Secure a resistance band over a pull-up bar or a high sturdy point.
  • Attach the other end to the lat pulldown bar.
  • Perform the pulldown as usual; the band will assist by reducing the weight as you pull down.

Frequently Asked Questions

Got more questions about lat pull down exercises? Check out some commonly asked questions about this topic below.

What are the benefits of varying grip widths in lat pulldowns?

Varying grip widths can help target different parts of the latissimus dorsi and other back muscles, promoting more balanced muscle development and reducing the risk of muscle imbalances.

How does the reverse grip lat pulldown differ from the standard version?

The reverse grip (palms facing you) puts more emphasis on the lower lats and also increases engagement of the biceps compared to the standard overhand grip.

Can lat pulldowns help improve posture?

Yes, strengthening the latissimus dorsi and the overall back muscles can help in improving posture by stabilizing the spine and reducing the likelihood of slouching.

Are there any effective alternatives to the lat pulldown machine?

Yes, pull-ups and chin-ups are great alternatives that use body weight as resistance. You can also use resistance bands or a cable machine to perform similar motions that target the same muscle groups.


As we draw to a close, remember that variation is vital. Rotating through these lat pulldown variations will not only challenge your muscles to adapt and grow but also keep your workout exciting. So, go ahead and infuse some fresh energy into your exercise routine. Your back will thank you, and you’ll build the strength and definition you’re striving for. Keep bringing intensity, commitment, and a dash of creativity to your workout, and the results will amaze you.

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