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These alternative lat pulldown exercises at home are all vertical pulling movements.
This ensures the muscles are still receiving sufficient stimulation in their lengthened position.
The biggest shift is that you’ll need a resistance band, free weights, pull-up bar, or body weight exclusively instead of needing a cable machine.
- Pullovers, pull-ups, and banded pulldowns train the lats without the need for specialized equipment.
- Vertical exercises normally work the lats and upper back through a great range of motion to promote hypertrophy.
Table of Contents
9 Top Lat Pulldown Alternatives for Home
1. Resistance Band Lat Pulldowns
Resistance bands are insanely cheap compared to a cable machine, making this first exercise one of the best lat pulldown alternatives (or variations?).
I want to clarify to always attach your band to the hinged side of a door frame for safety when exercises call for it to be attached to one.
What You’ll Need
- A handled tube band and
- a door and a door anchor (an overhead beam works too).
- A loop band and a sturdy pole.
To begin the resistance band lat pulldown:
- Place your anchor on the top door hinge then close the door.
- Feed the band through the anchor.
- Grab the handles with palms facing the floor.
- Step back a few feet until the band loses its sagginess.
- Kneel on one or both knees, leaning your torso forward over your knees.
- Externally rotate your arms and stick your chest up.
- Pull your elbows toward your hips and squeeze your shoulder blades down to initiate the motion.
- Release up once your hands are level with your shoulders to feel a stretch in your lats then repeat.
Trainees tend to grip the handles too hard, which forces their biceps to be too involved.
Take a looser hold on them and possibly even a thumbless grip to prevent this.
Only grab as hard as you need to so they don’t slip from your hands.
You can also test out a neutral or underhand grip to see which of the three you prefer.
2. Resistance Band Straight Arm Pulldowns
These don’t put as much stress on the shoulder joints as the former and they also remove bicep involvement altogether.
The posterior arm (triceps) is involved as a trade-off.
What You’ll Need
- Once again you’ll need a door anchor and a door
- along with a tube band.
To begin the straight arm pulldown:
- Secure your band on the highest hinge of your entry using the provided anchor.
- Assume an overhand grip on the handles, stepping back far enough so the band has light tension.
- Kneel onto the floor and hold your chest up with your arms straight in front of it.
- Pull your hands towards your hips without bending your elbows.
- Release and repeat.
Letting the elbows flair outward while pulling is typical but may result in the pectorals becoming overly involved.
Tuck the elbows and squeeze the armpits inward because you’re trying to isolate the lats
3. Half Kneeling Banded Single Arm Pulldowns
Unilateral training should be a part of any well-thought-out program that’s set on developing symmetry in a physique.
That’s where single arm half kneeling pulldowns come into play.
What You’ll Need
- An overhead beam and
- loop band.
- A standard tube band and
- a door attachment.
To begin the half kneeling single arm pulldown:
- Tie the band onto a beam or the high part of a post.
- Grab the looped hanging portion of the band with either hand (palm facing inward).
- Take a half kneeled stance with the opposing knee upright.
- Position yourself far enough away to create roughly a 70-degree angle between the band and the floor.
- Maintain a tall torso and pull the handle to your rib cage, retracting and depressing the scapula as you go.
- Stop and squeeze once the upper arm is parallel to the lateral torso.
- Release into overhead elbow extension and repeat for reps before switching to the opposite arm.
Over-protracting the shoulder or slouching in the contracted position happens quite frequently, inhibiting mind-muscle connection in the lats.
Concentrate on keeping that chest tall and torso neutral throughout the movement.
4. Dumbbell Pullovers
When it comes to isolating the lats eccentrically there’s no other free weight exercise that compares to the pullover.
What You’ll Need
- A single dumbbell (DB) with a
- flat bench.
To begin the dumbbell pullover:
- Grip the DB handle in one hand then grip the other hand over top.
- Lay perpendicular with your upper back on the bench and feet shoulder-width apart on the ground.
- Elevate your hips so they’re straight with the torso.
- Hold the DB with your arms straight above your chest without fully locking your elbows.
- Lower the weight slowly behind your head toward the floor, stopping once your upper arms are next to the sides of your head.
- Be sure to sink your hips toward the floor as you’re lowering.
- Move the DB back up until it’s above your face while simultaneously re-elevating your hips.
Oftentimes exercisers struggle to maintain a consistent elbow extension, meaning they’ll bend their arms as they move the weight.
This leads to the triceps taking over.
The elbows must be statically extended and slightly bent without allowing for any flexion during exertion.
5. Barbell Pullovers
Barbell pullovers replicate a rare, but sought-after piece of equipment known as the machine pullover made famous by Dorian Yates.
This is also an acceptable alternative to the pulldown since there’s an emphasis on eccentric rep actions.
What You’ll Need
- A barbell and
- flat bench.
To begin the barbell pullover:
- Place a barbell on the edge of a bench where your head will be.
- Lay supine on the bench and pick up the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart and feet flat on the ground.
- Raise the bar over your chest, then slide your head to the end of the bench.
- Bend your arms to about 45 degrees then stretch the bar behind your head.
- Go as far as your shoulder mobility allows without feeling discomfort.
- Drive through your elbows to move the bar to the starting position once you feel the lats lengthen.
Lock in your elbow angle during the eccentric and concentric phases to avoid triceps emphasis once again.
The upper/lower arms are gonna be continuously bent to about 45 degrees instead of being near straight like the dumbbell iteration.
Pull-ups are an outstanding exercise to work the upper back and lats through a deep stretch, which is optimal for muscular development.
The downside is that you typically can’t perform as many reps as you can with a pulldown so you sacrifice volume and isolation for intensity.
These have been shown to build further musculature than pulldowns however, granted you can perform an adequate amount of reps for hypertrophy.
What You’ll Need
- Pull-up bar or
- sturdy door with a door stop or something else to wedge underneath.
To begin the pull-up:
- Assume a dead hang position utilizing a 1.5x shoulder-width apart pronated grip on the bar.
- Depress your shoulder blades and brace your core and glutes before initiating the rep.
- Lift your chest to the bar with a straight line pull motion, flexing your elbows toward your butt.
- Stop once you get your chin over the bar.
- Extend your elbows under control to return your body to the dead hang.
A lot of people will do half reps with this exercise, which may allow for the accumulation of more volume but is substantially less useful to the target areas.
You’ll raise your chin above the bar ideally, or at least equal to it to achieve a full contraction.
Then, fully extend your arms when entering the eccentric portion to achieve a deep stretch.
Chin-ups are not easy by any means, however, they may be slightly easier than pull-ups.
You could even alternate between the two within the same training session.
You’d do pull-ups until fatigue sets to the point where your form begins declining, and switch to chin-ups in hopes of performing a few extra reps with better form for instance.
This would enhance the amount of volume you’re able to complete within that session.
What You’ll Need
- Pull-up bar or
- an overhead beam.
To begin the chin-up:
- Grab the bar with an underhand grip at shoulder width apart.
- Pull your scapula down and engage your glutes and core with your body in a dead hang.
- Drive your elbows to your hips to get your chin over the bar.
- Lower into the dead hang.
Pulling with the biceps is an error (unless done purposefully) that causes many trainees to shy away from the chin-up.
Luckily there are a few tweaks you can make to prevent or at least minimize this:
- Use a false grip (thumbless).
- Concentrate on pushing your elbows down toward your hips while pulling your chest in a straight line to the bar.
- Always re-depress your scapula (pinch the shoulder blades down) before initiating another rep. This helps retain that slightly stuck-up chest position.
8. Superman W Pulls
The way I portrayed these in the demo video overhead is one version.
You can squeeze your glutes to boost your legs off the ground during the contracted stage if you’d like to work the spinal erectors too.
These are very good for concentric stimulation, but not so much during the eccentrics because there’s no pulling tension.
What You’ll Need
- Nothing besides a soft floor and
- two arms (along with the rest of your body, hopefully)!
To begin the Superman w pull:
- Lay prone with your arms elevated a few inches off the ground and extended overhead with your palms facing down.
- Bend your elbows toward your glutes until the hands are at shoulder height while slightly lifting your chest off the ground.
- This creates a W shape between your arms and head.
- Re-extend your arms and repeat.
A lack of scapular depression and retraction during the concentric phase reduces the ability to squeeze the back muscles.
Focusing on shooting the elbows back and slightly upward while slightly raising the chest can help with this.
9. Bodyweight Pullovers
These are insanely difficult if you’re not very skilled at bodyweight training, I won’t sugarcoat it.
Yet, they are presumably the best BODYWEIGHT-ONLY option in terms of placing tension on the lats in their lengthened position when done correctly.
What You’ll Need
- You’ll want to do these on low-friction flooring (hardwood or linoleum) while
- wearing long pants preferably.
To begin the bodyweight pullover:
- Assume a seal-like position, but have your back flat and ankles/feet off the ground.
- Fix your lower thighs and knees on the ground.
- Dig your weight into your palms to pull your body forward, stopping once your hands are stacked underneath your shoulders.
- Push yourself backward from here until your hands are aligned in front of your head.
- Replicate steps 3 and 4 for 4-10 reps.
The elbows may want to naturally spread out.
Regardless, you want to actively attempt to keep them packed by your sides the best you can to maximize lat involvement.
Failing to hold the spina neutral is another critical mistake.
Squeeze your glutes and core the entire time to prevent a loss of stability.
Lat Pulldown Muscles Targeted
Lat pulldowns are a complex multi-joint movement and although the goal is to target the back muscles, they also engage a butt ton of other areas for stabilization.
This also applies to most of these alternatives.
Major Muscle Groups
- Latissimus dorsi muscles
- Trapezius muscles
- Scapula muscles
This is tagged as a superficial muscle because it’s effortlessly seen by the naked eye when someone is shirtless.
Especially when that someone is a 6’10” jacked dude such as myself (hehe).
These small scapula muscles stabilize the lats during movements at the glenohumeral joint.
Activities that depress and retract the scapula utilize the trapezius muscle.
Not only that but having massive traps is Alpha AF bro.
You wouldn’t be able to retract your scapula without the rhomboids, which would make it harder to activate the back.
Are rear delts part of your deltoids or upper back muscles?
Let’s go with deltoids since that’s what’s in their name.
They help the rhomboids and traps hold the shoulders in check, and without them, you’d be hunkered forward, unable to stick your chest up during exercise.
Here are a few of the notable synergist muscles used during pulldowns:
- Biceps brachii
- Triceps brachii
Biceps and Triceps Brachii
The biceps and triceps work in unison to perform elbow flexion and extension (bending the lower arms closer to and straightening them away from your body).
That is why you may feel these areas functioning to some capacity during these exercises.
The brachioradialis is a forearm flexor muscle that may seem insignificant, but without it, you would have a hard time initiating these movements.
These minute, yet crucial limb insertions aid you in the ability to grip the bar.
Effectiveness of Lat Pulldowns
The lat pulldown exercise is effective for progressively overloading the back eccentrically and concentrically.
Having both of these jointly applied is optimal for muscle growth.
That is why I solely included vertical pulling alternatives to continue this complete range of motion pattern.
I did make an exception for the 8th bodyweight exercise in case you don’t have access to equipment.
Furthermore, there are so many lat pulldown variations for adjusting the muscle focus or accommodating limitations.
You could do wide-grip lat pulldowns to put greater focus on the lat muscles, conversely, a close grip will increase activation of the upper back muscles.
The supinated grip delivers slightly better bicep stimulation if you’re trying to be cast in the next Popeye movie, while on the other hand, neutral grips can relieve wrist discomfort.
Lat Workout Using a Few of These Exercises
Below is one example of the many ways these exercises can be incorporated into a workout routine.
|Superman W Pull (Warm-up)||3||10||30|
|1-Arm Half Kneeling Banded Pulldown||5||10-12||90|
|Pullover (Barbell, Dumbbell, or Bodyweight)||4||8-12||90|
|Incline Dumbbell Row||4||10-15||120|
|Bicep Curls (Resistance Band, Dumbbell, or Barbell)||3||12-15||90|
Lat Pulldown Exercise FAQ
What Is the Home Equivalent of Lat Pulldowns?
The door pull-up is the home equivalent of lat pulldowns.
They are even shown to engage more muscles in comparison.
All you’ll need is a sturdy door and something to wedge underneath so it doesn’t sway during the movement.
How To Do a Lat Pulldown Without a Lat Pulldown Machine?
You’ll need a resistance band to do a lat pulldown without a lat pulldown machine.
– Anchor the band above a high door hinge.
– Take an overhand grip on the handles.
– Sit facing the anchor with your arms straight overhead and your upper body neutral.
– Aim your elbows at your hips to pull the handles toward your chest, while squeezing your shoulder blades back and down.
– Reverse to the starting position and repeat.
Can You Build Lats Without a Pull-Down?
Yes, you can build your lats without a pull-down.
Some great lat pull-down alternatives are:
– T-bar rows
– Incline dumbbell rows
– Inverted rows
– Barbell rows
What Muscles Does the Lat Pulldown Work?
The lat pulldown works muscles of the back (latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, traps), arms (rear delts, biceps brachii, triceps brachii, brachioradialis, brachialis), and glenohumeral stabilizers (teres major, infraspinatus).
What Free Weight Is Equivalent to the Lat Pulldown?
Free weight exercises that are equivalent to the lat pulldown include:
– Dumbbell pullovers
– Barbell pullovers
– Barbell bent-over rows
– Bent-over dumbbell rows
Can Chin-Ups Replace the Lat Pulldown?
Chin-ups can replace the lat pulldown in terms of increasing muscle and strength.
It’s rather difficult to accumulate the same amount of volume and overload as with pulldowns however.
This is due to the upper body exhausting sooner, potentially impacting the ability to isolate the lats and gain muscle mass as quickly.
Are Pull-Ups Like Lat Pulldowns?
Pull-ups are like lat pulldowns since they heed the vertical movement pattern and target the same muscle groups (upper back, latissimus dorsi, and biceps).
The biggest differentiator is that pull-ups require you to be able to lift your body weight, while pulldowns can be executed with very lightweight.
Enjoy These Lat Pulldown Alternative Exercises!
I’ve provided enough options for you to find a good lat pulldown alternative that you’ll be able to do at your house hopefully.
There are small tweaks you can make to each of these exercises.
You can do pullovers laying on the ground using just dumbbells or a barbell if you don’t have a flat bench for example.
Likewise, you can anchor the band to a low spot and do resistance band pulldowns lying on your stomach if you lack a door anchor.