5 Great Lat Pulldown Alternatives

5 Great Lat Pulldown Alternatives (1)

The lat pulldown is a favorite back development exercise that is seen in gyms all over the world. However, there are other better options that more directly stimulate the lats. In this article, we reveal 5 great lat pulldown alternatives that will give you a massive lat pump and help to develop that classic V torso that most guys envy.

Identifying the Best Lat Exercises

The best latissimus dorsi exercises are those that follow the direction of the lat muscle fibers. The lats originate on the lower two-thirds of the spine and the 3rd and 4th ribs and insert on the humerus or upper arm. They run up at an angle of between 30 and 40 degrees. So, the ideal lat exercises will originate above and out from the arm at an angle of about 35 degrees and come in and down toward the hip.

The lat pulldown does not follow the ideal angle just described. It has the arms directly above the head rather than out at an angle. The downward pull only brings the elbows down to mid-torso level, which is far short of the full contraction required for maximum lat stimulation. Let’s take a look at some better options.

1. One Arm Lat Pull-In

The one-arm lat pull-in follows the ideal angle of the lat muscle fibers and it allows you to get maximum extension and contraction. It is also one of those rare lat exercises that allows you to work each side unilaterally, which has been shown to be more productive in terms of muscle and strength gains.

One-Arm Lat Pull-In Form

  1. Set the pulley on a cable machine to its highest setting and place a seat side onto the machine a few feet in front of it.
  2. Sit on the machine and grasp the pulley handle with your closest hand. Adjust the seat so that your arm is approximately at a 35-degree angle.
  3. Pull the handles down and in toward your hip, touching your hand to your gip.
  4. Reverse the action to return to the start position.
  5. Perform your rep count and then repeat on the other side.

2. Inverted Row

The inverted row is a progression exercise that many people perform to work their way up to doing pull-ups. However, the angle adjustment that this version allows makes it a very good lat exercise in its own right. Play around with the angles that your body is positioned relative to the ground in order to get the maximum lat stimulation.

Inverted Row Form

  1. Lie faceup on the floor or on a bench with a weight rack. With an overhand grip, grasp a bar that is about 4 feet off the ground, or in the weight rack, with your hands shoulder-width apart. Your body should be rigid and in a straight line.
  2. Keeping the body rigid, pull until the midline of the chest is in contact with the bar. Hold for 3 counts and then lower the body back to the starting position.

3. Single Arm Bent Over Landmine Row

The single-arm bent over landmine row does a relatively decent job of moving your arms close to the latissimus dorsi muscle fiber direction. Be sure to control your body throughout the entire motion and maintain a natural arch in your lower back.

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Single Arm Bent Over Landmine Form

  1. Stand side onto a loaded landmine bar with a split stance. Your right foot should be closest to the bar. Bend your knees at about 45 degrees, with your left leg straight back at about 90 degrees.
  2. Grasp the end of the bar with your left hand and place your right forearm on your right thigh.
  3. Keeping your back flat and tight, pull the bar up with your left hand toward your hip.
  4. Squeeze the last for 2 seconds and then return to the start position. 
  5. Lower under control and repeat.

4. Wide Grip Chin Up

The wide grip chin up is similar to the lat pulldown but allows for more direct lat stimulation. Be sure to go through a full range of motion. Use a variety of grips to see which ones most directly hit the lats.

Wide Grip Chin Up Form

  1. Using an overhand grip with your hands wider than shoulder-width apart, hand from a chin-up bar as low as possible. Stretch out your lats shoulders and arms.
  2. Inhale as you pull yourself up until your eyes are above the level of the chin-up bar. Return to the start position, exhaling on the way down. 
  3. Move directly into your next pull-up, not allowing momentum to carry you up.

5. T-Bar Row

The T-Bar Row is another effective lat builder that stretches and contracts the lats. Be sure to work through a full range of motion and do not jerk the weight up when pulling. You can also do this exercise with a T-Bar row machine.

T-Bar Row Form

  1. Straddle the T-Bar by spreading your legs, shoulder-width apart. Flex at the knees and hips, positioning your back in a flat, straight line. Keep your head and eyes up as you grab the crossbar at arm’s length.
  2. Inhale and pull the bar toward your chest until it touches. Lower the bar to the starting position in a controlled manner, exhaling slowly.

Proper Lat Pulldown Form

If you decide to add the lat pulldown into your training mix, make sure that you are using the proper technique. I see many guys leaning back too far or else staying too upright. You need to also avoid jerking the weight. Use a variety of hand placements from medium to close as well as different bars. 

Lat Pulldown Form

  1. Sit in the lat pulldown machine and adjust the pads for your body. Now reach up to grab the bar with a wide, overhand grip. Lean back slightly.
  2. Inhale and pull the bar down until it touches the top of the chest, arching the back and bringing the elbows back. Return the bar to the starting position while exhaling slowly.

Bottom Line

You now have 5 excellent lat pulldown alternatives designed to fully stimulate, contract, and elongate the latissimus dorsi muscles. Combine them into a 12-14 set workout, using a range of reps from 30 all the way down to 6. Do this every 5 days and you will soon develop the thick, wide lats that your hard work deserves. 

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This article was last updated on August 25, 2021 .

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Categorized as Exercise

By Steve Theunissen

Steve is a former gym owner, personal trainer, and 20-year veteran of the fitness writing industry. Steve has written for websites such as Hardcore Muscle, Fitness, Carblite, and Men's Health and has been a fitness expert columnist for 2 international magazines.