Wide Grip Lat Pulldown: A Complete Guide | How to Build a Bigger Back!

By
Mike Kenler
October 13, 2020

Wide Grip Lat Pulldown 

The wide grip lat pulldown is one of the best exercises to strengthen your back. This compound exercise can bolster your upper body strength and improve your posture. Simply put, the wide grip lat pulldown is an effective exercise for people of all fitness levels. 

Muscles Worked by the Wide Grip Lat Pulldown

Primary Muscle Groups:

As you may have guessed, the wide grip 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 the lat pulldown, pull ups, and other rowing exercises. They also provide support and stability to your spine!

Secondary Muscle Groups:

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

Wide Grip Lat Pulldown Benefits

1. Stronger and Bigger Lats 

The wide grip lat pulldown works the outer portion of the lats more than the traditional lat pulldown. This wide grip variation also reduces tension on your biceps and forearms, which makes your lats work even harder to bring the weight down. As a result, you maximize the contraction of your lats 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

This pulldown variation 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 and other back muscles. As a result, this can lead to slouching, pain, and tension in your shoulders and back. 

The wide grip lat pulldown can serve as a posture corrector and help to activate these under utilized muscles. With regular exercise, you will be standing upright with proper posture in no time.

3. Improved Confidence

The wide grip lat pulldown can help to sculpt the classic V-shaped torso that simultaneously gives the appearance of a slimmer waistline. Seeing these visible changes in your body can give you a huge boost of confidence. Strengthening your back will also help improve your performance in other exercises like the dumbbell row or the deadlift — and there are few more rewarding experiences than getting better at the gym!

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How to Do the Wide Grip Lat Pulldown

Equipment:

For this exercise, your gym should have a lat pulldown cable machine setup. If you’re working out at home, you need a cable machine where you can set the resistance to come from a high angle as well as a lat bar attachment.

Setup: 

1. Sit down facing the cable machine. Use the knee pads to lock in your legs and secure your knees directly above your ankles. You want to make sure your lower half is stabilized.

2. 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.

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 wide grip 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.

Wide Grip Lat Pulldown Mistakes

1. Leaning Too Far Back 

Many lifters tend to lean too far back during the wide grip lat pulldown. This motion is similar to an inverted row, which actively targets your rhomboids in your upper back. While we are secondarily activating our rhomboids in the wide grip 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 wide grip lat pulldown is solely using your arms to bring the weight down. In effect, the pulldown becomes an arm exercise, which greatly reduces the stress on your back. Instead, try bringing the weight down by bringing your elbows down and back while squeezing the lats.

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 wide grip lat pulldown.

Wide Grip Lat Pulldown Variations

1. Resistance Band Lat Pulldown

For an at home back exercise, attach your resistance band to an elevated hook or door frame 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. Supinated Lat Pulldown  

The supinated pulldown variation significantly increases the resistance on your forearms and biceps. To set up, extend your arms upwards to grab the bar with your palms facing towards you. Your hands should be roughly 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!


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.

Wide Grip Lat Pulldown Alternatives

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

1. 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!

2. Wide 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 lat bar with your palms facing down and your hands wider than shoulder width apart. Retract your shoulders, brace your abs, and pull the handle into your abdomen. Pause for a moment, then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat!


3. Overhand Barbell Row

Set up a barbell on the ground with light to medium weight. Assume a standing position with your feet shoulder width apart. Step forward so that the barbell is over the middle portion of your feet. Grab the bar with an overhand grip with your hands just outside your knees. 

Brace your abs and back and lift the barbell off the ground until you are in a standing position with your back straight. Keeping your abs and back tight, hinge your hips backwards until your back is just short of parallel to the floor. Extend your arms straight down and keep your gaze focused a few feet in front of you. 

Keeping your elbows tucked, drive your elbows up and back to bring the barbell up to your belly button. Squeeze your lats at the top, pause for a moment, and slowly return to the starting position. Maintain tightness in your core and back and repeat!



Looking for an At Home Back Workout Instead?

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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