Training > Top 10 Lat Pulldown Alternatives (+How to Videos)

Top 10 Lat Pulldown Alternatives (+How to Videos)

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Developing a muscular and V-shaped back is the dream of many people. Lats are the largest muscle groups in your back and contribute the most to that desirable V-shape look.

Strong lats make you appear wider while making your waist look smaller.  Not only do lats have an important role on aesthetics, but strong lats are important for posture as well.

Since skipping the back day is not an option we bring you the Top 10 Lat Pulldown Alternatives. This will save your back day from potential disaster and ensure you with maximum gains.

Muscles Used in Lat Pulldown

As the name of the exercise says for itself, lat pulldowns primarily work your lats.

However, because it is a compound exercise, it will also target your biceps, abs, traps, rhomboids, all at once. 

Lat muscles for the deadlift role

What Makes a Good Lat Pulldown Alternative

Good lat pulldown alternatives should similarly activate the lat. The lats get activated the most during pulling motions, so all the alternatives include some sort of pulling.

Good lat pulldown alternatives

However, not all lat pulldown alternatives require the same amount of equipment, so some exercises will be more home-friendly than others.

10 Lat Pulldown Alternatives 

1. Pull-ups

Probably pull-ups are the one of the best lat pulldown alternatives that comes to your mind. And for a reason. Pullups are one of the best exercises you can do as an alternative to lat pulldown. 

The bar that you can hang from is all you need for this exercise. This can be often improvised, however, it’s best to do pull-ups on a real pull-up bar. With little investment, you can even install one in your house. 

Pull-ups target almost every muscle group in your upper body. From biceps and traps, lats, scapular muscles, and your forearms. Pullups will even improve your grip strength. However, the biggest emphasis is put on the lats.

The movement of the pullups is very similar to lat pulldown. However, pull-ups are harder than lat pulldowns. This can be a downside if you’re newer to working out, and until you get stronger, they can be too challenging. However, you can fix that by strapping an elastic band to the bar and putting your feet in it.

That way the band will pull you up and help you get into the upper position of the pullup. This will make them easier for beginners and help them develop the necessary strength to pull-ups properly.

Australian Pull Up – Muscles Worked, Benefits and How to Do

To get the maximum out of the pullups, it is important to use momentum as little as possible. Slow and controlled movement is key to building muscles and getting the best results.

Using a wider grip during the pull-ups is effective in activating the lats more. The wider your grip, the less emphasis is put on the biceps during the pull and more on the lats. However, make sure the grip width is comfortable and doesn’t put too much pressure on your shoulder.

Also, it is important to state that pullups are a great way to work your abs too. They are important for keeping your torso stable during the whole movement.

2. Chin-ups

There is a long-lasting debate in the fitness world which is better – chin-ups or pull-ups. But there is no clear answer. It depends on your goals and your strength level. Chin ups are one of the best lat pulldown alternatives.

Although chin-ups may look similar to pull-ups, they are quite different. The hand position and the grip are the most noticeable difference. Chin-ups are done with your palms facing towards you, while pull-ups are done with palms facing away. This doesn’t only make a visual difference, but it affects the muscle groups worked during the two. 

Chin-ups are more beginner-friendly since they are easier. They involve more biceps in the movement, which makes the pulling motion easier. On the other hand, if you’re looking for more lat focused exercise, pull-ups are better.

They engage your lats more. However, that doesn’t mean that your lats don’t get activated during chin-ups. They just get less involved than during the pull-ups.

So which one should you do? If you’re a beginner, chin-ups are better since pull-ups might be too hard for you. Chin-ups are easier and will help you develop the necessary strength to switch to the pull-ups. On the other hand, if you are strong enough and your main goal is to grow bigger lats, pull-ups are a better option. 

3. Straight-Arm Pulldown

The straight-arm pulldown is a great exercise for lat development. It is performed standing on a cable machine with arms straight and elbows locked and extended. It is important to keep your arms that way because the bending of the elbows will get the triceps activated more. consequently, that means less lat activation.

Since this exercise is done standing, to maintain balance, your core and abs get activated. In addition to lats and abs, it targets scapular muscles too.

Straight-arm pulldown can be done with a rope, lat bar, or straight-bar attachment. The rope might be the best solution since it allows a better shoulder position and thus a greater range of motion. This means better muscle activation.

4. Resistance Band Lat Pulldown 

Resistance band lat pulldown has the same mechanic as cable straight-arm pulldowns. However, resistance band pulldown is more convenient for home workouts or a workout anywhere where you don’t have access to the cable machine. The resistance bands are pretty cheap, and they allow you to work your lats almost anywhere.

You can do this exercise standing, kneeling, or sitting. Attach the resistance band to a door frame or some kind of elevated hook and you’re ready to go. The same principle as with cable pulldowns applies here as well. 

However, the difference is that the cable machine provides the same amount of resistance throughout the whole motion. With the resistance bands, as you pull the band closer to your body, the resistance increases. This means the greater range of motion, the harder the exercise becomes.

This is not necessarily a good thing because it can stop you from completing a full rep with proper form. So make sure you are not using a band with too much resistance as it can hinder your pulldown form. Also, you can get closer to the band to reduce the tension of the band and make this exercise easier.

5. Barbell Bent Over Row

The barbell bent-over row is the most used variation of the bent-over rows. In addition to the barbell, it can be done with dumbbells and kettlebells as well.

As the name of the exercise says for itself, bent-over rows are done in a bent position. The stance should be very similar to your deadlift stance. Once you found the comfortable stance, grip the barbell and drive the hips back into a hip hinge position. As you bend over, maintain a stable straight back and hip hinge position.  

Make sure the weight is manageable and you can hold the back straight without rounding. 

Once the position is established, initiate the row. As you pull, bring the elbows back and behind your back as far as possible. This way you are focusing on using the lats for the pull instead of the biceps.

Learn about Yates Row vs Pendlay Row: Differences, Pros, and Cons

6. Decline Dumbbell Pullovers

The dumbbell bent-over row is almost the same as the barbell bent-over row. However, the only difference isn’t that dumbbells are used instead of the barbell. Dumbbells offer a greater range of motion, so this slightly changes the mechanic of the exercise.

With dumbbells, your arms aren’t in a locked position as with the barbell. It puts your arms and shoulders in a more natural position. However, more stabilization of the shoulder joint is required with dumbbells and this makes the exercise slightly harder. 

The great thing about this exercise is that you can change the hand position as you like and hit back and posterior shoulder muscles from different angles. 

7. Chest Supported Dumbbell Row

The chest supported row is also known as the incline dumbbell row. Compared to the bent-over barbell or dumbbell row, there is no need for bending and stabilizing the weight with the hips and the back. You are leaned with your chest on a bench which provides you support. 

This makes it a more beginner-friendly exercise since less strain is put on your back and there is less chance of injury. Also, this allows you to focus more on the lift itself. With your chest supported, you can focus all the work on isolated muscles. 

It’s important to keep your chest on the bench throughout the whole movement. The most common compensation is to lift your chest, especially during heavier loads. Keeping the chest against the bench eliminates the momentum and puts all the work on the lats and upper back.

Another benefit of bench support is that it allows you to lift more weight. And more weight means more gains.

8. Landmine Rows

A landmine is a barbell anchored to the floor with a weight on the other end. Many people find doing landmine exercises easier and more comfortable than using traditional barbells and dumbbells. The same goes for landmine rows.

The best thing about the landmine row is that it reduces joint stress while maximizing the work and stability of the posterior shoulders and upper back. Barbels put your shoulders in the locked and often odd positions, while dumbbells demand a lot of stability and weight control. People often lack proper shoulder mobility and stability, which then can lead to injuries.

Unlike barbells and dumbbells, the landmine provides better stability of the weight and puts your shoulders in a more optimal position. The angle of the landmine allows you to use steady, controlled movement since the landmine travels in a natural arc instead of in a straight line. This helps optimal shoulder health, without losing muscle growth and strength. 

9. Single-Arm Dumbbell Rows

This is the unilateral variation of the dumbbell rows exercise. Unilateral means you’re working only one side of the body. There are many benefits of unilateral exercises. This exercise is a great lat pulldown alternative. They activate the core more and help you fix muscular imbalances and strength discrepancies between the two sides.

Everybody has asymmetries and imbalances. Therefore, it is important to include more unilateral exercises in your training. Not only for aesthetic purposes, but because it could save you from potential injuries.

The single-arm dumbbell row is often performed on the bench. You hold the dumbbell in one arm, while the opposite arm and leg rest on the bench. This variation makes the exercise less demanding, which is not necessarily a good thing. 

Why? Because the great portion of the core activation and stability gets ignored. Also, it’s easier to round your back in this position and mess up the form. It’s harder to keep the spine neutral, and it puts you in a disadvantageous position for the pull. It’s much more beneficial to do this exercise standing. This way your abs and glutes get activated to keep you stable. 

Get into a balanced stance with both of your feet on the floor. You can put one leg in front of the other for more stability. On the side of the backward leg put the dumbbell in your hand, bend your knees slightly, and hinge forward while keeping your back neutral. Get your back as parallel to the ground as possible. That way when you’re pulling, you will engage the lats more, and not the traps. 

If needed, grab the bench with the free hand for more stability. As you pull, keep the back straight the entire time.

10. Dumbbell Pullover

The dumbbell pullover is mostly known as an exercise for building the pecs. However, your lats work a lot during this exercise, so it is a good lat pulldown alternative. This is one of the rare exercises that simultaneously works your front body (pecs) and the back (lats). During the pullover, your core muscles and triceps get activated too. 

However, pullovers aren’t for everyone. Especially for people with shoulder issues. Work on your mobility first or start light if you have shoulder issues. If you feel it stresses your shoulder joint too much, it’s better to avoid this exercise.

The dumbbell pullover is also considered a postural exercise. Because of the sedentary lifestyle, our pecs and shoulders often become tight, which causes our upper back to round. This exercise helps open up the front of our body and increases flexibility in our chest which helps in restoring natural curvature of the spine.

Final Thoughts

Lats are important for many reasons. They are important for posture and keeping you upright, but also because they make you look more muscular.

Including back training in your workouts is important and with these 10 Lat Pulldown Alternatives nothing can stop you from building the back others desire.

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Wasim Kagzi

Hi! I’m Wasim Kagzi and this is where my team and I write and research about everything fitness. On MuscleLead we share all the helpful tips, techniques, and advice we've learned over the years. Personally, I've been lifting for more than 10 years and hope to eventually become a Certified Personal Trainer. My goal is to compete in weightlifting and train to be the strongest version of myself.

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