Lat Pulldown Benefits: The Pros Of All Variations Explained

Lat pulldowns are a crucial exercise if you want to do full-body workouts. It’s difficult to exercise the lats if you don’t set aside specific exercises for them, and you often need gym equipment to do them, such as a lat pulldown machine. Lat pulldowns help you to stand straighter, look strong, and maintain good fitness levels. 

These lat pulldown benefits are why many regular gymgoers incorporate lat pulldowns into their workouts. We’ll be covering lat pulldown variations and benefits in this guide so that you can see whether they’re a good exercise for you. 

Lat pulldowns target the latissimus dorsi, your largest back muscle. They’re called lats for short because there are two, one on your left and the other on your right. Exercising this muscle usually requires a lat pulldown machine, which is available at most gyms.  

Using these involves sitting and pulling down two levers or a bar attached to a weight stack. You’ll pull down to your chin and then release it with control. This helps you target the lats instead of the traps, shoulders, triceps, or biceps. Over time, your lats will grow in size as long as you’re increasing the weight regularly.  

Lat pulldowns are a great choice whether you’re an amateur gymgoer or a professional athlete. They will help shape your body, build your strength, and improve your posture.  

woman using a lat pulldown machine

Lat Pulldown Benefits Explained 

Lat pulldown exercise benefits are numerous, and we’ll cover them in this section. We’ve briefly mentioned their effects on your posture, spine, and body shape, and now we’ll cover these in more detail.  

1. Increase Your Upper-Body Strength  

Isolating your lats allows you to focus on building them without tiring other muscles like your biceps and shoulders. When your lats become stronger through the benefits of lat pulldown machine exercises, you’ll find that any pulling movements become easier. That means everyday tasks like mowing the lawn as well as activities like swimming.  

Once you improve with these, you’ll be able to improve your upper-body strength even more. This will help your flexibility and productivity, too, as the upper body is used all throughout the day. 

2. Improve Your Posture & Aesthetics  

Aside from the strength-related lat pulldown benefits, you’ll also see your posture and body shape improve. That’s because the lats stabilize the lumbar spine, help you stand straighter, and prevent you from sagging inwards while you’re standing.  

Specifically, lat pulldowns will help you depress and adduct the shoulder blades. That means bringing them down and together, which improves the function of the shoulders and gradually corrects poor posture.  

Through all of these improvements, your body will start to look better. You’ll not only stand taller and straighter, but you'll also have a well-shaped upper body. That's because thickening the lats will widen your body.  

3. Helps With Other Exercises  

Although the main focus of lat pulldowns is the lats, you’ll also notice the athletic benefit of lat pulldowns when doing other exercises. Examples include squats, bench presses, and deadlifts. The lats provide added stability during these exercises, but if they’re too weak, it will be challenging to maintain the correct form. 


Lat Pulldown Variations (Benefits, Target Muscles & How To Guide)

Close Grip Lat Pulldown  

The close grip lat pulldown shifts the focus of the pulldown to the muscles in the middle of the back, which are often hard to reach with other exercises. The traditional lat pulldown, as opposed to the close grip, will focus on the upper back muscles, so it’s handy to use a close grip to ensure your workout is well-rounded. Those are the main close grip lat pulldown benefits. 

To perform this exercise, you’ll want to add a close grip attachment to the lat pulldown machine, which allows you to use it with your hands close together. Then you should go ahead and pull it down to the top off your ribs, squeeze the lats, then return it upwards. 

man doing a close grip lat pulldown

Neutral Grip Lat Pulldown  

The neutral grip lat pulldown targets the upper lats, so if you’ve wanted to strengthen these, then this is the right lat pulldown for you. Neutral grip lat pulldown benefits include the ability to target muscles alongside the lats, such as the mid-traps, which means you get more out of each workout.  

To complete a neutral grip lat pulldown, place your hands shoulder-width apart and grip the handle or levers as you would a hammer. The grip is correct if your palms are facing each other. Then proceed to complete as many pulldowns as you wish.  

V Bar Lat Pulldown

Unlike the other methods of performing lat pulldowns, this one uses a different attachment. Instead of a pair of levers or a handle, you’ll use a V-bar. It’s an attachment that hangs down instead of being horizontal.  

V bar lat pulldown benefits include targeting your mid-back at the same time as your lats, allowing you to target two muscle groups at the same time. To complete a V-bar lat pulldown, you’ll want to lean back a little further than usual so that you can move while the V-bar is in front of you.  

Banded Lat Pulldown  

You can also complete a lat pulldown using resistance bands, which gives you an alternative to using gym equipment. The banded lat pulldown also targets the abs, deltoids, biceps, forearms, and back. Banded lat pulldown benefits include easy setup, targeting multiple muscles, and suitability for beginners.  

To do a banded lat pulldown, attach a resistance band to a door frame or hook, then kneel. Lift your arms and grab the handles, ensuring your palms face forward. Finally, bring down your arms until the band reaches chest level, squeeze your lats, then slowly push the band back up.  

Wide Grip Lat Pulldown  

If you want to ensure you work your lats in full, you’ll need to target your outer lats too. This is what the wide grip lat pulldown achieves. But some specific wide grip lat pulldown benefits are worth noting. Lat pulldowns that use an anterior wide grip with exercise the lats more than any other grip. That makes this type of lat pulldown more intense than the others.  

To perform it, you’ll want to follow the same instructions as for the close grip lat pulldown, except this time, your palms should face outwards, and the grip should be wider than your shoulders. Then simply complete the pulldown as you would normally.  

man doing a wide grip lat pulldown

Unilateral (One Arm) Lat Pulldown  

The one-arm lat pulldown is an excellent choice for learning how to squeeze the right muscles. It’s challenging to feel hypertrophy in the right places when you’re not a seasoned gymgoer—performing a unilateral lat pulldown targets the lats on each side individually so that you can practice isolating them.  

Therefore, one arm lat pulldown benefits are most noticeable for beginners. They include smoother repetitions, more precise muscle control, and increased confidence with lat pulldowns. To do a one arm lat pulldown, you simply follow the same rules for a bilateral pulldown except with only one arm. You can then swap to the other arm as needed. 

Underhand (Supinated) Lat Pulldown  

If you’d like to perform lat pulldowns with an alternative form, then you’ve got the option of supinated lat pulldowns. Contrary to popular opinion, supinated lat pulldowns don’t help train your biceps. But you can test it to see if you can lift more weight than you can with the other variations.  

To perform a supinated lat pulldown, all you have to do is follow the rules for a standard lat pulldown, but ensure your palms face towards you.  

Behind The Neck Lat Pulldown  

The final variation of lat pulldown we’ll cover is the behind the neck lat pulldown. With this pulldown form, you can target the shoulders alongside the lats because your arms are pulled back behind your head. This also contracts your muscles more, which helps give you a more intense workout. 

Behind the neck lat pulldown benefits include increased flexibility, but if you’re new to lat pulldowns, you might want to build your strength before doing them. Contrary to popular belief, behind the neck lat pulldowns aren't bad for you as long as you do them correctly.


Common Mistakes When Doing Lat Pulldowns (How To Avoid Them)

The athletic benefit of lat pulldowns is well-established, but that doesn’t mean there are no risks to them. Here are some top mistakes and how to avoid them. 

  • Arching Your Back  
    When pulling the bar down in front of you, you might find yourself leaning backward. That means you're too far forwards, or you're lifting too much weight. Instead, try lowering the weight and sitting further backward.  
  • Rolling Your Shoulders   
    If you roll or shrug your shoulders while completing a lat pulldown, that means you’re lifting too much weight. To avoid this, keep shoulder blades down, and keep your elbows close. 
  • Using Your Forearms   
    If you notice muscle strain exclusively in your forearms during and after lat pulldowns, your form is incorrect, or you’re using excess weight. To fix this, reduce the weight, pull down from your elbows, and ensure you’re not making other mistakes.  
  • Holding The Bar Too Wide  
    Although there are wide-grip lat pulldown benefits, you can grip the bar too wide to receive those benefits. Your range of motion will be restricted, which will limit muscle engagement. You’ll also strain your shoulders. To avoid this, keep your hands no more than 3-5 inches beyond shoulder width.  
  • Pulling Down Too Far   
    If you’re new to lat pulldowns, it may seem unclear how far down you should pull the bar or levers. But if you get this wrong, you’ll fail to work your lats properly. To avoid this, keep in mind that the correct height is upper chest height and maintain good posture. 
  • Using Momentum   
    If you swing weight backward to create momentum, you’ll get poor results from your lat pulldowns. That’s because you shift the focus away from your back muscles. To avoid this, stay still while doing lat pulldowns.  

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Are there any disadvantages of doing lat pulldowns? 

Some forms of lat pulldown can cause problems if you’re not used to them or perform them with the wrong form. But traditional lat pulldowns should be fine if the weight is manageable. 

Which is better, lat pulldowns or pull-ups? 

Lat pulldowns and pull-ups are great exercises, but a weighted pull-up gives you better results if you want to lift more than 200lbs. Weighted pull-ups also help with core control but can tire you out more quickly. 

What is a good weight for lat pulldown? 

If you’re a beginner, then a decent weight to start with is around 85lbs for men and 45lbs for women. Eventually, men can progress up to around 250lbs, and women up to around 150lbs.  

How many lat pulldowns should I do? 

In general, you should aim to complete at least three sets each time you do lat pulldowns. Reps can vary but should range between 5-12, depending on how fatigued you feel.  


Conclusion

You should now know the details about lat pulldown benefits and variations, as well as common mistakes to avoid and how to avoid them. Any further information can be found by following the links within the article above.