The ultimate guide on how to perform the standing lat pulldown for bigger lats
A strong and muscular back plays a significant role in your overall aesthetics and strength. And your lats are the biggest muscle in your back (1). So although there are many back muscles in your body, the lats are the back muscle you want to hit the hardest. And the standing lat pulldown is one of the best movements you can do to isolate your lats. This article will dive deeply into how to perform the standing lat pulldown, including the benefits and alternative exercises.
How to Do the Standing Lat Pulldown
The standing lat pulldown separates itself from other movements that target your lats, like barbell bent-over row, because it isolates them to primarily target them. Conversely, the barbell bent over row targets many muscles in your back. This exercise is similar to the lat pulldown, except while standing and with your arms fully extended. The standing variation activates more of your core and lower body, and keeping your arms extended keeps the tension on your lats.
Follow the steps below to nail this movement, grow your lats, and strengthen your core and lower body.
1. Setting Up
The starting position begins next to a cable machine with a lat pulldown bar. You’ll stand upright and grab the barbell with a shoulder-width pronated grip (palms facing away). Hinge your hips to bend your torso slightly while maintaining a slight bend in your knees for support.
Next, you’ll pull the barbell to your thighs while keeping your arms straight. Your core should be tight, and your shoulder blades should go down and back.
3. Pause and Squeeze
Once the barbell reaches the bottom to touch your thighs, pause briefly to squeeze your lats. You mustn’t sway your body or go too fast to ensure your lats are fully activated.
4. Return to Starting Position
Finally, raise your arms to chin level controlled while staying as stable as possible.
Benefits of Standing Lat Pulldown
The standing lat pulldown has many benefits, including strengthening your lats, core, and glutes.
Isolates and Strengthens Lat Muscles
Of course, this movement is excellent for isolating your lat muscle specifically. In addition, this movement requires you to extend your arms through the full range of motion, better engaging your lats to make them grow bigger and stronger.
Targets Your Lower Body
Since you’ll be standing with this exercise, it will engage your glutes compared to the seated version. And your glutes are the largest muscle in your body. So stronger glutes mean more muscle mass and strength in general.
Engages Your Core
The standing bent-over position and keeping your arms extended engage your core. And a stronger core reduces back pain and improves athletic performance (2).
Provides Constant Tension
Since the standing lat pulldown is performed on a cable machine, you’ll maintain constant tension on your lats throughout the entire exercise. Of course, this will target parts of your lats more at certain degrees of the movements that free weights wouldn’t (3).
Standing Lat Pulldown Alternatives
If you are new to lifting weights or don’t have the equipment to perform standing lat pulldown, there are other alternative exercises that you can try.
Instead of using a cable machine, you can perform this exercise with resistance bands. The resistance bands will maintain tension in your muscles compared to free weights. And it will also be the safer alternative that will allow you to use less weight for rehab and beginners and to better your form.
Kneeling Cable Pulldown
You can also perform this movement on your knees. The benefit of performing them on your knees instead of standing is that it will engage your lats more since you won’t rely on your lower body for stability. However, you won’t get the same leg muscles and core activation that standing will provide.
The dumbbell pullover is another alternative movement you can try. This exercise not only engages your lats, but it will target your chest and triceps (4).
Here are a few things to keep in mind while performing the standing lat pulldown to get the most out of the movement.
Should you brace your core?
Keeping your core tight is essential to keep your body stable and avoid bad form or activating other muscle groups you aren’t trying to hit.
How should you breathe?
You want to exhale when you pull the barbell down and inhale when raising the barbell back up. You’ll find this helps you control the weight and feel the burn in the right areas–back and abs.
Should your grip be firm?
You must keep your grip tight to ensure your wrists are stable enough to control the weight. Otherwise, the cable weight will move around too much.
How many reps should you perform?
The number of reps you do will depend on your goal. For example, if you’re training for strength, we recommend keeping the reps on the lower end between four and six. However, if hypertrophy (muscle growth) is your main goal, we recommend increasing the reps slightly to the 8-12 rep range.
How many sets should you do?
The number of sets you perform will vastly depend on your experience as a lifter. You shouldn’t perform more than two sets if you’re a beginner. An intermediate lifter can perform three sets, and advanced lifters can perform up to five.
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- Jeno SH, Varacallo M. Anatomy, Back, Latissimus Dorsi. [Updated 2022 Apr 5]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK448120/
- Huxel Bliven, K. C., & Anderson, B. E. (2013). Core stability training for injury prevention. Sports health, 5(6), 514–522. https://doi.org/10.1177/1941738113481200
- Signorile, J. F., Rendos, N. K., Heredia Vargas, H. H., Alipio, T. C., Regis, R. C., Eltoukhy, M. M., Nargund, R. S., & Romero, M. A. (2017). Differences in Muscle Activation and Kinematics Between Cable-Based and Selectorized Weight Training. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 31(2), 313–322. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0000000000001493
- Marchetti, P. H., & Uchida, M. C. (2011). Effects of the pullover exercise on the pectoralis major and latissimus dorsi muscles as evaluated by EMG. Journal of applied biomechanics, 27(4), 380–384. https://doi.org/10.1123/jab.27.4.380