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Lat Pulldown Machine Exercises: 12 Movements You Have to Try

Did you know the lat pulldown machine is not just for working out your lats and biceps? With its interchangeable attachments, you can do a variety of lat pulldown variations, as well as other exercises like cable face pulls and tricep pushdowns. 

Do you have a lat pulldown machine at home, or are you wondering about the one in the gym? This helpful machine allows you to do various exercises. Below is an introduction to how the lat pulldown machine works for workouts and a step-by-step guide to 12 movements.

Exercises Using the Lat Pulldown Machine: An Introduction

The key to a big back is hitting the latissimus dorsi muscles in many different ways. The lat pulldown machine offers convenience and safety for many routines and provides access to many different exercises you otherwise wouldn't be able to do. It can save space, money, and time for home users using one machine to work multiple muscles. However, depending on your machine, your angle of resistance will always come from the top.

The lat pulldown machine comes with only one cable. This forces you to perform your workouts bilaterally. Despite these limitations, there are many beneficial vertical pulling movements that you can do with this machine. Below are 12 lat pulldown machine exercises that you can use to build muscles and lose fat.

 

Body-Solid GLM83 Lat Pulldown Exercises

The 12 Lat Pulldown Machine Exercises You Have to Try

1. Wide Grip Lat Pulldowns

The wide grip lat pulldown is a great exercise for the lat muscles. It is a variation of the traditional lat pulldown done with a grip that is wider than shoulder-width. This study shows that the wide grip lat pulldown targets your lats and triceps because the primary movement when doing this exercise is adduction (1). When doing this movement, you should use a lower weight to reach a good range of motion and pay proper attention to your posture.

Muscles Worked

  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Rhomboids
  • Trapezius
  • Biceps brachii

    Attachment Used

    You’ll use a lat pulldown bar or a wide overhand grip attachment to perform this movement. 

    How to Perform

    1. Attach the straight lat pulldown bar or wide overhand grip attachment to the top of your lat pulldown machine.

    2. Grip the bar overhand (pronated grip) with a width more than shoulder width and then sit down while still holding the bar. This is your starting position.

    3. Keep your torso tight and upright, and then pull your elbows down, keeping it straight. Try to get the bar to your chin or chest while keeping your elbows straight. 

    4. Return the bar to starting position slowly while maintaining control to finish the rep.

    2. Behind-the-Neck Lat Pulldowns

    The behind-the-neck lat pull-down is another lat pulldown exercise that builds your upper and middle back. However, it requires a lot of shoulder mobility, and trainers might not advise it for people with shoulder issues. But it’s very effective in working the back of your shoulders if you’re mobile enough.

    Muscles Worked

    • Latissimus dorsi
    • Rhomboids
    • Pectoralis minor
    • Deltoids
    • Levator scapulae
    • Teres major
    • Biceps
    • Lower trapezius

      Attachment Used

      The straight lat pulldown bar is the attachment used for this exercise. 

      How to Perform

      1. Adjust your knee pads to a comfortable position for your height, and then stand up to hold the bar.

      2. Keep your arms extended and sit down while still holding the bar. 

      3. Straighten your body to put the bar in direct line with your spine and bend your head forward. This will allow the bar to pass safely.

      4. Shrug back to set your shoulders and slowly pull the bar down until it reaches your ears.

      5. Squeeze your shoulders together at this point, pause for a second, and then return to starting position to complete the rep.

      3. Single-Arm Reverse Grip Lat Pulldowns

      The single-arm reverse grip lat pulldown allows you to train your muscles unilaterally and is a killer add to any back workout routine. The single arm lat pulldown is great for those who have muscular imbalances as it gives a chance to properly work each side individually. In addition, this study indicates unilateral strength training is superior to bilateral strength training (2)

      Muscle Worked

      • Latissimus dorsi
      • Teres major
      • Biceps brachii
      • Obliques
      • Posterior delts

        Attachments Used

        The single-hand pulley attachment or stirrup handle attachment is best for this one. 

        How to Perform

        1. Attach the stirrup handle attachment to the top of your lat pulldown machine.

        2. Hold it with your hand in a reverse grip (supinated grip) with your palms facing you, and sit down while ensuring your knee pads are comfortable for your height.

        3. Keeping your arm straight, bring your shoulders back, and engage your abs. This is your starting position.

        4. Pull down until you feel a strong tension in your back, and ensure that your elbows stay in line with your body the entire time. 

        5. Hold for a moment and then return to starting position slowly to complete the rep.

        6. Complete your set and repeat with the other arm.

        4. Close Grip Lat Pulldowns

        The close grip lat pulldown is done with a grip closer than shoulder-width. This lat pulldown alternative is great for activating your middle back and biceps.

        Muscles Worked

        • Latissimus dorsi
        • Posterior deltoid
        • Trapezius
        • Teres major
        • Biceps
        • Rhomboids
        • Erector spinae

          Attachment Used

          A close grip attachment, wide grip bar, or a straight lat pulldown bar can be used. 

          How to Perform

          1. Attach your close grip handle to the lat pulldown machine and adjust the thigh pads so that your legs fit snuggly underneath.

          2. Grip the handle while standing and sit under the pad with your thighs. This is your starting position.

          3. Depress your shoulder blades, flex your elbows, raise your chest, and arch your back.

          4. Pull the handle towards you and get as close to your upper chest as possible. Then pause and contract your lats.

          5. Return the handle to starting position in a slow and controlled manner.

          5. Straight Arm Lat Pulldown

          The straight-arm pulldown exercise is an isolation exercise that removes the focus from your biceps and places it squarely on your back. Athletes usually do this exercise standing since their legs help stabilize the movement.

          Muscles Worked

          • Latissimus dorsi
          • Triceps
          • Deltoids
          • Rectus abdominis

            Attachment Used

            The lat pulldown straight bar attachment or a tricep rope is recommended for this exercise. 

            How to Perform

            1. Attach the straight bar or rope attachment to the top of the lat pulldown machine and stand facing it.

            2. Grasp the bar or rope and hinge at the hips, leaning forward slightly. This is your starting position.

            3. Depress your shoulder blades and extend your shoulders while keeping your elbows flexed.

            4. Pull the attachment to your thigh until your lats are fully contracted. 

            5. Slowly return to starting position to complete your rep.

            6. Tricep Pushdowns 

            Experts say Tricep pushdowns are simple tricep exercises that are a great option for their upper arm mass-building capabilities. This routine is an isolation exercise that targets your triceps. Using an overhand grip when doing this routine targets the inner head, while an underhand grip targets the outer dome.

            Muscles Worked

            The inner and outer tricep heads are the muscles worked during this workout. 

            Attachment Used

            Any straight bar attachment or tricep rope can be used. 

            How to Perform

            1. Stand facing the lat pulldown machine with the seat between your legs.

            2. Grip the bar or rope with both hands. This is your starting position.

            3. Tucking your elbow against your sides, push downwards until you feel a strain in your upper arms. The bar or rope should be at the lower part of your torso at this point. 

            4. Return the bar or rope to starting position slowly.

            7. Cable Face Pulls

            A cable face pull is an excellent exercise to train the muscles in your shoulders and rear delts. Using a low eight to do this routine and aiming for more reps is best. This will help you avoid shoulder injury.

            Muscles Worked

            • Posterior deltoids
            • Trapezius
            • Abs
            • Rhomboids
            • Biceps brachii

              Attachment Used

              A double-handed or single-hand rope attachment is recommended to do this exercise. 

              How to Perform

              1. Stand about two to three feet away from the lat pulldown machine while facing it.

              2. Grip both ends of the cable with your hand and brace your abs. This is your starting position.

              3. Retract your shoulder blades and draw your shoulders back.

              4. Pull the rope towards and then past your face, stopping when your elbows are parallel.

              5. Release your shoulder blades and allow the machine's resistance to slowly pull you back to starting position to complete the rep.

              8. Reverse Grip Lat Pulldowns 

              The reverse grip lat pulldown is an exercise that targets the lower lats. This is because your hands are closer to this grip, increasing your range of motion. 

              Muscles Worked

              • Latissimus dorsi
              • Pectoralis major
              • Teres major
              • Posterior deltoids
              • Rhomboids
              • Trapezius
              • Biceps brachii

                Attachment Used

                The wide grip lat pulldown bar or any straight bar is the attachment to use. 

                How to Perform

                1. Adjust the knee pads of your machine to a closed position, and then attach the wide grip pulldown bar to the machine.

                2. Grip the bar using an underhand grip with your palms facing downwards closer than shoulder-width, and then get seated.

                3. With both arms extended, bring back your torso by bending your lower back and pushing out your chest. This is your starting position.

                4. Pull the bar towards you by drawing your upper arms and shoulders down.

                5. Pause for a second and then return the bar to starting position. 

                6. Slowly let the bar go up a little to complete the rep.

                9. Standing Overhead Triceps Extensions 

                Standing overhead triceps extensions are the most straightforward lat pulldown machine exercise. It’s an accessory routine to be done with other compound exercises.

                Muscles Worked

                Standing overhead triceps extensions are an isolation movement that targets the triceps brachii. This routine is best done with low weight and many reps. 

                Attachment Used

                Use a double-ended tricep rope or single-hand attachment. 

                How to Perform

                1. Stand facing the lat pulldown machine with the seat between your legs.

                2. Grip both ends of the rope pulley and raise it overhead.

                3. Turn your body in the opposite direction to face away from the machine with your arms extended upwards. This is your starting position.

                4. Bring your arms back by hinging at the elbow. This activates only your triceps.

                5. Return your arms upward to starting position for a complete rep.

                10. High Cable Standing Bicep Curls

                The high cable standing bicep curl is also called the single-arm Hercules curl and is a variation of the standard cable curl. When doing this routine on a lat pulldown machine, do it unilaterally. 

                Muscles Worked

                • Biceps

                Attachment Used

                A stirrup handle attachment is what to use to complete this movement. 

                How to Perform

                1. Attach the stirrup handle to the lat pulldown machine and stand sideways. 

                2. Grip the stirrup handle, keeping your hand extended from your shoulders. This is the starting position.

                3. Draw your wrists inwards towards your head while squeezing the biceps. Stop when you get to the full range of motion.

                4. Release your biceps slowly, allowing the machine's resistance to draw your arm back to starting position and complete the rep.

                11. Seated Overhead Curls

                Seated overhead curls are a strength training exercise that can also be done on the lat pulldown machine. It’s done with a close underhand grip. 

                Muscles Worked

                • Biceps 

                Attachment Used

                A wide grip cable bar is the attachment to best for this one. 

                How to Perform

                1. Sit on the lat pulldown machine seat with your feet flat on the floor.

                2. Grip the bar with a close underhand grip with your palms facing downwards. This is your starting position.

                3. Slowly curl the bar downwards and behind your head to isolate the biceps. 

                4. Pause for a second and then return the bar to starting position. 

                12. Seated Ab Crunch 

                The seated ab crunch is a great way to train your abs so that it doesn’t look blocky or like a wall of bricks. 

                Muscles Worked

                • Rectus abdominis 

                Attachment Used

                Do this exercise with the straight bar or a tricep rope attachment. 

                How to Perform

                1. Sit in the lat pulldown machine and grab the straight bar or tricep rope overhead.

                2. Inhale profoundly and suck your stomach in as hard as you can. It should feel like you are pushing your abs against your spine. 

                3. Blow all the air out as you crunch down. Keep your spine contracted, and try to cramp your abs.

                4. Hold the position for one or two seconds, then squeeze.

                5. Return to starting position to complete the rep.

                Lat Pulldown Machine Exercises Conclusion

                The lat pulldown machine is unique and versatile gym equipment best used to engage your lats muscles in your back. But as this article shows, you can use it for more than just lat pulldowns. This machine can activate multiple upper-body muscle groups if done correctly.

                For most exercises, there isn’t much difference between doing it with a lat pulldown machine and a cable machine. This machine makes the routine just as effective. You can quickly assemble a total upper body workout with the training here and your lat pulldown machine of choice. 

                Looking for more information on Lat Pulldown Machines? 

                Checkout these great resources:

                References

                1. Andersen, V., Fimland, M. S., Wiik, E., Skoglund, A., & Saeterbakken, A. H. (2014). Effects of grip width on muscle strength and activation in the lat pull-down. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 28(4), 1135–1142. https://doi.org/10.1097/JSC.0000000000000232 

                2. Weir, J. P., Housh, D. J., Housh, T. J., & Weir, L. L. (1997). The effect of unilateral concentric weight training and detraining on joint angle specificity, cross-training, and the bilateral deficit. The Journal of orthopaedic and sports physical therapy, 25(4), 264–270. https://doi.org/10.2519/jospt.1997.25.4.264 

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