Wide Grip Lat Pulldown

Learn proper form and see variations and alternative exercises.

The wide grip lat pulldown is one of the best exercises for building your back. But all too often, I see men and women at the gym doing it wrong!

When done incorrectly, you won’t get the desired results from this exercise. Worse yet, you could end up hurting yourself.

In this article, I’m going to show you how to do a wide grip lat pulldown correctly. Including videos, detailed pictures, and some alternative exercises you can do at home.

With this information, you’ll get more from every rep. And you’ll build a bigger, stronger back in less time.

Wide Grip Lat Pulldown

Wide Grip Lat Pulldown Muscles Worked

As the name suggests, the lat pulldown exercise primarily targets the latissimus dorsi muscle. Performing this exercise with a wide grip also requires the muscles of the upper back. Including the rhomboid, teres major, teres minor, and infraspinatus.

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

Wide Grip Lat Pulldown Muscles Worked

3 Wide Grip Lat Pulldown Mistakes

Before we get into proper form, here are the most common mistakes I see people making with this exercise.

  • 1. Don’t Pull Down Away From Your Body

    In this scenario, you end up pulling the bar out several inches away from the front of your chest. When you do this, your hands go in front of your elbows and it becomes more like a lat pullover.

    While it still targets the back, you aren’t putting yourself in a stable and strong position to overload the lats. In addition, your arms are less externally rotated, so you don’t involve as much upper back and rhomboid.

Wide Grip Lat Pulldown Mistake
  • 2. Don’t Lean Too Far Back

    Another common mistake is an excessive backward lean. This usually means you’re seated too far forward or trying to lift too much weight.

    Yes, you can do more weight when you lean back. But that’s because you start to involve the muscles of the inner back. Such as the spinal erectors and lower trapezius. Basically, you turn it into a row.

    In doing so, you also take the load off the lats, which defeats the purpose of the exercise.

Wide Grip Lat Pulldown Lean Back
  • 3. Don’t Use Body Momentum

    This last mistake is actually most common among experienced lifters trying to add even more weight to their lat pulldown. In addition to leaning back too far, they start using momentum to get the weight moving.

    This is using your body weight to begin the movement instead of only the target muscle. It allows you to move significantly more weight, but you actually reduce the load on the lats.

Wide Grip Lat Pulldown Proper Form

Now that you know what not to do, here are some tips to set yourself up for proper form on the wide grip lat pulldown.

  • 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
Wide Grip Lat Pulldown Starting Position

How To Do A Wide Grip Lat Pulldown

  1. Grab the bar with an overhand grip and your hands 1.5-2x shoulder-width
  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 you let it ascend back to the starting point and let your lats stretch at the top

Wide Grip Lat Pulldown Video

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Wide Grip Lat Pulldown Behind The Neck

Another way you might see the lat pulldown performed is behind the neck. This is a good way to eliminate momentum and get more activation from the rhomboids and upper back muscles.

Some people advise against the behind the neck pulldown. They say there is no benefit and that it increases the chance of injury due to the forward position. But this simply isn’t true! As long as you do them properly.

Behind the neck wide grip lat pulldowns demonstrated by Dylan Kosek of Flight Physiques.

The key to doing behind the neck pulldowns safely and effectively is to position your body so the pulley is directly over your back. Then you don’t have to bend your head forward or over-rotate your shoulders and arms.

Depending on your lat pulldown station, you may be able to do this by sliding all the way forward up to the pad. But on some equipment, you’re better off facing backward on the seat.

For this variation, I recommend using lighter weight since you reduce momentum and shift the load onto the smaller muscles of the upper back. Training these muscles helps balance your back and chest to alleviate upper cross syndrome.

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Wide 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 wide grip lat pulldown alternatives you can do at home or at the gym.

Wide Grip Pullup

A wide grip pullup is a perfect substitute for a wide 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. Or make do with whatever you have. During quarantine, I used a barbell and weight bench to do a modified pull-up as a substitute for wide grip lat pulldowns.

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

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Banded Wide Grip Lat Pulldown

Resistance bands are a good addition to any home gym. They allow you to replicate a huge number of exercises including wide grip lat pulldowns.

For this exercise, you’ll need to anchor the band somewhere above head level. Then kneel down and lean forward before pulling the bands down and back.

More Resistance Band Back Exercises

Wide Grip Lat Pulldown Machine

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

While the wide grip lat pulldown 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.

Wide Grip Lat Pulldown Machine


The wide grip lat pulldown is a superb exercise once you get the technique down. For this reason, it should be a staple in your back day workout routine.

But you can also change it up by going behind the neck or by using one of the other variations. In addition, you can alternate with the close grip lat pulldown to hit your lats from every angle.

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

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