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How To Do Lat Pulldowns

What is a lat pulldown?

Lat pull down exercise

See all lat pull down variations

The lat pull down machine is used to target the latissimus dorsi muscle (i.e. your back). It is typically performed seated, facing towards the machine, where you pull a long bar attached to the cable, towards your chest, and then slowly extend your arms back to starting position.

The lat pulldown can help to improve back strength and increase the size of your back muscles. It's a popular exercise for the back for beginners up until advanced gym goers. 

For lat pulldown variations, check out our guides which include a step by step breakdown on how to perform the exercises below.

COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT LAT PULLDOWNS

  • A good weight for a lat pulldown would differ from person to person. If you’re new to performing the lat pulldown, start with a light weight and focus on learning good technique. Once you’ve learned how to execute a lat pulldown with good form, you can add more load to a manageable weight that challenges you but also doesn’t compromise your form. As you perform these consistently week over week, you will find your body will get stronger, and you can adjust the weight if needed.

  • If you don’t have access to a lat pulldown machine, an alternative piece of equipment you can use is a resistance band and a wooden stick. Make sure you can attach your resistance band to a …

  • The lat pulldown targets the same muscles and replicates the same vertical pulling down motion as the pull up.

    Both can be good exercises to help build back muscle and upper body strength. The lap pulldown is performed using a weight-adjusted cable exercise machine whereas a pull up is typically performed hanging from a bar using your own bodyweight.

    The lat pulldown is good if you do not have the strength to pull your own bodyweight or if you want to perform drop sets, as you can adjust the resistance on the machine. As it requires less core and scapula control, it can be easier and more manageable for beginners.

Lat pulldown tips

  • Resist the temptation to use momentum to pull the bar towards your chest. Instead focus on recruiting your back muscles to pull the bar.
  • Once you've pulled the bar towards your chest, release the weight in a controlled manner by slowly extending your arms forward.
  • Brace your core when your perform this exercise to keep your torso stable.

How to do a lat pulldown

Level: Beginners to Advanced

Equipment required: Lat pull down machine

  1. Sit on the seat facing the machine and adjust the cushion above your thighs if needed.
  2. Stand up and grab the straight bar so it's shoulder-width apart, using an overhand grip.
  3. Slowly lower yourself into the seat with arms extended above your head.
  4. Squeeze your lats and drive your elbows down to pull the bar towards the top of your chest. You may have to lean slightly back as you do this.
  5. Once the bar has reached the top of your chest, hold in this position for a pause, and slowly release the bar back to starting position.

How to do a close grip lat pulldown (also known as reverse grip)

Level: Beginners to Advanced

Equipment required: Lat pull down machine

  1. Choose your weight and assume seated position.
  2. Hold the straight bar with an underhand grip (palms facing you) about shoulder width apart.
  3. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and drive your elbows down to pull the bar towards the top of your chest.
  4. Once the bar has reached the top of your chest, hold in this position for a pause, and slowly release the bar back to starting position.

How to do a wide grip lat pulldown

Level: Beginners to Advanced.

Equipment required: Lat pull down machine.

  1. Choose your weight and start in seated position. Adjust the thigh pad if needed.
  2. Stand up and grab the straight bar with an overhand grip and with hand wider than your shoulder width. 
  3. Slowly lower yourself into the seat with arms extended above your head.
  4. Squeeze your lats and drive your elbows down to pull the bar towards the top of your chest. You may have to lean slightly back as you do this.
  5. Once the bar has reached the top of your chest, hold in this position for a pause, and slowly extend your arms back to starting position.

How to do a resistance band lat pulldown

Level:Beginner to Advanced.

Equipment: Rig, long resistance band, plyo box or bench.

If you don't have access to a lat pull down machine, you can perform the same exercise using a resistance band.

  1. Set up the resistance band on a rig by placing the band over the bar and looping it through the the other end of the resistance band. 
  2. Position a plyo box or bench underneath the hanging band.
  3. Assume seated position, grab the resistance band about shoulder-width apart and extend your arms up and overhead. This is your starting position.
  4. Engage your lats and pull the band down as if you're doing a pull up.
  5. Slowly extend your arms back to starting position.

How to do a standing lat pulldown

Level: Intermediate to Advanced.

Equipment: Rig, long resistance band, plyo box or bench.

  1. Choose your weight. Grab the straight bar with an overhand grip and with hand wider than your shoulder width. 
  2. Keep your arms overhead and take a few steps back.
  3. Push your hips back whilst keeping a slight bend in the knees for a slight forward lean.
  4. Squeeze your lats and drive your hand down to pull the bar towards your mid thigh, whilst keeping your arms relatively  straight.
  5. Once the bar has reached your mid thigh, pause in this position for second, and slowly return your arms back to starting position.

How to do a kneeling lat pulldown

Level: Intermediate to Advanced.

Equipment: Cable machine, straight bar.

  1. Attach the straight bar handle to the cable machine if it's not already attached.
  2. Grab the handle with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and adopt a kneeling position in front of the cable machine.
  3. Squeeze your shoulder blades, drive the elbows down and bring the handle towards your upper chest.
  4. Once the bar has reached your chest, hold this position for a second, and then extend your arms back to starting position in a slow, controlled manner.

How to do a behind the neck lat pulldown

Level: Advanced.

Equipment: Lat pull down machine.

  1. Adjust the weight if needed. Grab the handle with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Sit on the seat with the thigh pad positioned to your mid-thigh.
  3. Tilt your head and lean your chest slightly forwards.
  4. Brace your core and squeeze your shoulder blades and drive your elbows in towards your lats in a controlled motion. The bar should move behind your head.
  5. Slowly extend your arms back to starting position.

   

If you’re not sure if any of the above exercises are suitable for you, please consult your doctor before you start it. Need guidance on how to perform the exercise? Ask a personal trainer at your gym.