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How To Do A Lat Pulldown

If you want to build your back and biceps, then lat pulldowns are a great exercise for you. Here, we'll give you their benefits and how to do one properly.

Body Part

Lat Pulldown Machine




Whether you’re a certified personal trainer or you’re just hitting the gym – if you want to build your back and biceps as well as improve your posture, then lat pulldowns are a great exercise for you.

If you’re not sure how to do a lat pulldown, don’t worry. I’m going to show you how to do it correctly.

In this blog, I’ll answer the following:

  • What is a lat pulldown?
  • What muscles does a lat pulldown work?
  • What are the benefits of a lat pulldown?
  • What is the proper technique for a lat pulldown?
  • What variations can you do?

So grab a weight and let’s get started!

What Is A Lat Pulldown?

A lat pulldown is a weight training exercise that is great for building strength and improving movements like pull-ups. Typically, lat pulldowns are performed on a machine with a bar connected to a pulley system. Because the machine will set the movement up for you and remove some extra stability work, it can be a good option for those new to the gym.

The fully adjustable weights are attached to the bar, and as you pull it down, they provide resistance. However, the bar can be replaced with a rope, v-bar, and a variety of different tools. We’ll get to those variations later.

Related: Wondering what the best fitness equipment is, as voted by certified personal trainers? Click here.

What Muscles Does A Lat Pulldown Work?

The primary purpose of this exercise is to work the back muscles. The primary muscle worked is the latissimus dorsi, but the trapezius, rhomboids, and posterior deltoid are also recruited, in addition to the biceps. These muscles are responsible for the extension, adduction, and medial rotation of the shoulder blade, respectively.

How To Do A Lat Pulldown

What Are The Benefits Of A Lat Pulldown?

The benefits of a lat pulldown include increased strength and muscle mass in the back and biceps, improved posture, and can help prevent nagging injuries that arise from a weak back. Additionally, working these muscles can improve other lifts – such as the early portion of a bench press – that recruit similar muscles. 

As far as safety goes, the lat pulldown is a safe option. It’s a good choice for those who are just starting out because the machine helps to keep you stabilized and focused on the movement at hand. As long as you can maintain proper form (which we’ll get to next), this is a safe exercise for most gym-goers.

What Is The Proper Technique For a Lat Pulldown?

To do a conventional lat pulldown, follow these steps:

  1. Sit down on the bench and adjust the height so that it’s comfortable for you.
  2. Grasp the bar with an overhand grip, about shoulder-width apart.
  3. Bring the bar down to your chest, and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  4. Hold for a second, and then slowly raise the bar back to the starting position.

If you’re using a machine with adjustable weights, make sure to adjust the weight accordingly. Start with a weight that you can comfortably lift for 12-15 reps.

To do a lat pulldown using free weights or a resistance band, follow these steps:

  1. Sit down on the lat pulldown bench and adjust the knee pad to an appropriate height.
  2. If you’re not using a lat pulldown machine, ensure your resistance band or other piece of equipment is securely attached to something above you so you can pull down with resistance.
  3. Grasp the bar or resistance band with a pronated grip, about shoulder-width apart.
  4. With upright posture (or a very slight backward lean) pull the bar or band straight down to your chest, and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  5. Hold for a second, and then slowly raise the weight or band back to the starting position.
How To Do A Lat Pulldown

If you’re using a resistance band, make sure to choose one that provides enough tension.

Proper form when performing a lat pulldown is important. You should always maintain good posture and never lean forward or too far backward. You should also avoid allowing your shoulders to roll forward.

There are also many variations you can do that will still give you the benefits of lat pulldowns.

What Lat Pulldown Variations Can I Do?

There are a number of different lat pulldown variations that you can do to target different muscles and achieve different results. Here are a few of my favorites:

Lat Pulldown with a Rope: This variation uses a rope instead of a bar. It recruits the biceps more than the traditional lat pulldown and hits the lats and muscles in the back at a different angle. To perform a lat pulldown with a rope, simply follow the same steps as the traditional lat pulldown above, but attach a rope to the pulley instead of a bar.

Lat Pulldown with a V-Bar: This variation targets the medial muscles of the back more than a conventional lat pulldown. A v-bar is commonly used in a seated row, but can be attached to the pulley and be used for a lat pulldown as well. 

Single-Arm Lat Pulldown: This variation is beneficial for creating symmetry of this movement, and targets the same muscles as a conventional lat pulldown. This variation is challenging to execute with a conventional lat pulldown setup and will likely require you to use a resistance band or attach a single handle to the pulley.

Straight Arm Pulldown:  This variation targets similar muscles as conventional lat pulldown, but puts added emphasis on the triceps and core. To do it,  simply extend your arms straight out in front of you, and pull the bar down toward your body while keeping your arms straight. 

There are many other lat pulldown variations that you can try. Just be creative and experiment until you find the ones that work best for you.


Lat pulldowns are a great exercise for increasing strength and muscle mass in the back and biceps, and improving posture.

It’s important to follow proper form when performing a lat pulldown (or any exercise) in order to avoid injury.

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