Lat Pulldown Machine Muscles Worked – Full Look!

March 11, 2022 0 Comments


In this article I am going to take a deep look at the lat pulldown machine muscles worked. I will examine some variations of lat pulldowns that I do in my own training and compare and contrast the muscles worked.

Whilst pull ups are a fantastic exercise, I believe you need to take great care when adding heavy weights to them. It is very easy to strain a lat if you are quite heavy and add a lot of extra weight to your pullups. Lat pulldowns are a safer movement with a lower risk of injury, you can also warm up a lot more effectively with this exercise. 

1. Classic Lat Pulldown Variation

The first variation of the lat pulldown is the one that the majority of people will be familiar with. This is utilising the lat pulldown bar attachment and employing a wider grip. 

This exercise will target the lats very well and build a lot of thickness. It is important not to cheat and lean back too much, also don’t bring the bar down too far. This will take tension off the lats. When initiating the movement you want to think of pulling your shoulder blades back. 

You can also use this lat pulldown bar and perform lat pulldowns with a closer grip and reverse grip. This will hit the biceps as well as the lats. The close grip will not hit the lats as hard as a wider grip, the wider grip lat pulldown will give you more back width. Lat pulldowns with a closer grip can add good thickness to the upper back though as you can get a really great peak contraction – especially with the reverse grip. The closer grip will activate the traps and rhomboids to a greater degree.

classic lat pulldown

2. V-Bar Lat Pulldowns

This is another variation that I love, lat pulldowns with a V-bar attachment. This exercise will work your grip a lot as well as your biceps, lats, traps and rhomboids. It will develop a lot of thickness in the upper back and give you a very dense upper back. 

This exercise is best performed in the higher rep ranges, above 10 reps. I like to hold the peak contraction for a few seconds on every rep to get the best out of it. For an even harder grip challenge you can add fat gripz to the V-bar to make your forearms and grip work a lot harder. 

Just as with the classic lat pulldowns, don’t lean back too much. Perform the movement fairly strict with constant tension on the upper back muscles. Get a good stretch at the top of every rep and a strong peak contraction at the bottom. 

v-bar pulldown

3. Neutral Grip Attachment

This style of attachment is my personal favourite and one that I use the most often. It is important to note that very few gyms will stock this attachment. If you go to a commercial gym that doesn’t have it you may consider buying this and taking it to the gym with you.

I feel this attachment works the lats the best and will develop great width and thickness. This is due to the fact that you are only gripping the handles with your fingertips. So you are not really bringing your biceps into the movement much at all and your gripping muscles will be less fatigued.

Instead you will really hammer your lats hard. I like to shoot for around 15 reps with this variation and hold the peak contraction for a few seconds on every rep. 

You can find this lat pulldown attachment in different lengths. This way you can mimic everything from a narrow grip pulldown to a wide grip pulldown with the best possible lat pulldown attachment. The only downside is if you are not training in a hardcore or specialised bodybuilding gym it is unlikely that they will stock these attachments.

best pulldown attachment

4. Hammer Strength Pulldown Machine

Last but not least, the hammer strength lat pulldown machine. This is a great machine which I have used myself sometimes in the past. I really like how smooth the movement feels. You can get a great peak contraction and hammer your entire upper back complex really hard.

The only downside, is as you will be utilising a reverse grip your biceps will be heavily involved in the movement. When the weight gets very heavy I personally am not a fan of how heavily my biceps are involved. As such I wouldn’t recommend going ridiculously heavy on the hammer strength pulldown machine.

I would recommend using this machine for hypertrophy to develop the upper back and lats with higher reps. This way your biceps are not at risk of a strain or injury and you can benefit from the insane muscular contractions from this movement. 

hammer strength lat pulldown


To conclude, in this article I have examined different variations of lat pulldowns and the differences in muscles targeted. In my view the best lat pulldown variation is number 3. This is due to the fact that the gripping element of the exercise is largely negated and you can get the best possible contractions and tension on your lats. 

That is the variation that I perform weekly at the moment in my training and I am a big fan of it. The other variation I like to complement it is number 2. The V-bar attachment helps to add a lot of thickness to your upper back and rhomboid complex. It won’t hit the lats as hard but will develop the upper back a lot and also help to work the traps really hard at the same time. 

I always believe in rotation in your training and rotating movements every once in a while is always a good idea. This can help to hit the muscles from different angles as well as reduce the risk of overuse injuries. Every once in a while I will throw in the hammer strength lat pulldown variation with higher reps to offer something different. 

Let me know which lat pulldown variation you like the best from the ones I have listed in this article. Which variation hits your lats the hardest? I would love to interact with you and engage in a quality discussion about this.

As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!

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