Lat Pulldown

Analysis of the Lat Pulldown Exercise

The lat pull-down is a very effective exercise that is used for developing the upper latissimus dorsi to create "wings." The typical lat pull-down exercise has traditionally utilized a wide pronated grip. Today, however, many bodybuilders also use a narrow grip. When the exercise is done in this manner, different portions of the latissimus are worked together with other secondary muscles. 

So, for full development of the latissimus and for different stress on the other major muscles involved, it is important that you do both wide grip and narrow grip variants. You can do this by using different bar attachments or by using a lat pulldown machine or bar, with which you can execute both variants.


  • Because the entire latissimus dorsi is not involved in any one exercise, it is important that you do these two variants to develop this muscle fully. Development of the upper part of the latissimus dorsi will give you wings. Development of the lower part will give you greater definition on the sides of your lower back.
  • However, it is important to have an adjustable seat for proper positioning when you are grasping the bar. Also, the machine should have the different grips, handles or bars to work the muscle completely.
  • The recommendation to pull the bar down in front of the body is relatively recent. For years everyone was told to pull the bar down behind the head until it touched the shoulders. However, most individuals do not have the shoulder joint flexibility needed to do this variant correctly and effectively. As a result they were not getting maximum benefit from this exercise and in some cases were irritating the shoulder joint because of the unaccustomed to extreme backward positioning of the elbows. Some individuals were also bruising the seventh cervical vertebra. Thus it is now recommended to pull down in front which still produces the same, if not better, results.
  • When you are using the wide grip, the exercise may feel easy in the upper range  and difficult as the bar approaches your shoulders. If you experience this, it means that you are strong in the initial range of motion and weak in the bottom range. Therefore, when you use machines that do not have variable resistance, especially those with weight stacks, the exercise feels difficult in the early stages and even more so in the bottom position.
  • To counteract this and to strengthen the muscles more effectively in the upper or lower range of motion, you can increase the resistance initially and work only the upper range. Or, you can do the exercise as usual so that it taxes mainly the lower range. 
  • When you use the narrow grip, it is important to keep your body erect so that you can more effectively work the lower lat in the upper range of motion. If you lean back, as many people do, you will be working only the lower range of motion. Thus, if you are looking for total development, it is a good idea to do both variants of the exercise with your trunk erect and also with your trunk inclined backward. 
  • However, when doing the pull-down with your body inclined backward, be sure to pull the bar down sufficiently so that your elbows go behind your body. You will notice that when you do this, the action is similar to that used in the seated row with a neutral grip.

  • Using a seat with a padded bar that goes over your thighs to hold you down is very important for execution of the lat pull-down. If the bar too secure your body is not available, then you will find your body rising up as you execute the pulldown when you use weights that are close to or greater than your body weight. Also, it is very important that the seat be adjusted so that your arms are maximally extended when you grab the bar. If you have to reach too high for the bar, it will be very difficult to keep your legs secured at the same time.
  • An effective variant of the lat pull-down is the narrow grip pull-down, especially when done with a neutral grip. This version is analogous to the neutral grip pullup. In this exercise you get additional assistance from the posterior deltoid and the long head of the triceps. When you use the wide grip for shoulder adduction, the assisting muscles are the coracobrachialis, subscapularis (when your arm is above the horizontal), short head of the biceps, and long head of the triceps.
  • To execute the lat pull-down successfully, the scapulae must rotate downward as shoulder joint adduction takes place. If the shoulder girdle muscles are not strong enough to rotate the scapulae downward, the arms will not be able to move down and the amount of shoulder adduction or extension is limited considerably. Also, there is a very good chance of injury to the muscles involved.