Close Grip Lat Pulldown Exercise Guide

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTUpdated: November 22, 2023

In this blog post, I will explain the difference between a close grip lat pulldown versus a wide grip lat pulldown. And I will show you how to use the close grip with proper form to build your lats.

Close Grip Lat Pulldown Form

Lat pulldowns are an essential exercise for building your back. But with multiple grip widths and hand positions, it’s hard to know how you should do this exercise to get the best results.

In the sections below, you’ll learn how to use each of these lat pulldown variations to reach your back-building goals. Plus, I give you alternative exercises you can do at home or the gym.

Lat Pulldown Grip Width Defined

When performing lat pulldowns, grip width is defined as the distance between your hands. A close grip generally means shoulder-width or narrower, while a wide grip is more than shoulder-width.

You can do close grip lat pulldowns with the straight bar using a pronated or supinated grip (overhand or underhand). However, there are also v-bar handles that place your hands close together with a neutral grip.

close grip lat pulldown vs wide grip width

This picture shows the difference in the starting position of the close grip vs wide grip lat pulldown.

How To Do A Close Grip Lat Pulldown

To perform a close grip lat pulldown, follow these steps:

1. Adjust the machine: Start by sitting on the seat and adjusting the knee pads so that your knees are securely locked under them. Make sure the weight is set at a resistance that you can lift safely.

2. Grasp the bar: Grasp the bar with both hands, making sure that your hands are shoulder-width apart or narrower. With the v-bar handle, your plans should be facing each other.

3. Set your posture: Sit up straight with your chest out and a neutral spine. Your feet should be flat on the ground and your arms extended overhead.

4. Start the exercise: Begin the exercise by pulling the bar down towards your chest while keeping your elbows directly under your hands. Make sure to engage your lats by squeezing your shoulder blades together as you pull the bar down.

5. Finish the exercise: Once you have pulled the bar down past your chin, pause for a moment and squeeze your lats at the bottom. Then, slowly control the bar as it ascends back to the starting point. Allow your lats to stretch at the top of the movement.

Remember to breathe throughout the exercise, exhaling as you pull the bar down and inhaling as you release it back up. Start with a lighter weight and gradually increase it as you become more comfortable with the exercise.

Watch this 60-second video for 6 tips on performing the close grip lat pulldown.

Close Grip Lat Pulldown Form Tips

Here are some additional tips to set yourself up for proper form:

  • Think about pulling straight down through your elbows instead of your hands
  • Try to position your body so the pulley is directly above your chest
  • Do not lean back excessively or use upper body momentum
  • Also, think about squeezing your lats to initiate the movement

Close Grip Lat Pulldown vs Wide Grip

Now that you know how to do a narrow grip lat pulldown, I will explain how it compares to the wide grip lat pulldown. To illustrate the difference, I’ll compare the body mechanics and muscles worked.

First, here is a short video illustrating the differences between the close grip and the wide grip.

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Close Grip vs Wide Grip Body Mechanics

The obvious difference between a lat pulldown grip widths is the distance between your hands. But it’s the position of your arms as you pull the bar down that changes the exercise.

Performing a wide grip lat pulldown involves pulling your upper arms out and back. As you reach the bottom of the movement, your arms extend outwards to the sides when viewed from behind. However, when viewed from the side, your arms are almost in line with your body.

On the other hand, a close grip pulldown requires you to pull your arms in and forward. From behind, your arms are tucked in close to your body. But, from the side, your arms extend out in front of your body.

close grip lat pulldown vs wide grip body position

From the side, you can see how the exercises start the same.

close grip lat pulldown vs wide grip arm position side

Yet the exercises look very different at the bottom.

close grip lat pulldown vs wide grip rear arm position

The close grip internally rotates your arms to the front, while the wide grip externally rotates your arms out to the sides.

Close Grip vs. Wide Grip Muscles Worked

The primary function of the lats is to pull the arms down towards the body. This can occur to the side or the front. So, both versions of the lat pulldown activate the lat muscles.

However, the difference in arm position means that the supporting muscle groups activate differently. The wide grip activates significantly more lats and upper back1 due to the external rotation of the arms.

While the internal rotation of the arms during a close grip shifts some of the load away from the lats and puts it on the chest, this is similar to how the dumbbell pullover exercise can work both the lats and chest.

But the lesser lat activation of the close grip isn’t necessarily bad. The forward arm rotation puts you in a stronger position. As a result, you can lift about 5% more weight with a close grip2.

Wide vs Close Grip Lat Pulldown Muscles Worked

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Close Grip Lat Pulldown Alternative At Home Or The Gym

If you’re someone who works out at home, it’s possible that you don’t have a cable lat pulldown station available to you. Even some gyms may not have this equipment. However, there are a few close-grip lat pulldown alternatives that you can try out at home or at the gym.

Close Grip Pullup

A close grip pullup is a perfect substitute for a close grip pulldown because it’s essentially the same movement. The main difference is that a pull-up moves your body, whereas a pulldown moves the bar.

If you don’t have a pullup bar at home, you can pick up an inexpensive doorway pullup bar on Amazon. Perform this exercise with an underhand grip or with parallel bars. Just make sure your hands are shoulder-width or narrower.

Related: How many pull-ups should I be able to do?

Banded Close Grip Lat Pulldown

Resistance bands are an excellent addition to any home gym. They allow you to replicate many exercises, including close grip lat pulldowns.

You must anchor the band to a sturdy object directly overhead for this exercise. Then, kneel or sit below the band and perform the exercise as demonstrated in the video.

More Resistance Band Back Exercises

Supinated Lat Pulldown

A supinated grip is also called a reverse grip or simply an underhand grip. You can do a close grip lat pulldown using a standard pulldown bar with this hand position.

Performing a supinated lat pulldown results in similar muscle activation compared to a v-bar or neutral grip1. Except that it also recruits more of the bicep muscles.

Close Grip Pulldown Machine

Some gyms have a machine for doing lat pulldowns. Usually, it has a seat and thigh pads like the cable station. But it also has overhead handles attached to arms that move the weight stack or weight plates.

While this machine differs from a bar and cable, it’s a good alternative. And it’s something you may want to include in your back workout to change things up.

close grip wide grip lat pulldown machine

More Lat Exercises & Back Workouts

Although a wide grip lat pulldown may activate your lat muscles more, the close grip lat pulldown allows you to lift more weight since it puts your arms in a stronger position. This makes it a great exercise to include in your back workout routine.

You can even incorporate both grip widths in your workout or alternate between them from week to week to target your lats from different angles. If you’re looking for more exercise tips and workout ideas, feel free to check out my related articles below!

13 Dumbbell Lat Exercises to Beef Up Your Back Workout

Complete Pull Day Exercises List (with Videos)

Complete Dumbbell Back and Bicep Workout

19 Unique Cable Back Exercises for a Complete Workout

3 Wide Grip Lat Pulldown Mistakes & Corrections

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By |November 22, 2023|Workouts|0 Comments
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