9 Best Lat Pull Down Machine Workout Variations

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Muscle man doing a Lat Pull Down Machine Workout

Lat pulldown machines are one of the most popular choices in the gym.

They allow you to work your back and bicep muscle groups at the same time, which is a major plus.

But did you know that there are many different ways to use one?

In fact, there are at least nine lat pull down machine workouts you can do.

Although most of them work the same muscles, you will find that each one offers its own unique benefits.

Read on to see what they are!

9 Lat Pulldown Machine Exercises

Be sure to watch the YouTube video that I have included with each exercise to ensure proper form.

1. Standard Lat pulldown

The standard grip allows you to isolate a little bit of everything when it comes to your biceps and back muscles.

To begin,

  1. Set the knee pad so that your legs are secured with your feet flat on the ground.
  2. Grab the pulldown bar with an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Slightly retract your shoulder blades while maintaining a mostly neutral spine.
  4. Pull the bar down while keeping your elbow joint aligned with your hips.
  5. Once the bar reaches your upper chest, return to the starting position until there’s a slight bend in your elbows.
  6. Repeat for reps.

2. Wide Grip Lat Pulldown

Using a wider grip will put more emphasis on your latissimus dorsi, which is the largest muscle group in your back.

Of course, you’ll still get some mid-upper back and biceps activation to go with it.

This is the variation many people will practice if they’re looking to increase the strength of their pull-ups.

The initial position is the same as the standard pulldown.

  1. However, you will grab the bar with your hands spread about 2x the width of your shoulders.
  2. Keep your lower back straight, with a slight arch in your upper back/shoulders.
  3. Pull the bar to the top of your chest, or to about chin height.
  4. Squeeze for a second, then reverse.
  5. Stretch your lats in the upper portion of the movement.
  6. Repeat for reps.

3. Narrow Grip Lat Pulldown

The narrow or close grip lat pulldown is a good choice if you want to overload the back muscles.

Most people can typically use heavier weights than they can with a wide grip.

  1. Sit down and secure your legs under the knee pads.
  2. Slightly curve your upper back while maintaining an upright posture.
  3. Grasp the bar with an overhand grip, directly shoulder width apart.
  4. Pull down until the bar touches your chest.
  5. Extend back to the top until your arms are straight, then repeat.

4. Single Arm Lat Pulldown

The single-arm lat pulldown is an essential isolation exercise for fixing muscle imbalances caused by injuries or improper form.

  1. Attach a d handle to the cable pulley.
  2. Sit down and adjust the seat height to secure your legs.
  3. Grasp the handle with your left hand using an outward grip.
  4. Slightly lean backward with your upper body.
  5. Pull down while simultaneously rotating your arm inwards so that your upper arm faces toward you at the bottom.
  6. Once your elbow joint reaches hip height, squeeze for a second and slowly return to the starting position.
  7. Repeat for desired reps before switching to the right arm.

5. Underhand Grip Lat Pulldown

There are a few key differences between the overhand and underhand grip.

For starters, the underhand grip better stimulates the lower lats in comparison to other lat pull-downs.

Also, you will find that you’re able to use heavier weights without sacrificing form.

This makes it a great exercise for strengthening your lats and biceps brachii to increase your chin-ups.

  1. Sit down and adjust the seat.
  2. Assume an underhand hold on a standard lat bar closer than shoulder width.
  3. Retract your shoulder blades and press your toes into the ground.
  4. Drive your elbows forward and down until the bar is close to lower chest height.
  5. Squeeze your lats then reverse the motion until your arms are straight.
  6. Repeat.

6. Neutral Grip Lat Pulldown

The neutral grip is the natural position for your hands to be in.

So, this hand placement will take some stress off your wrist joints and put you in a better position to focus on the back muscles.

  1. Set the knee pads to a comfortable height.
  2. Attach a parallel grip bar and grab it so that your hands are facing each other.
  3. Hinge at your hips and lean your upper body backward, making sure to keep your back neutral.
  4. Drive your upper arms straight down until your elbows begin to rotate toward the sides of your body.
  5. Reverse back up and repeat.

7. Straight Arm Pulldown

Although the straight-arm pulldown is designed to hit your lat muscles, you’ll feel it in the lateral head of your triceps too.

You could also use a reverse grip to target the medial head, but it’s not as effective.

To ensure proper technique don’t use too much weight as this may put excessive stress on your triceps.

  1. Attach a straight bar to your cable machine.
  2. Grab the bar with a slightly narrow outward grip.
  3. From the standing position step back far enough to provide constant tension throughout the entire exercise.
  4. Place your feet shoulder-width apart and bend your torso forward.
  5. Now, tighten your lats and pull the bar toward your waist with your arms fully extended.
  6. Once you get to this position reverse the motion until you feel a nice stretch in your lats.
  7. Repeat.

8. Overhead Bicep Curls

This one may be a bit awkward for some, but it’s worth giving a try if you only have access to a lat pulldown machine.

Who knows, your biceps brachii might thank you for it!

  1. Attach a short straight bar to your cable machine.
  2. Sit down with your torso upright and arms straight overhead.
  3. From here, curl the bar behind your head by moving your elbow joint and squeezing your biceps.
  4. Straighten your arms back to the start and repeat.

9. High to Low Face Pulls

High-to-low-face pulls are a great way to improve your posture and strengthen your rear delts and trap muscles.

You’d typically see them performed using a standing cable machine.

However, a lat machine will still do the job!

  1. Attach a cable rope to your lat pulldown machine.
  2. Grab the handle so that your thumbs and pointer fingers are against the bottom butts of the rope.
  3. Step back a few feet and stand straight up.
  4. Keep your feet close together and squeeze your glutes.
  5. Drive through your elbows to pull the rope towards your eyes.
  6. Be sure to retract your shoulder blades as you pull.
  7. Once your rear deltoids and traps are fully flexed return to the starting position so that your arms are straight.
  8. Repeat.

What Is a Lat Pulldown Machine?

A lat pulldown machine is a weightlifting machine used to strengthen and build muscle in the back.

The machine typically consists of a weight stack or weight plates, a seat, and a long curved bar.

The two most common types use pulley or mechanic systems.

How Does It Work?

The lat pulldown machine works by providing resistance against the user’s muscles as they pull the bar down toward their chest.

This resistance increases the further down they pull, causing the muscle to contract.

Different grips, hand placements, and stances can be used to target different muscles in the back.

The Benefits of Using a Lat Pulldown Machine

The lat pulldown machine helps target the lats (latissimus dorsi), which are the primary muscles that give you the “v-taper” look.

It also works other supporting muscles like the biceps brachii and triceps.

Lat pulldowns can also improve your posture by giving you a strong, muscular back.

A strong upper back helps reduce pain in the lower back because it supports your lumbar spine and keeps it in alignment.

It also works the deltoid muscles.

These help keep your shoulder joint down and chest up, which is important for proper posture.

Sample Workout Only Using a Lat Pulldown Machine

Who says you need free weights to get a good workout?

This quick example uses only a lat pulldown machine to target your upper arms and back muscles.

If you don’t have access to a pulldown machine you can use resistance bands instead by attaching them overhead.

  1. Single Arm Lat Pulldown: 4 sets x 10-12 reps each arm
  2. High to Low Face Pulls: 3 sets x 15-20 reps
  3. Straight Arm Pulldown: 3 sets x 8-12 reps
  4. Overhead Bicep Curls: 2 sets x 10-15 reps

FAQs for the Lat Pulldown Machine

Are Machine Lat Pulldowns Good?

Machine lat pulldowns are a great way to target your lats and build overall back strength.

They can be used as a primary exercise or as part of a larger workout routine.

When done correctly, they are safe and effective.

What Exercises Can I Do With a Lat Pulldown Machine?

The main movements you can do include standard, wide, and close grip lat pulldowns using a neutral, overhand, or reversed grip.

Some other exercises are face pulls, overhead bicep curls, and straight arm pulldowns.

What Machine Do You Do Lat Pulldowns On?

It is most common to use a traditional lat pulldown machine for this exercise.

However, any type of cable machine will work, but may not be as effective without the knee pads to secure your legs.

You could even use a resistance band to perform lat pulldowns.

Is Lat Pull Down Machine Worth It?

There are many factors to consider when deciding whether or not a lat pulldown machine is worth it.

Machines vary in price and quality, so it’s important to do your research before making a purchase.

Additionally, you’ll need to consider how often you plan to use the machine and what muscles you hope to build.

If you’re looking for an effective back isolation workout, the lat pull-down machine is worth it.

But if you’re only interested in strengthening your back, there are cheaper options like a standard pull-up bar.

What Does Behind the Back Lat Pulldown Work?

During the behind-the-back lat pulldown exercise, the targeted muscles include the latissimus dorsi, rear deltoids, and biceps.

However, this variation is not recommended over regular lat pulldowns since it puts strain on your neck and shoulder joints.

Concluding These Variations of Lat Pulldowns

Lat pull-down machines are one of the most versatile pieces of equipment in any gym.

They can be used for a wide variety of exercises, including targeting different muscle groups.

In this article, I’ve provided nine variations that you can use to help mix up your workout routine.

Give some or all of them a try the next time you hit the gym!

Sources:

https://theworkoutdigest.com/lat-pulldown-machine-exercises/

https://www.acefitness.org/resources/everyone/blog/5930/muscle-imbalance-6-things-to-know-about-muscle-imbalances/

https://steelsupplements.com/blogs/steel-blog/how-to-do-neutral-grip-lat-pulldowns-form-benefits

https://powerliftingtechnique.com/close-grip-lat-pulldown-vs-wide-grip/

https://wellbeingport.com/what-does-underhand-grip-work/

Eric De Cremer
Eric De Cremer

Eric is an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer and competitively trained powerlifter. Feel free to contact him anytime at edecremer@wildnswole.com!