There aren’t many muscle-building or strength-focused coaching applications that omit  the normal lat pulldown. Many efficient exercises embody this traditional, and for good motive.

Pulling in a vertical sample strengthens your again, shoulders, and arms, whereas additionally constructing the muscle mass that assist and stabilize your shoulder blades. This maintains wholesome joint perform which, in flip, retains your whole higher physique sturdy. 

Credit: Tom Wang / Shutterstock

However, the lat pulldown isn’t sufficient to construct thickness in your whole again and it’s not the one option to hold every little thing sturdy, wholesome, and balanced.  Eventually, you could make some changes. Over-focusing on traditional straight bar lat pulldowns with none change in angles, grip, or approach gained’t be sufficient to for full improvement.

If you understand which muscle mass and attributes you’re trying to handle, you possibly can properly select the correct workouts for higher outcomes. Here are 12 of the most effective alternate options to construct a much bigger, stronger, extra full again. 

Best Lat Pulldown Alternatives

Behind-the-Neck Pulldown

“Scapular control is as cool as a really wide back,” stated no individual ever. Maybe you don’t do commonplace pulldowns to focus on the muscle mass that management your shoulder blades, however the primary motion does prepare muscle mass that management and rotate them. Pulling the bar behind your neck creates an much more environment friendly path.  

Why Use the Behind-the-Neck Pulldown

By barely altering the mechanics and path of this vertical pull, you prepare the supporting muscle mass of the shoulders and shoulder blades via a extra full vary of movement. If you will have appropriate shoulder mobility and may carry out the movement with out ache, pulling behind your head means that you can goal the muscle mass that rotate and decrease the shoulder blades. 

The kicker right here is that when your shoulders and scapulae (shoulder blades) are well-positioned, with the behind-neck motion, your physique can create larger ranges of energy and develop extra noticeable upper-back muscle.

How to Do the Behind-the-Neck Pulldown

Set up on a lat pulldown machine as you usually would. Use an extended bar attachment and seize it with an overhand grip past shoulder-width. Sit together with your arms straight overhead and shoulders “shrugged” up. Keep your brow, chin, and sternum in line as you lean barely ahead. Let your arms be pulled barely again, in step with your hips. Keep your physique ahead as you pull the deal with down. Ideally, goal to the touch the bar to the bottom of your traps, close to your neck, however pull to a snug depth primarily based in your total mobility.

Think about attempting to shrug your shoulders “down” as you bend your arms and drive your elbows down. In the underside place, squeeze your shoulder blades down earlier than straightening your arms and controlling the load up. Let your shoulders rise because the cable pulls you right into a managed overhead lat stretch. Start with gentle weight and a full vary of movement, and enhance slowly with out sacrificing type. 

Rhomboid Pulldown

This motion could really feel slightly funky at first, however it’s a easy and efficient option to shift focus out of your massive lat muscle mass to the smaller muscle mass of your higher and mid-back. To do these, you’ll use shut or neutral-grip attachment and a really particular physique angle. 

Why Do the Rhomboid Pulldown

The rhomboids are deep muscle mass between the shoulder blades that pull your higher again collectively. If these supportive muscle mass don’t perform properly, there’s an excellent probability you’ll finally take care of some shoulder dysfunction, ache, or harm. The rhomboid pulldown targets these muscle mass whereas additionally constructing muscle within the heart of your mid-back, which for a lot of, is missing thickness and improvement.  

How to Do the Rhomboid Pulldown

Grab the a close-grip attachment together with your palms dealing with one another. Lock your legs below the pads, however lean your torso again to create a roughly 45-degree angle between your higher physique and the ground. Pull your arms to your sternum and permit your elbows to flare out at a 90-degree angle to your shoulders. Keep your trunk braced and steady as all through the train.

In the underside place, consider pulling your shoulder blades collectively and your shoulders right down to the bottom. Control the load on the way in which up, however hold your torso angled backward for your entire set.

Stiff-Arm Pulldown

This single-joint (isolation) train is arguably higher at constructing lat thickness than conventional pulldowns as a result of the work it executed solely by the lats with minimal help from the shoulders and arms.

Why Do the Stiff-Arm Pulldown

The stiff-arm pulldown, also called a straight-arm pushdown, is nice at constructing lat measurement and common mobility as a result of the muscle has to beat resistance via an extended vary of motion. You want to regulate the resistance via an extended arc that places your lats in a big stretch towards the highest. This is among the few workouts that really strengthens shoulder extension (elevating the arm) together with coaching your shoulder blades to slip downward right into a steady place.  

How to Do the Stiff-Arm Pulldown

Attach a straight bar or rope to a cable close to the highest of your head. Stand tall, seize the bar or rope together with your elbows barely bent and your palms dealing with down (on a bar) or dealing with one another (with a rope). Maintain a bent-arm place as you “sweep” the attachment towards the highest of your legs.

At the underside, think about pulling your shoulders behind your torso earlier than you let the load pull your arms again up. Control the load and let your arms come all the way in which up for an lively stretch on the high. 

Lying Cable Pullover

Dumbbell or kettlebell pullovers are generally used as an alternative choice to pulldowns or, extra particularly, an alternative choice to stiff-arm pulldowns, however anticipating folks to do these free weight workouts gentle sufficient to restrict the contribution of the chest, arms, and shoulders is like asking them not to take a look at themselves within the mirror after an excellent arm pump. Lying cable pullovers are a simpler option to emphasize the contraction of the lats and different again muscle mass with comparatively gentle weight and excessive rigidity.

Why Do the Lying Cable Pullover

This train offers you all the identical advantages of stiff arm pulldowns — elevated lat recruitment with restricted further muscle mass — whereas additionally growing the length that the muscle held below rigidity. And the longer the muscle is contracting below rigidity the extra muscle and energy may be constructed. (1)

How to Do the Lying Cable Pullover

Lie on a flat bench with a cable set barely above head-level. Use a rope attachment to permit for extra vary of movement. Grab the rope together with your arms dealing with one another. Maintain a slight bend in your elbows and pull the rope towards your legs whereas protecting your decrease again flat in opposition to the bench.

Keep your arms dealing with each other and attempt to contact your pinky fingers to the ground. In the underside place, squeeze your shoulders collectively and consider pushing your triceps via the ground earlier than controlling the resistance all the way in which again. Let the resistance pull your arms way back to you possibly can tolerate, above and behind your head.

Crossed Band Pulldown 

This motion is ideal for utilizing resistance bands slightly than a cable machine as a result of the strain of the bands combines with the lengthy vary of movement to focus on the smaller muscle mass of the again. The crossed band pulldown will also be referred to as a “banded rhomboid pulldown” as a result of it really works these smaller higher again muscle mass much like a rhomboid pulldown.

Why Do the Crossed Band Pulldown

By pulling the bands in a cross-body movement, you’re coaching the muscle mass that transfer and assist the scapulae with a specialised effort you wouldn’t have the option work with cables. These supportive muscle mass not solely hold your shoulders functioning correctly, however they supply the steadiness wanted to construct high-level urgent and pulling energy, and so they contribute to distinctive thickness of the again musculature.

The resistance bands permits for extra rigidity on the finish vary (peak contraction), which is the place most individuals must construct extra scapular management. As you pull the band, it turns into more difficult and the muscle mass need to create extra rigidity, in comparison with regular resistance with cable pulleys. 

How to Do the Crossed Band Pulldown

Anchor two resistance bands to the highest of a squat rack, pull-up bar, or different excessive and steady construction. Space the bands to be simply exterior the width of your shoulders. Grab the left band together with your proper hand and vice versa, and sit on the ground between them.

Keep a impartial backbone, not arched or rounded, and pull the bands throughout the entrance of your physique. Try to drive your elbows towards the ground behind you. Hold and squeeze the contacted place for one second earlier than controlling the bands right into a stretched place with straight arms. 

Supinated-Grip Pulldown

To hold your shoulders wholesome and your higher again energy balanced, you could do vertical pulls together with your palms each dealing with away (pronated grip) and dealing with towards you (supinated grip). The supinated-grip pulldown, or “chin-down” (versus a body weight chin-up), is a superb choice to construct this supinated-position energy whether or not you are able to do chin-ups or not. 

Why Do the Supinated-Grip Pulldown

This hand place doesn’t magically make it a biceps-only train. This grip variation trains the connections between the biceps, delts, and upper-back muscle mass in another way from a pull-up or pulldown. (2) It additionally builds extra balanced higher again stability and extra shoulder mobility.

How to Do the Supinated-Grip Pulldown

Use a straight bar attachment and arrange simply as you’ll for the standard pulldown. Grab the bar with palms dealing with you and arms positioned proper at or slightly wider than shoulder width aside.

Pull the attachment down by driving your elbows to the bottom and attempt to contact it proper beneath your collarbone. Squeeze the elbows down earlier than controlling the cable again up. 

Weighted Pull-Up

Most don’t assume that pulling workouts that focus on the higher again ought to ever actually be loaded heavy, however that line of pondering is an enormous mistake.

If you’re trying to construct your again as massive as you possibly can, you could mix high-rep units with heavy weights. The weighted pull-up is an especially efficient, if barely superior, option to get the job executed.  

Why Do the Weighted Pull-Up

Pull-ups are sometimes executed to construct muscle measurement utilizing solely your physique weight for as many reps as attainable. But they will and may generally be loaded as heavy as attainable and carried out in rep ranges as little as three to 5 per set. This will expose you to new kinds of muscular stress that results in muscle progress. 

How to Do the Weighted Pull-Up

Take an overhand grip together with your arms at, or just a bit wider than, shoulder-width. Pull from a straight-arm hold to your chin or neck reaching bar-level. Warm-up with bodyweight-only units after which add a weight utilizing both a dip belt or a weighted vest. Start with a weight that you understand you are able to do not less than 5 reps with.

Perform a number of units of three to 5 reps, including just a bit weight after every set. When you attain a really difficult weight and really feel like you possibly can solely grind two or three reps, follow this weight and attempt to do two to 4 extra units.

Mechanical Drop-Set Pull-Up

It’s essential to do vertical pulling workouts with a wide range of hand positions – overhand, underhand, and neutral-grip. Each grip is mechanically completely different when it comes to problem and muscle recruitment, and this may be exploited to do extra high quality quantity, which leads to higher energy and muscle progress. (3)

Why Do the Mechanical Drop Set Pull-Up

A pronated (palms away) hand place is most difficult and prioritizes the lat muscle and higher again. A supinated (palms towards you) hand place is barely simpler and emphasizes the biceps and shoulders, and a impartial place (palms dealing with one another) gives the best leverage and is least difficult, recruiting the brachialis and shoulders. (4)

A “mechanical drop set” is a specialised approach that means that you can do as many reps as you possibly can with probably the most tough hand place. This causes the emphasised muscle mass to work hardest. You then proceed so as to add extra rigidity to the identical muscle teams with a supinated grip, and eventually utilizing neutral-grip hand place. In whole, you’ll be able to do extra quantity than you may usually obtain utilizing solely anyone grip.

How to Do the Mechanical Drop Set Pull-Up

Take a shoulder-width overhand grip on a pull-up bar and elevate your self from a straight-arm hold to your chin close to bar-level. As you attain muscular fatigue, let go and reset your grip to take a shoulder-width underhand grip. Continue performing further repetitions till you attain fatigue once more. Let go and eventually take a impartial (palms dealing with) grip. Continue the final part of the set with extra reps.

One efficient method with this technique is to choose a pre-determined rep rely for every hand place. For instance, if you are able to do 5 commonplace (overhand) pull-ups, you might select to do two or three reps of every grip. This will increase your pull-up quantity considerably as a result of you find yourself doing a complete of six to 9 repetitions as an alternative of solely 5.

Inverted Row

The inverted row is usually executed together with your physique parallel to the ground, together with your ft elevated to make it a real horizontal rowing movement. While this can be a nice variation to construct your entire mid-back and lats, doing these at a 45-degree angle together with your ft on the bottom could also be an much more environment friendly option to strengthen your again muscle mass much like a lat pulldown. 

Why Do the Inverted Row

This is a superb choice to exchange or add extra body weight actions. Strong or skilled lifters are likely to neglect body weight coaching, possibly throwing in a couple of push-ups right here or there, however that’s short-sighted. Bodyweight pulling actions, specifically, demand trunk stabilization and good scapular management which carry over to energy and stability in almost all workouts.

If you possibly can’t do body weight pull-ups, you could discover different methods to coach your pulling muscle mass. The 45-degree inverted row makes use of your body weight to construct energy and muscular coordination. This reasonable angle makes it a unique and efficient option to strengthen the scapular muscle mass and nonetheless construct the lats, similar to a conventional pull-up or pulldown.

How to Do the Inverted Row

Set a barbell on a rack someplace round ab-height. You may also use a Smith machine. You could have to regulate this larger or decrease as soon as in place relying in your arm size. Grab the bar with an overhand grip, together with your arms slightly wider than shoulder-width. Slide your ft out till your physique is at roughly a 45-degree angle with the ground.

Keep your legs straight and pull your self towards the bar. Aim to the touch your chest to the bar earlier than decreasing below management and repeating for the set variety of reps. 

Ultra-Wide Grip Bent Over Barbell Row 

The wide-grip barbell row is perhaps among the best workouts to extend thickness in your lats and traps whereas constructing energy that carries over to different massive lifts. If you see somebody who does this train usually, heavy, and properly, you possibly can rely on them having an enormous and highly effective again. 

Why Do the Ultra-Wide Grip Bent-Over Barbell Row

The ultra-wide grip row not solely makes your lats wider, however it builds thickness within the mid-back higher than many different workouts. The difficult large grip additionally taxes your forearm muscle mass, making them larger whereas constructing a stronger grip. The bent-over place requires your hips, trunk, and hamstrings to stabilize you physique and create rigidity to assist the load. This total-body recruitment makes you stronger for just about anything within the gymnasium or on the sphere. 

How to Do the Ultra-Wide Grip Bent-Over Barbell Row 

Stand over a barbell together with your ft hip-width aside. Hinge ahead on the hips, squat down, and seize the bar with a palms-down grip as far large as your grip will enable. The bar ought to be tough to carry, however make certain you possibly can hold it in your arms for your entire set. Stand straight up with the bar in your arms and your arms straight. Slightly bend your knees as you hinge out of your hips.

Keep your knees barely bent and bend ahead till your again is near parallel with the bottom. Hold this place together with your elbows locked and hold your again flat and your abs braced. Row the bar towards the underside of your sternum. Control the load again right down to a straight-arm place, and repeat for repetitions.

Landmine Row

The landmine row can prepare the lats extra with out inflicting, or worsening, any potential shoulder issues as a result of it locations a singular demand on the physique in comparison with different barbell or dumbbell workouts. The angle and leverage of the landmine create a unique stress on the muscle mass and joints. It permits the lifter to regulate their physique place and alter the pull of the load.

Why Do the Landmine Row

This train is completed utilizing a “v-bar” attachment, which requires a neutral-grip. This helps you contract your lats via a full vary of movement whereas permitting the shoulder blades to maneuver right into a pure place. This not solely helps to cut back shoulder ache but in addition reinforces and builds the shoulder-stabilizing muscle mass.

Because landmine row strikes although an arc vary of movement slightly than a straight line, it creates completely different leverages on your muscle mass. For that motive, the load sometimes feels heavier on the backside and lighter on the high, which is the alternative of most workouts. This “reversed” energy curve implies that the landmine row can prepare the lats in another way by inserting them below higher rigidity on the backside place. 

How to Do the Landmine Row

Put one finish of a barbell in a landmine unit, or within the steady corners of a squat rack. Attach a neutral-grip v-bar deal with across the free finish of the barbell just under the collar. Straddle the bar, squat right down to seize the deal with, and rise up supporting the bar with straight arms. Make certain your again is nearly utterly parallel with the ground and your legs are barely bent.

Row the bar up and attempt to contact your wrists someplace between the underside of your sternum and your abs. Lower the load by straightening your arms below management. Try to not “hitch” or bounce as you elevate the load. The extra strict the motion, the higher it’s for constructing muscle and energy. 

Single-Arm Face Pull 

Standard lat pulldowns are often executed in hopes of constructing wider backs, however it’s not likely nearly constructing again width. You must construct muscle in your higher again and throughout the backs of your shoulders, as properly. There are extra targeted methods to develop these key areas than simply utilizing the easy pulldown.

Why Do the Single-Arm Face Pull

The single-arm face pull targets the rear delts (again of the shoulder) and the higher and internal elements of your again. These muscle teams not solely have to be sturdy for optimum shoulder well being and stability, however they have to be well-developed in order for you your again to look as thick as attainable.

Training one are at a time helps you narrowly concentrate on correctly shifting your shoulder and shoulder blade. Single-arm workouts like this additionally prepare your trunk to withstand rotation so, as an additional advantage, you’re additionally coaching core stability.

How to Do the Single-Arm Face Pull

Attach a single deal with to a cable pulley at forehead-height. Grab the deal with palm-down with one hand. Straighten your arm and step again till the cable barely pulls on the load stack to elevate it up. Stand tall together with your knees barely bent and your ft about hip-width aside.

Keep your palm dealing with down as you pull the deal with towards your ear. Think “chicken wing” to maintain your elbow excessive and identified. Focus on pulling your shoulder blade in towards your backbone. Hold and squeeze at this finish place for one second. Don’t let your shoulder shrug upward. Control the load again with out letting it pull your shoulder too far ahead as your arm straightens. 

Benefits of Lat Pulldown Variations

There are three primary causes to incorporate this vertical pulling movement in your coaching: muscle measurement, muscular energy, and musculoskeletal well being. Whichever causes are in your aim checklist, there are many efficient actions to get the job executed.

Increased Muscle Recruitment

Many folks need to construct their lats thicker and wider. Bigger lats give an athletic look many individuals need. Whether it’s on a bodybuilding stage, on the seashore, or simply on your personal private physique aim, a well-developed again consists of large lats in addition to a strong higher and mid-back.

The lat pulldown, by itself, isn’t ample for concentrating on the a number of muscle mass concerned in constructing full again measurement.

Improved Strength Development

The extra total again energy you will have, the extra weight you possibly can elevate. Back energy is important for a powerful, steady higher physique. This energy and stability carries over to massive lifts just like the deadlift, when sustaining correct place for environment friendly approach.

Man in white sleeveless t-shit squatting with a loaded barbell across his backIvan Kochergin / Shutterstoc

A stronger again even carries over to decrease physique workouts just like the squat, to assist your higher physique switch energy out of your legs via your core and higher physique.

Joint Health

Healthy, well-functioning shoulders and shoulder blades (scapulae) are important for any lifter. If you press weights overhead (up), you could pull weights down. Basic muscular symmetry helps to cut back the danger of shoulder and higher physique accidents. (5) Vertical pulling trains coordination and management between your shoulders and the scapulae, and it reinforces the postural muscle mass surrounding your scapulae and your entire center again.

Get Down with All the Pulldowns

The lat pulldown is among the hottest vertical pulling workouts for constructing muscle and energy. It’s an efficient and time-tested train, however you continue to must stress the higher and mid-back muscle mass with completely different angles and calls for to create a most coaching impact. You can’t haphazardly add variations and hope for the most effective, as a result of that may be a counterproductive waste of time. Review the workouts above, work out which fit your particular wants, and plug them into your coaching plan. Soon sufficient, you’ll have all the variability you want for a well-rounded, and well-widened, again.


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  4. Plantz MA, Bordoni B. Anatomy, Shoulder and Upper Limb, Brachialis Muscle. [Updated 2022 Feb 22]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from:
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