Standing Lat Pulldown 101 | Form, Benefits, and Alternatives!

By
Mike Kenler
January 4, 2021

The Standing Lat Pulldown 

The standing lat pulldown may be one of the less popular lat pulldown variations

However, this compound exercise is one of the most effective pulldown exercises. 

If you want to build bigger lats, improve your upper body strength, and fix your posture, the standing lat pulldown is for you!

Muscles Worked By The Standing Lat Pulldown

Primary Muscle Groups:

Given the name, it comes as no surprise that the standing lat pulldown primarily works your lats. 

Originating in the lower/mid back, the latissimus dorsi is the largest muscle of the back. 

Your lats play a significant role in most “pulling” exercises such as pulldowns, pull ups, and other rowing exercises. 

Secondary Muscle Groups:

The standing lat pulldown secondarily works a variety of other muscle groups. 

This exercise activates the biceps and forearms, as they work to pull the bar down. 

Muscles in your shoulders and upper back also work to stabilize your upper body.

Lastly, your core muscles contract to support your midsection throughout the exercise motion.

Standing Lat Pulldown Benefits

1. Stronger And Bigger Lats 

The standing lat pulldown specifically targets your lats. Therefore, consistent training that incorporates this exercise will increase your lat hypertrophy and back strength. 

A strong back is essential for improving your performance in athletics, other compound lifts, and simple day-to-day activities. 

2. Improved Posture

The standing lat pulldown is one of the best exercises to improve posture. 

Hours of sitting in chairs at work or while driving can cause an underuse of your lats, other back muscles, and deep core muscles.

As a result, this can lead to slouching, pain, and tension in your shoulders and back. 

The standing lat pulldown directly activates all of these essential posture muscles. With regular exercise, you will be standing upright with proper posture in no time.

3. Improved Aesthetics

This lat pulldown variation is one of the best variations to improve your appearance. The standing position of this lat pulldown creates instability in your core and back. 

Therefore, your abs and back work harder to stabilize your torso, which burns more calories and increases your post-exercise oxygen consumption. 

Whether you want to build bigger back muscles or decrease your body fat, the standing lat pulldown can help you accomplish your goals.

How To Do The Standing Lat Pulldown

Equipment:

For this exercise, you need a pulley system and a cable machine with a lat bar attachment. 

Setup: 

a) Assume a standing position facing the cable machine.  

b) Extend your arms upwards to grab the bar with your hands roughly shoulder width apart and your palms facing away from you. 

c) Step away from the bench. Place one foot on the bench for stability and lean back slightly. 

Action:

a) Brace your core, bring your shoulder blades down and back, and pull the bar down until it touches the top of your rib cage. 

b) Pause briefly at the bottom, squeeze your lats, and slowly return to the starting position.

c) Maintain tightness in your core and repeat!

Recommendation:

You should aim to complete 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps of the standing lat pulldown. 

As you get more comfortable with the form, feel free to change up your set and rep ranges to challenge yourself.

Standing Lat Pulldown Mistakes

1. Arching Your Back 

Many weightlifters tend to arch their back during the standing lat pulldown. While leaning back can help better activate your lats, arching your lower back only places unnecessary strain on your spine.

To avoid this lower back tension and a potential back injury, be sure to keep your back straight throughout the motion. 

2. Using Momentum 

Because you are standing, it can be tempting to load on extra weight and use your upper body momentum to bring the weight down.

In reality, using momentum isn’t improving your back training. 

If you make this mistake, try decreasing the weight and keeping your back relatively stationary during the standing lat pulldown.

3. Emphasizing Your Arms

Another common standing lat pulldown mistake is initiating the pulling motion with your arms. 

While there is nothing wrong with working out your arms, this exercise is intended to target your lats.

Instead of using your smaller arm muscles to pull down, focus on retracting your shoulders and contracting your lats to bring down the bar.

Standing Lat Pulldown Variations

1. Underhanded Standing Lat Pulldown

The underhanded variation of the standing lat pulldown activates your biceps more than the standard variation. Grab the bar with your hands roughly shoulder width apart and your palms facing up.

Then, complete the pulldown with the same form as the overhand standing lat pulldown.

2. Straight Arm Lat Pulldown

The straight arm lat pulldown is also performed while standing. This variation reduces tension on your biceps and it can also improve your mind-muscle connection.

Begin by setting your straight bar or lat bar attachment to shoulder height. Stand in front of the pulley machine with your feet shoulder width apart.

Grasp the attachment with an overhand grip and your arms fully extended. 

Keeping your arms straight, squeeze your lats to bring the bar down to your thighs. Pause briefly at the bottom of the rep, squeeze your lats hard, and slowly return to the starting position.

Maintain tightness in your core and repeat!

3. Seated Wide Grip Lat Pulldown

The seated variation of the standing lat pulldown requires less core stabilization than the standing lat pulldown, which can help you emphasize the involvement of your lats in the pulldown motion. 

First, sit down facing the cable machine. Use the knee pads to lock in your legs and secure your knees directly above your ankles.

Extend your arms upwards to grab the bar at the widest grip position with your palms facing away from you. Your hands should be wider than shoulder width apart.

While slightly leaning back, brace your core, bring your shoulder blades down and back, and pull the bar down until it touches the top of your rib cage. 

Pause briefly at the bottom, squeeze your lats, and slowly return to the starting position.

Maintain tightness in your core and repeat!


Standing Lat Pulldown Alternatives

If you enjoyed the standing lat pulldown, check out these alternative back exercises to improve your upper body training: 

1. Dumbbell Lat Pullover

Begin by grabbing a pair of dumbbells and straddling the exercise bench. Sit on the bench and place your feet firmly on the ground. Lie back so that your head rests at the end of the bench. 

Raise the dumbbells side by side directly above your chest with your palms facing forward. Engage your core by bringing your belly button in towards your spine.

Keeping your arms straight, squeeze your lats and slowly bring the dumbbells behind you until they are in line with your head.

Squeeze your lats hard at the bottom and contract your chest to bring the dumbbells to the starting position. Squeeze your chest hard in this position. Maintain tightness in your core and repeat!

2. Wide Grip Pull Up

Begin by grabbing the bar with your palms facing away from you and your hands wider than shoulder width apart. 

Keeping your lower body still, squeeze your lats to pull yourself upwards until your chin passes the bar. 

Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat!

3. Underhand Dumbbell Row

Grab the dumbbells with your palms facing forward. Bend over at a 45 degree angle and engage your core.

Squeeze your lats to bring your elbows up and back as the dumbbells travel up to your sides with each rep. 

Pause at the top and squeeze your lats hard. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat!

Looking For A Complete Back Workout?

Check out this gym workout full of back supersets:

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Mike Kenler
Director of Writing | Certified in Plant Based Nutrition at T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies

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