Supinated Lat Pulldown | Form, Benefits & Variations for Bigger Lats!

By
Mike Kenler
October 13, 2020

Supinated Lat Pulldown 

The supinated lat pulldown, also known as the underhand lat pulldown, is one of the best exercises to strengthen your back. This compound exercise can also help to improve your arm strength and posture. The supinated lat pulldown is an essential exercise for people of all fitness levels. 

Muscles Worked by the Supinated Lat Pulldown

Primary Muscle Groups:

As you may have guessed, the underhand lat pulldown primarily works your lats. Originating in the lower-mid back, the latissimus dorsi holds the title for the broadest muscle of the back. Your lats play a significant role in most “pulling” exercises such as the lat pulldown, pull ups, and other rowing exercises.

Secondary Muscle Groups:

The supinated lat pulldown also incorporates the biceps, abs, shoulders, and upper back. While your back should do most of the work to bring down the weight, your biceps fully contract as well. In addition, your abs activate to stabilize the movement. 

Supinated Lat Pulldown Benefits

1. Stronger Lats 

Compared to the traditional lat pulldown, the supinated lat pulldown does a better job of training your lats. An underhand grip allows you to pull the weight down further than you normally would with an overhand grip.

As a result, you maximize the contraction of your lats at the bottom of each rep, which helps to build a thicker, stronger back. A sturdy back is essential for improving your performance in athletics, other compound lifts, and simple day-to-day activities. 

2. Improved Posture

Hours of sitting in chairs at work or while driving can cause an underuse of your lats and other back muscles. As a result, this can lead to slouching, pain, and tension in your shoulders and back.

The underhand lat pulldown can help to activate these under utilized muscles and reduce back pain or discomfort. With regular exercise, you will be standing upright with proper posture in no time.

3. Improved Confidence

While your lats do most of the heavy lifting, the supinated lat pulldown also engages your biceps. This enables you to pull down more weight, which boosts your confidence and also maximizes the stress on your back. Due to this, it's a great method to prep your body to handle chin ups and pull ups. Although it’s always important to push yourself to the next level, be sure to use proper form to avoid risking injury!

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How to Do the Supinated Lat Pulldown

Equipment:

For this exercise, you will need a cable machine and a straight bar or lat bar attachment.

Setup: 

1. Sit on the bench while facing the cable machine.

2. Extend your arms upwards to grab the bar with your palms facing towards you. Your hands should be roughly shoulder width apart.

Action:

1. 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. 

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

3. Maintain tightness in your core and repeat!

Recommendation:

You should aim to complete 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps of the underhand lat pulldown. Of course, as you get more comfortable with the form, feel free to change up your set and rep ranges to challenge yourself.

Supinated Lat Pulldown Mistakes

1. Leaning Too Far Back 

Many lifters tend to lean too far back during the lat pulldown. This motion is similar to an inverted row, which actively targets your rhomboids in your upper back. While we are hitting our rhomboids in the underhand lat pulldown, the lats should be the primary target! Try leaning back slightly to correct this mistake and lift with proper form.

2. Using Your Arms Too Much

Another common mistake made during the supinated lat pulldown is solely using your biceps to bring the weight down. In effect, the lat pulldown becomes a bicep curl, which greatly reduces the stress on your back. Instead, try bringing the weight down with minimal help from your arms. 

3. Using Momentum to Pull Down

When lifters use the momentum of their body to bring the weight down, they are almost always lifting too much weight. As a result, they swing their upper body back and forth to compensate. In reality, using momentum doesn’t help you build strength in your back. If you make this mistake, try decreasing the weight and keeping your back relatively stationary during the underhand lat pulldown.

Supinated Lat Pulldown Variations

1. Resistance Band Lat Pulldown (Overhand Grip)

For an at home back exercise, attach your resistance band to an elevated hook or doorframe and sit or kneel on the ground. Contract your lats and pull down as far as you can. Allow your arms to completely straighten as you release the tension. Repeat!

2. Wide Grip Lat Pulldown  

Whereas the supinated lat pulldown significantly engages your biceps, the wide grip lat pulldown variation reduces the resistance on your forearms and biceps. To set up, grab the bar with your palms facing away from you and your hands more than shoulder width apart. Then, pull the bar down until it reaches the top of your chest.

Note — because your arms take a back seat on this variation, you might have to decrease the weight!

3. Alternating Lat Pulldown (with Handles)

You can also train your lats unilaterally with the alternating lat pulldown. Using two separate handles, you can pull down one at a time. The alternating lat pulldown is a great way to correct muscle imbalances between the right and left sides of your back.

Supinated Lat Pulldown Alternatives

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

1. Chin Up

Begin by grabbing the bar with your palms facing towards you and your hands shoulder width apart. Pull yourself upwards until your chin passes the bar. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat!

2. Underhand Barbell Row

Bend over at a 45 degree angle and grab the barbell with an underhand grip. Squeeze your lats to row the barbell towards your belly button with each rep. Repeat!

3. Close Grip Seated Low Row

Sit on the bench with your back straight and your feet planted on the foot pads. Extend your arms and grab the handle. Retract your shoulders, brace your abs, and pull the handle towards into your belly button. Pause for a moment, then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat!

Looking for More Back Workouts?

Check out this intense 5 minute at home back workout! 


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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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