Close Grip Lat Pulldown 101 Guide - Proper Form & Benefits

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Published by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: June 21, 2024
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In the realm of strength training and muscle sculpting, the Close Grip Lat Pulldown stands out as a pivotal exercise for targeting the latissimus dorsi muscles.

As a seasoned fitness coach, I've seen firsthand the profound impact this exercise has on enhancing back strength and improving upper body aesthetics.

In this guide, I'll walk you through the nuances of proper form and the multifaceted benefits of the Close Grip Lat Pulldown, helping you to integrate this effective movement into your workout regimen for optimal results.

Let's dive into the mechanics and advantages of mastering this key exercise.

Quick Summary

  • To perform the close grip lat pulldown, sit facing the cable machine, secure your legs, grasp the attachment with your palms facing, pull down to chest level, and slowly release.
  • The Close Grip Lat Pulldown offers variations like reverse, supinated, and alternating handle pulldowns, each targeting the back muscles differently.
  • According to the National Institute of Health, exercises like the Close Grip Lat Pulldown can improve lower-mid back strength more quickly due to their increased range of motion.
  • Personally, I believe the Close Grip Lat Pulldown is a versatile and effective exercise for developing back strength and improving posture, making it a valuable addition to any fitness routine.

How To Do The Close Grip Lat Pulldown

Close Grip Lat Pulldown

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

As a trainer, I recommend performing 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps for the close grip lat pulldown.

For those focusing on strength training, it's effective to start with a lower weight and gradually increase it.

Aim to reach a weight where you're challenged just before completing the final reps of each set, establishing a solid foundation for progressive strength gains.

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 PulldownReverse 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 pulldownSupinated 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 PulldownAlternating 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, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH), improves the benefits you'll see and will enable you to increase your lower-mid back strength more quickly [1].

Increased Grip Strength

The close grip variation of the lat pulldown also works the forearms and improves grip strength, which is beneficial for other lifts and daily activities.

Better Posture

According to the NIH, shoulder and back muscle exercises have a solid link to improved posture [2].

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

Enhanced Core Engagement

The close grip variation requires significant core stabilization, thereby indirectly working the abdominal muscles, which contributes to a stronger core.

FAQs

What Is the Difference Between a Close-Grip Pulldown and a Neutral Grip Pulldown?

The close-grip pulldown primarily targets the latissimus dorsi with a narrower grip, enhancing back width, while the neutral grip pulldown engages both lats and biceps more evenly, offering a balanced upper body workout with less shoulder strain.

How Do You Close a Lat Pulldown?

To close a lat pulldown, gradually release the bar by extending your arms upwards, ensuring controlled movement to avoid injury, then carefully re-rack the bar and disengage from the machine, maintaining good posture throughout the process.

Does Close Grip Work Lower Lats?

Yes, close grip exercises primarily target the lower lats, effectively engaging and strengthening this area by focusing the muscle contraction in the lower part of the latissimus dorsi during pulling movements.

References:

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

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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