wide grip lat pulldown

Everything You Need to Know About the Wide Grip Lat Pulldown

The wide grip lat pulldown is a common exercise seen in resistance training programs. But, what’s so special about this exercise? In this article, we’re going to talk you through its benefits and help you perform it correctly. 

Benefits of the Wide Grip Lat Pulldown

For most of us, the main reason we perform the wide grip lat pulldown is to build a wider, stronger back. Unlike a regular lat pulldown, the wide grip lat pulldown puts more tension on the outside of our lats. This helps make your back look wider and your waist look smaller. Additionally, less focus is placed on your biceps and forearms meaning the lats have to work harder to perform the movement. Developing strength in this area also crosses over into other exercises such as rows and pull-ups. 

From a more general health perspective, the wide grip lat pulldown is a great posture corrector tool. The wide grip lat pulldown activates the muscles needed for good posture. A strong back allows us to stand with optimal spine alignment, keep our shoulders back, and keep our head held high. If you spend hours sat at a desk all day you may find these muscles are weak. Developing good posture is also a great way to improve your self-confidence. Standing tall helps generate the feeling of confidence. 

Muscles Worked in the Wide Grip Lat Pulldown

The prime mover of the wide grip lat pulldown is, you guessed it, your lats. Your latissimus dorsi muscles, commonly known as your lats, are found at your side mid to lower back. They’re also known as your “wings” because they give your back width. The lats pull your arms to your body and help support your spine. Thus are used in common pulling exercises such as pull-ups, rows, and of course, the wide lat pull down. 

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Wide grip lat pulldown 2

The wide grip lat pulldown also recruits other muscles to help with the movement. They’re still activated, but to a lesser extent compared to the lats. You’ll recruit your shoulders, traps, core, forearms, and biceps brachii muscle. 

How to Perform a Wide Grip Lat Pulldown

Correct form is essential for building muscle and minimizing the risk of injury. Here’s how to perform the wide lat pulldown with proper form. 

  1. To perform the wide grip lat pulldown you’ll need a lat pulldown cable machine with a lat pulldown bar attachment. 
  2. Begin in the seated position with your torso facing the machine. Secure your upper thighs under the thigh pads. Adjust the seat height as necessary to ensure your upper thighs are tightly secured. Ensure your knees and ankles are aligned. 
  3. Grip the bar with your hands outside shoulder-width. Ideally, grip the bar as wide as possible. Adopt an overhand grip so your palms are facing the machine. 
  4. Tighten your core, pull your shoulder blades together, and squeeze your buttock. Prior to the movement, you’ll want to ensure your lower body and back are tight and secure. 
  5. During the concentric phase, lean slightly back while pulling the bar down to your chest/rib cage. Pause briefly while squeezing your lats down. Then, during the eccentric phase slowly return to the top. 
  6. Keeping your body tight, repeat the movement for the desired amount of reps. (Rep ranges vary for this exercise, but commonly fall between 8 and 15 reps). 

Common Mistakes 

One of the biggest mistakes I see with the wide grip lat pulldown is excessive use of momentum to help move the weight. If you’re relying on momentum, you’re using too much weight. Leave your ego at the door and choose a weight that allows you to perform the movement with control. Lean your torso back and hold the bar at your chest to emphasize the contraction in your lats. You should not “bounce” the bar of your chest. Doing this doesn’t properly active the lats, thus you don’t get as much growth or strength stimulation. 

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Another common mistake I see is people leaning too far back. Leaning your torso too far back makes the upper and middle back the main focus of the exercise, not the lats. Think about when you perform a rowing exercise, you’re pulling the weight with your rhomboids and traps. This is exactly what happens when you lean too far back in the wide grip lat pulldown. Adopt a slight lean in your torso. Your torso should still remain in an almost vertical position, not horizontal. 

Finally, many lifters perform the wide grip lat pulldown mindlessly. To increase the contraction, you have to use your mind as well as your body. This phenomenon is known as the mind-muscle connection. The mind-muscle phenomenon involves making a conscious effort to activate the desired muscle during and between sets. Doing this will help develop a more powerful contraction. Focus on isolating your lats, and think about pulling the bar down with your lats rather than your arms. 

Michaela Summers

Michaela Summers is a health and fitness content creator. She holds a BSc in Exercise and Sport Sciences and a Master of Research in Health and Wellbeing from the University of Exeter. She is on a mission to help people live a fulfilling, impactful life through fitness and lifestyle. When she's not writing, she can be found in the gym, playing tennis, or exploring the great outdoors.

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