Wide Grip Lat Pulldown Exercise Guide
Wide grip lat pulldown is another good exercise for your back if you lack the upper body strength to lift your own body-weight in the regular chin-up (pull-up). This exercise is done on a machine found in almost every gym. A long horizontal overhead bar is attached to a cable that ties into a stack of weights. You can increase the resistance to build your strength gradually. Because it is done with a machine, the movements are easy to control.
The pulldown belongs in the multiple-joint exercise category because both the shoulder and the elbow joints are mobilized. As a result, the pulldown recruits many muscles in addition to the back: the rear shoulders, the biceps, the long head of the triceps, and the forearms.
Wide Grip Lat Pulldown Exercise Instructions – Proper Technique
STARTING POSITION (SETUP): Sit facing the weight stack with your knees under the thigh pads and your feet flat on the floor. Hold the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart in an overhand grip (with your palms facing away from you). Let your arms be pulled upwards until your elbows are fully extended. Your upper body should be straight with a slight (5-10 degree) lean backwards, your head should be neutral with your eyes looking straight ahead, and your legs should be bent at 90 degrees, with the pad resting against your thighs to keep your legs grounded.
ACTION (MOVEMENT): Keeping your torso in a 5-10 degree lean backwards, squeeze your shoulder blades back and down as you pull the bar in front of your head, below your chin almost to your collar bone. Once the bar touches the upper part of your chest, slowly raise the bar back up to the starting point and repeat.
Additional Tips & Key Points To Remember
- Using your abdominal and back muscles to maintain an upright posture.
- A slow continuous movement in the vertical plane.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together for a count at the bottom. In other words, slowly contract your lats by pulling the bar down to your chest. Hold this position of full muscular contraction for a two-count
before allowing the weight to return in four seconds back to the starting position.
- Keep your upper body straight (only 5-10 degree lean backwards) and your eyes forward. A mental trick is to try to push your chest out to meet the bar. That helps you remember to pull your shoulder blades together in back.
- Keep your torso steady. Don’t let your torso sway backward—doing so takes effort off the lats and shifts it to the upper back. When your torso is steady, the lats do all the pulling. If you have trouble remaining stationary, have a spotter gently place his or her hands on your shoulders.
- Your elbows should come down vertically and parallel to your sides.
- In the fully contracted position, your elbows should be slightly behind your torso.
- Keep your elbows out.
- Leaning back too far or a swinging motion in the torso.
- Reaching your chin up higher to clear the bar.
- Rising out of your seat.
- Elevating your shoulders.
- Lowering the bar to the belly (not enough weight).
- Use parallel bar handles and maintain the same activation pattern and movement sequence.
- Behind the head lat pulldown. Perform the lat pulldown by pulling the bar behind the head and touching it to the back of your neck. The front pulldown is considered a better exercise than behind neck pulldowns; researchers at the University of Miami found that it produces a more powerful contraction in the muscles. In addition, pulling the bar down behind the neck increases the potential for injury to the shoulder joint and the upper spine.
- Lat pulldown reverse grip. Grasp a pulldown bar with a narrow underhand grip and follow the same instructions given above. This is equivalent to the chin-up, involving your biceps and lower lats more. This variation also thickens the latissimus dorsi rather than widening them, thus creating more depth to the mid-back.
- Neutral Grip Lat Pulldown. When you use the triangle handle to position your hands close together, palms facing each other, your arm and back muscles are in more powerful position. You can handle maximum loads using this attachment.
- Vertical traction exercise.
Muscles Engaged in Wide Grip Lat Pulldown
Wide grip lat pulldown primarily works the latissimus dorsi (mid- and lower back), teres major (below the shoulder blades), and the rhomboids (upper back). More specifically:
- Main muscles: latissimus dorsi, biceps (short head), teres major
- Secondary muscles: pectoralis major (lower and outside), triceps (long head), teres minor, rhomboids, brachioradialis, biceps (long head), deltoid (front and rear)
- Antagonists: deltoid, pectoralis major (upper), triceps
Replacement Exercises (Substitutes)
There are plenty of other alternative exercises that do the same thing. Choose any other middle back exercise (latissimus dorsi exercise).
- Pull-Ups or Assisted Pull-Ups
- Fixed machine lat pulldown
- T-Bar Row
- Supported T-Bar Row
- Machine Row
- One-Arm Dumbbell Row
- Bent-Over Barbell Row
- Seated Cable Row
Wide grip lat pulldown primarily works the latissimus dorsi. Latissimus means widest and dorsi means back. This massive muscle group covers a great area of the middle and outside of the back. It is responsible for both width and thickness. Pulldowns are effective but you should not rely on this exercise alone. Too many people wait on line to use the lat pulldown machine when they can be performing other exercises such as pull-ups. Do not wait for equipment! Have a contingency plan ready. Waiting for equipment will only delay and interrupt your workout. But yes, this is an excellent exercise for both advanced athletes and beginners, who can use it in preparation for going on to pull-ups / chin-ups in the future.