Close Grip Lat Pulldown Vs. Wide Grip (Lat Grips Explained)

Pulldowns are one of the most effective exercises in the gym for strengthening your body, and lat pulldown machines are regarded as one of the most important pieces of equipment in a gym.  

There are different grips you can use to alter the focus of the exercise and target different muscle groups. There are two main types of pulldown, and in this guide, we'll give you the full breakdown of close grip lat pulldown vs wide grip lat pulldown.  

Your lats, or latissimus dorsi, are the largest muscle group on your back. They're essential for a full range of movement and are often described as the gateway to other muscles, opening the door to full body strength.  

A close grip lat pulldown is generally regarded as one of the best exercises to strengthen your back. To do one, you'll need to sit facing the bar and reach upwards to grab the close grip attachment.

This should mean your hands are in line with the center of your chest. Lean slightly back and pull the attachment towards you, squeezing your lats as you do it. Hold it briefly at the bottom, then slowly return to the start position.  

A close grip lat pulldown is a compound exercise that will work your back, shoulders, and arms in one movement. It will benefit your lats the most, but you should expect to see the benefit in your biceps and shoulders too.

Along with building your back, it will also help to improve your posture as it targets some muscle groups you won’t use every day. It’s the perfect exercise for those stuck in an office chair all day! 

There are some alternative close grip lat pulldowns that have been shown to be effective:  

Reverse Close Grip Lat Pulldown 

For a reverse close grip lat pulldown, you need to sit facing away from the bar, reach up over your head, engage your core and pull down. Bring your shoulder blades down until the close grip attachment meets your chest, and then slowly let it rise back up.  

The key to this variation is to keep your core engaged throughout. It gives you a better whole-body workout but does require a strong mind muscle connection, so this is better suited for those with more experience.  

A supinated lat pulldown is a variation that lets you work your biceps more than a traditional close grip. You should start sitting facing the bar and with your hands shoulder-width apart.

Bring your shoulder blades down and back and pull the bar down until it comes to your chest level. Pause for a second before raising it back up. Make sure your core remains engaged to get the most from this variation.  

Alternating Lat Pulldown (With Handles) 

One of the best ways to train each side of your lats is by using handles instead of a bar. This engages smaller muscle groups, and you have to really focus on keeping the balance. 

Start by sitting facing the machine and reach up to grab both handles. Engage your core and slowly pull down one handle at a time, alternating side to side. Make sure you pull the handle down to chest level in a controlled way each time.  

Reverse Close Grip Lat Pulldown Diagram

Wide Grip Lat Pulldown (Exercise Overview & Benefits) 

Wide grip lat pulldowns are another great way to train your back. As the name suggests, the key difference is that your hands are spaced further apart with a wide grip, focusing the exercise on your lats but also your biceps, forearms, and core.

You won’t feel it in your shoulders as much with lat pulldowns, but you will feel it more in your forearms and core. Many people find wide grip lat pulldowns harder, so they're best suited for experienced gym-goers.   

To do a wide grip lat pulldown, you'll need your cable machine (or something that operates in a similar fashion). Sit facing the cable machine and make sure your legs and knees are locked in position.

Next, lean slightly back and engage your core before reaching up to the bar and grabbing it with arms greater than shoulder-width apart. Pull down slowly, lowering your shoulder blades and until the bar reaches chest height. Pause and then slowly raise it back up in a controlled motion.  

Alongside the traditional wide grip pulldown, there are a few effective variations: 

Resistance Band Lat Pulldown 

If you don’t have a cable machine, you can use a resistance band in the same way. Attach the band to a door frame or a hook. Make sure it’s secure, then pull your hands down until they go to chest height before you raise it back up. This is a great way to exercise your lats if you can’t afford a cable machine. 

Resistance Band Lat Pulldown

Supinated Lat Pulldown 

You can focus the exercise on your arms by doing a supinated lat pulldown variation. Face the bar and go for the wide grip stance but have your palms facing towards you rather than away from you. You’ll immediately feel this in your biceps when you start the pulldown motion. 

Alternating Lat Pulldown (With Handles) 

You can opt to use handles instead of a bar so you can alternate the wide grip lat pulldown to focus the effort on one side of your body at a time. This is a great way to focus on your core to keep the handles steady as you go.  


Close Vs. Wide Lat Pulldown Grips: Key Differences Explained 

At first glance, it might seem like these two lat pulldowns are pretty similar. In terms of carrying out the exercise, the main difference is where you place your hands rather than the motion or anything technical. 

While it may not seem like a big change, the different grip can have an impact on your body. Here’s a quick breakdown of the key differences: 

1. Strength Gains 

There is some debate about which type of pulldown will give you greater strength gains, but some studies have found that a wide grip pulldown has greater activation of major muscle groups, which will result in more gains from this variation.

However, a close grip lat pulldown spreads the weight across more muscles and actually allows you to lift 2-5% more when working out. This should give you more significant strength gains.  

2. Body Mechanics 

The shape of your body is different with each grip. With a wide grip lat pulldown, your arms will be out to the sides but in line with the rest of your body.

With a close grip lat pulldown, your arms will be tucked in close but should be slightly in front of your body. This change in stance means your body will react differently to the movement.  

3. Muscle Activation 

A wide grip lat pulldown activates your lats more fully, and while it will activate your arms and shoulders, it focuses primarily on your upper and lower back. A close grip lat pulldown does work your lats, but also activates your chest and arms more.

If you want to focus on your back, then you should opt for a wide grip lat as the close grip is more of a compound exercise.  

4. Degrees Of Difficulty 

A close grip lat pulldown is generally easier than a wide grip because the wide grip activates your lats and upper back rather than spreading the load across muscle groups.

If you're a beginner, then you may be best starting with a close grip and working your way up to a wide grip.  

5. Other Exercises  

Both types of lat pulldown allow you to carry out a few different variations, but the wide grip lat down is a bit more limited. With a close grip, you can mix it up with other strength exercises to get a well-rounded routine. 

Lat Pulldown Machine At Gym

People Also Ask (FAQs)

How wide is an optimal grip for lat pulldowns? 

Ideally, your hands should be 2-3 inches wider than your shoulders for wide grip lat pulldowns.  

Do lat pulldown work shoulders? 

Yes, both wide grip and close grip lat pulldowns work your shoulders, but you will probably feel it more with a wide grip.  

Why do lat pulldowns hurt my shoulders? 

If you don’t have the correct stance or form, then you can put excess strain on your shoulders. Remember to start with a low weight first and get the proper form before you add anymore on.  

What should I do if any grip hurts my wrist? 

You need a strong grip for a lat pulldown. You can loop a towel around the bar and pull this down to engage your lats. This will help you strengthen your grip and perform the exercise without injury. You may want to explore other exercises to improve your grip strength too.  

How many reps should I perform?  

You should aim to do 8-12 reps at a time. If you find you can do more, then you should up your weight before the next set.  


Conclusion

Lat pulldowns are a really effective exercise to help strengthen your whole body, and you don't even need much equipment.

Both wide grip and close grip lat pulldowns will help to improve your posture and prepare your body so you can train other muscle groups more effectively, so they are worth working into your routine. 

Hopefully, this article has helped you understand the key differences between each variation and which might be best for you.