How to Do a Lat Pulldown: Proper Form, Techniques, and Variations

Are you looking for a way to strengthen your back muscles? Is a pull-up a too difficult exercise for you to perform as a beginner?

How to Do a Lat Pulldown Proper Form, Techniques, And Variations
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A lat pulldown is an excellent alternative that will help target your lat muscles. However, for an effective outcome for the lat muscles, you need to perform it with proper form and technique.

The article will take a look at how to do lat pulldown, why it is important, and variations that can help target different muscles.

What are the Benefits of Lat Pulldown?

As a beginner jumping directly onto pull-ups or chin-ups can be difficult. You will be using your arms and shoulder muscles to pull your entire body. This action can be challenging if you lack upper body strength. If not performed correctly, you can sustain shoulder and back injuries.

When it comes to a lat pulldown, you are seated during the exercise. Therefore, you can use your abdominal muscles and hip flexors to stabilize the movement.

As the name suggests, the exercise focuses on the largest back muscle – lats. Some of the other muscles a lat pulldown works are:

  • Teres Major
  • Posterior Deltoid
  • Rhomboids
  • Biceps
  • Triceps
  • Abdominals
  • Wrist and hand flexors, among others

With one exercise, you can work on strengthening your back, biceps, triceps, and shoulder.

Also Read:- Lat Pulldown Benefits: How to Build a Huge Back?

How to Do a Lat Pulldown?

How to Do a Lat Pulldown?
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Before you start with lat pulldown, adjust the machine according to your height. Lat pulldown machines come with adjustable seat heights, thigh pads, and varying cable lengths.

You should be comfortably seated with your feet flat on the ground, facing the bar. So, when you start performing the exercise, you should bend your knees ideally at a 90° angle. Your outstretched arms should be able to reach the bar. Ensure you are not getting up when reaching for the bar.

Step1: Stretch your arms and grasp the lat bar slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.

Step 2: Now, pull the bar closer to your upper chest. To begin with, you can pull the bar up to chin or collarbone height. Use your elbow and shoulder muscles to perform the action. It is ok for you to lean back by 20° to 30° to keep in line with the pulling motion.

Step 3: Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades. Stay in the same position for 2 to 3 seconds.

Step 4: Now, slowly go back to the starting position. Do not lose control of the bar. Try to keep the ascent slow and gradual. If you hear the weights bang when the bar reaches the top, you have let go of the bar too quickly.

Step 5: Repeat the action. Ideally, a couple of sets with 8 to 10 repetitions should suffice at the beginning. After that, you can gradually increase the repetitions and resistance.

What are Common Mistakes to Avoid When Doing Lat Pulldown?

Below are common mistakes one should avoid when performing the lat pulldown steps mentioned above.

1. Back Arching

When pulling the bar towards your chest, ensure your back is straight. You can slightly lean backward but do not arch your lower back. With an incorrect posture, you run the risk of injuring your lower back.

2. Using Momentum

If you are using momentum while performing any strength training exercise, you reduce the effect it has on your body. The exercise almost becomes counterproductive because it is the momentum doing the job and not your muscles.

Moreover, you are putting unnecessary pressure on your spinal cords and joints.

3. Activating the Wrong Muscle Group

The whole point of performing a lat pulldown is to engage your lat muscles. Therefore, it will be helpful if you focus on those muscles that come into play consciously. For example, many fitness enthusiasts end up using their forearms when pulling the lat bar down.

One of the reasons you might engage a non-target muscle is that you are using more weight than you can handle. You can concentrate on using less weight and more repetitions.

4. Pulling the Bar Too Far

The chest level is where the lat bar should be. Do not make the mistake of dragging the bar right down to your belly button. If you find your elbows being pushed back when trying to pull the cable down, consider it as an indication that you have pulled the bar too far down.

Repeating this incorrect action can lead to shoulder injuries.

Also Read:- 10 Lat Pulldown Alternatives That are Equally Good

What are the Variations of Lat Pulldown?

Variations of Lat Pulldown
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The beauty of lat pulldown is that you can make small adjustments and target different muscle groups. Now that we have seen how to do a lat pulldown and mistakes to avoid, let us look at some variations that can help you meet your fitness goals according to your skill.

1. Resistance Band Lat Pulldown

Resistance Band Lat Pulldown
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If you are starting with strength training, we recommend starting with a resistance band to get used to proper form and technique. You can anchor the resistance band to a point overhead.

You can choose to stand or sit while pulling the band downwards towards your chest.

2. Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown

What Are the Variations of Lat Pulldown
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As the name suggests, you will grip the lat bar as far as towards the end as possible. The wide-grip position on the bar targets your lats and triceps muscles. You will perform the exercise similar to performing a standard lat pulldown.

A pro tip would be to reduce the weight you normally use to allow for a greater range of motion. Also, be mindful of your position while pulling the bar down. Your elbows should be pointing downwards and not to the sides.

3. Close-Grip Lat Pulldown

Close-Grip Lat Pulldown
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If you want to focus on your biceps along with the lats, a close-grip position would be effective. Your arms should be placed on the bar less than shoulder-width apart.

Next, you can perform the exercise the same as a standard pulldown. After that, you can use a lat pulldown bar or rowing bar as per your convenience.

4. Underhand Lat Pulldown

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With this variation, you will be placing your arms shoulder-width apart on the lat bar. The difference lies in how you will be gripping the bar. Your palms should be facing towards you. This, again, will help target your bicep muscles.

Pull the bar towards your chest, hold the position for a couple of seconds and take the bar to the starting position while maintaining control.

5. Straight Arm Lat Pulldown

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If you want to focus on your lat muscles specifically, a straight arm lat pulldown will help you do so. For this variation, you will be standing upright. Hold the bar straight over you and pull it down towards your hips/thighs.

Hold the position for 2 to 3 seconds and return to the starting point.

Also Read:- How to Do a Lat Pulldown: Proper Form, Techniques, and Variations

6. Unilateral Lat Pulldown

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Instead of employing both arms, you will perform the lat pulldown using one arm at a time. For this variation, use a handle rather than a lat bar.

Place your hand on the handle with the palm facing away from you. When pulling the handle down, turn the palm towards you. Then, again, turn the palm away from you while you return to the starting position.

This variation ensures your dominant hand does not do all the heavy lifting with standard lat pulldown.


We hope the article could comprehensively answer the question – How to do lat pulldown?

If you have newly included lat pulldown in your routine, focus on learning the proper form and technique. Use light weights at the beginning. Bulking weights right at the start can lead to muscle soreness.

Once you get the hang of the technique, you can gradually increase resistance and try different variations.

If you experience any pain during the exercise, it is best to consult a doctor.

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