Close Grip Lat Pulldown

Body mechanics and muscle activation compared to wide grip.

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.

One of these variations is the close grip lat pulldown. So I’m going to explain the difference between a close grip lat pulldown vs wide grip. And show you how to do a close grip lat pulldown correctly.

So you’ll know 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.

Close Grip Lat Pulldown

Close Grip Lat Pulldown Muscles Worked

As the name suggests, the lat pulldown exercise primarily targets the latissimus dorsi muscles. But this exercise also requires the muscles of the upper back. Including the rhomboid, teres major, teres minor, and infraspinatus.

Along with these back muscles, the rotation of the arms activates the rear delts. And the arm-flexing action recruits the biceps.

Wide Grip Lat Pulldown Muscles Worked

Close Grip Lat Pulldown vs Wide Grip

Before we get into how to do a close grip lat pulldown, let me take a minute to 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 vs wide grip.

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Body Mechanics

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

With a wide grip lat pulldown, your upper arms pull out and back. At the bottom of the movement, your arms stick out to the sides when viewed from behind. But they’re almost in line with your body from the side.

On the other hand, a close grip lat pulldown pulls your arms in and forward. From the back, your arms are tucked in close to your body. But from the side, you can see that they extend out in front of your body.

close grip lat pulldown vs wide grip rear arm position

Both variations start with the cable directly overhead.

close grip lat pulldown vs wide grip rear arm position

But as you pull the handle down, the close grip pulls your arms in front of your body while the wide grip pulls your arms out and back.

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.

Muscle Activation

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

But 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.

Wide Grip Lat Pulldown Lean Back

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

How To Do A Close Grip Lat Pulldown

  1. Grasp the bar firmly with both hands
  2. Lock your knees under the pads to prevent your body from coming off the seat
  3. Start with your arms stretched straight above you, your back straight, and your chest out
  4. Pull the bar down towards your chest while keeping your elbows directly under your hands
  5. Bring the bar down past your chin and squeeze your lats at the bottom
  6. Control the bar as it ascends back to the starting point and let your lats stretch at the top

Close Grip Lat Pulldown Video

Close Grip Lat Pulldown Technique

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
  • Also, think about squeezing your lats to initiate the movement

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Close Grip Lat Pulldown Alternative At Home Or The Gym

If you work out at home, then you most likely don’t have access to a cable lat pulldown station. And some gyms don’t have this equipment either.

So I’m going to give you a few close grip lat pulldown alternatives you can do at home or at the gym.

Close Grip Pullup

A close grip pullup is a perfect substitute for a close grip lat 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. 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 a good addition to any home gym. They allow you to replicate a huge number of exercises including close grip lat pulldowns.

For this exercise, you’ll need to anchor the band to a sturdy object directly overhead. Then kneel down 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 referred to as a reverse grip or simply an underhand grip. With this hand position, you can do a close grip lat pulldown using a standard pulldown bar.

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 Lat 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 has some differences compared to a bar and cable, it’s a good alternative. And it’s something you may want to include in your back workout just to change things up.

close grip wide grip lat pulldown machine

Conclusion

Even though a wide grip gets a little more lat activation, the close grip lat pulldown puts your arms in a stronger position, and you can generally pull more weight. So it’s a great addition to your back workout.

In fact, you could include both grip widths in your workout. Or alternate between them from week to week to hit your lats from every angle.

For more exercise tips and workout ideas, check out my related articles below!

How to Build Chest Muscle

A big chest doesn’t have to be the stuff of mythology and fantasy.  Unless you’ve been dealt a very unlucky hand genetically, you can build a big chest too!  Chances are you simply haven’t structured your training for maximum growth.  In this article you will learn how to build chest muscle with a killer chest workout designed for optimal growth.

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