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Close Grip Lat Pulldown
Proper Form, Benefits, & Alternatives

Last updated: April 25, 2021

If you are trying to build your back, doing close grip lat pulldowns can help. This is an exercise that should be a staple in every back or posterior training day.

How To Do The Close Grip Lat Pulldown

man using a cable machine in a gym

To execute this exercise correctly, you will need access to a cable machine with a close grip attachment.

Preparation

  1. Sit on the lat pulldown bench facing the cable machine
  2. Get comfortable securing your legs under the knee pads
  3. Reach up with both hands palms facing and take hold of the close grip attachment

Execution

  1. Tighten your core, lean slightly back, and bring your shoulder blades down and back, pulling the attachment until it is level with your chest
  2. Pause at the bottom of the rep and squeeze with your lats, then slowly return to the starting position
  3. Keep your core tight and feel the burn the squeeze in your lats every time

Repetition

It would be best to do around 3-4 sets of about 10-12 reps for the close grip lat pulldown. If strength training, start low and build until you max out before the required reps to find a good base.

Common Mistakes

close up image of a man's back while using a lat machine

Going Too Low

As we mentioned above, the ideal place to stop your rep is level with your chest. I've seen people down the gym taking the close grip pull to their waist.

Once you go past the chest, the stress switches from your back to your shoulders, diminishing the workout's effect. Less is more, focus on squeezing your lats at chest level instead and holding it, it's hard to explain, but you'll feel it when it's right.

Using Your Arms

This exercise is designed to work your lats (latissimus dorsi) or lower mid-back muscles. It's impossible not to use your arms as they're an essential part of the exercise, but their role should always be secondary, and you should feel the burn in your back.

It takes practice, but when you've perfected your form, you'll know the difference, go slow, go steady, and you'll get it.

Using Gravity And Momentum

I see all of the common mistakes with the close grip lat pulldown at the gym stem from taking too much weight or going too fast.

Form and finesse are crucial to perfecting this back exercise, and you should stay slow and centered. Try to move your back as little as possible during your pulldown to maximize the workout.

Close Grip Lat Pulldown Variations

man working out using a machine at a gym

Reverse Close Grip Lat Pulldown

The starting position is the same, just facing the opposite direction. Reach up with your palms facing and pull the weight down to chest level and feel the squeeze before slowly bringing it back up.

This exercise's reverse variation requires a great deal more core stability and strength than the standard lat pull. Only try this once you've mastered the basics.

Supinated Lat Pulldown

The supinated lat pulldown brings the biceps into the workout more than the traditional form. Face into the machine, knees secure, and core tight, reach up with your palms facing you and hands shoulder-width apart to pull the bar down to just above your rib cage.

Pause at the bottom, squeeze those lats, then gently return to the starting position.

Alternating Handle Lat Pulldown

If you prefer to work your lats or arms unilaterally, you can also try the alternating handle lat pulldown. Sit down facing the machine, lock your knees into the guard, lean back and keep your core tight.

Reach up with both arms grabbing the handles with your palms facing forward. Slowly bring the right hand down and then return to the top, followed by the left hand.

Muscles Worked By The Close Grip Lat Pulldown

The latissimus dorsi is the broadest muscle in the back and the focus of lat pulldown, and the lower mid back should bear the brunt of the burn.

That said, the exercise also incorporates the core in stabilization and the shoulders, biceps, and upper back in the pulldown.

Benefits Of The Close Grip Lat Pulldown

shirtless man with tattoos flexing his back muscles

Back Strength

The close grip lat pull offers an increased range of motion compared to the traditional form. It allows you to bring the weight down further and maximize the exercise.

This, in turn, improves the benefits you'll see and will enable you to increase your lower-mid back strength more quickly. [1]

Better Posture

Shoulder and back muscle exercises have a solid link to improved posture. [2]

This is likely because stronger muscles mean it's easier even to subconsciously resist the urge to allow your shoulders to roll or hunch.

Can You Do The Close Grip Lat Pulldown? Yes, You Can.

Personally, out of all the exercises designed to work the lat muscle, this pull is my favorite.

This is primarily due to the increased mobility and maximized effect of the grip mentioned above.

It means the muscle is worked harder, and you feel the burn more and the improvement quicker.

Give it a try for yourself, and let us know how you get on.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24662157/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4499985/

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