The lat pulldown is a weight-based strength training exercise that primarily works your latissimus dorsi muscle by performing a movement that pulls a weight down towards you. The latissimus dorsi is the broadest muscle across your back and is commonly referred to as your “lats”. Having strong lats help to promote good posture and aids spinal stability.

The movement of a lat pulldown is very similar to that of a pull up and you will be working the same muscles for both exercises. The difference being with the lat pulldown you are pulling an external weight down towards your body, whereas the pull up is pulling your bodyweight (or slightly less if using a band for assistance) up towards a fixed bar.

How to…

  • First adjust the seat so that your knees fit underneath the pads keeping you locked in position
  • Start with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width on the bar
  • Keeping your chest up and back straight pull the bar down towards your collarbone
  • Think about aiming to pinch your elbows together behind you as you squeeze at the bottom of the movement
  • Control the movement back up to the top starting position, making sure you fully extend at the top to ensure a good stretch up through your back to allow your muscles to work their full range
  • Once back at the top, repeat the movement for desired reps

Freeweights vs cable machine…

Freeweights and cable machines both have their place in the gym and neither one is necessarily better than the other. One of the main differences is that a free weight lat pulldown machine provides resistance in just one range of movement whereas the cable lat pulldown machine can be a lot more varied in the positions that it offers resistance. Cables are easier to set up and adjust the weight as uses a pin and weight stack instead of individually loaded plate weights, however for some people the cable machines may not have enough weight on them to provide enough resistance. Cable machines maintain constant resistance with no resting point, unlike free weights. Both types of lat pulldown are very effective in increasing muscle and strength, they just do this in slightly different ways.


There are several different grips and handle attachments you can use on the cable lat pulldown to challenge your lats slightly differently. The most common ones are…

Wide grip (using the wide bar) – good focus for working on shape and width across your back, is also great for people working towards doing pull ups

Narrow grip (using the D handle) – targets the mid and upper back which will work on improving overall strength

MAG grip (using the MAG bar – Maximum Advantage Grip) – takes the focus off your grip as it spreads the hands out to allow the back muscles to work and not have to stop due to a failing grip

To include different variations of the lat pulldown in your workout just ask one of the team and we will be more than happy to help!