Standing Lat Pulldown 101 Guide - Proper Form & Technique

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Published by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: December 28, 2023
FACT CHECKED by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
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Compared to traditional lat pulldown exercises, standing lat pulldown is a variation that works for your muscle groups from a slightly different angle and requires more core movement.

So, it's an excellent exercise for those who want to strengthen not only their lats but their shoulder and core muscles as well!

And if you want to get more performance out of every workout, I recommend taking High-Quality Pre-Workouts for Men and High-Quality Pre-Workouts for Women.

To help you perform this workout properly and reap the best results, I’ve gathered here everything you need. Here we go.

Quick Summary

  • The standing lat pulldowns variation exercises include kneeling lat pulldown, single arm lat pulldown, and straight arm lat pulldown.
  • All lat pulldown workouts work on these muscles; latissimus dorsi, arm muscles, and core muscles.
  • According to a study by the National Institutes of Health, strong latissimus dorsi muscles are essential for sports involving throwing and lifting, underscoring the importance of this exercise.
  • Personally, I find that incorporating standing lat pulldowns into a regular fitness routine significantly improves posture and upper body aesthetics.

Standing Lat Pulldown Muscles Worked

shirtless man flexing his back muscles

Primary Muscle

Latissimus dorsi - Drawing from my experience, the standing lat pulldown exercise is a game-changer for the lats. I've found that it significantly enhances our performance in pulling activities, including pulldowns and rowing workouts, making it a staple in our routine.

Based on a study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the latissimus dorsi is also essential for daily activities such as opening your car door, pulling your home front door, and lifting weights [1].

Secondary Muscles

Arm muscles  - While the standing lat pulldown primarily works on the lats, it also works the arm muscles such as the biceps and triceps. Strong arms help you perform training exercises with ease.

Core muscles - The core muscles are the deep abdominal and back muscles that connect to the spine or pelvis.  Standing lat pulldown works your abs and helps strengthen your core, reducing the risk for various health problems and increasing athletic performance.

Standing Lat Pulldown Benefits

This variation is one of the best isolation workouts for your lats.

Here are other results you can gain from lat pulldowns:

Builds Stronger and Bulkier Lats

shirtless man showing his back with his lats highlighted

My team discovered through using this exercise that strong lats are not just about aesthetics; they play a crucial role in protecting and stabilizing the spine, and bolstering shoulder and back muscle strength.

Based on a study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), strong lats, which are part of your back muscles, are crucial for sports involving throwing and lifting. This is because these muscles are responsible for movements such as pull-ups and chin-ups, which are compound exercises that involve multiple muscle groups working in tandem [2].

It is also important for performing daily activities such as opening your car door, pulling your home front door, and lifting weights

Improves posture

If you sit for long hours in the chair or drive for long hours, your upper body, lower back, and deep core muscles are underutilized. Standing lat pulldown is a great way to activate these muscles and correct bad posture.

Enhances Aesthetics

woman in a gym showing off her abs

Standing lat pulldown is also a great exercise for developing your physique.

If your goal is to develop a physique with broad shoulders, a bulkier chest, and rock-hard arms or to burn more fat, standing lat pulldown does the work!

Improves posture

If you sit for long hours in the chair or drive for long hours, your upper body, lower back, and core muscles are underutilized. Standing lat pulldown is a great way to activate these muscles and correct bad posture.

How to Do The Standing Lat Pulldown

man working out his lats at the gym

Reap the best possible results from this variation by doing it in proper form.

Equipment

To perform the this exercise, you will need a cable machine and a straight bar or at least a cable attachment. Look for a lat pulldown machine for best results.

Set-up

  1. Stand in front of a machine with feet shoulder width grip apart.
  2. Grasp the bar with your palms shoulder width apart facing away from you and arms straight.
  3. Put one foot up on the edge of the seat, and lean back slightly with your other foot planted firmly on the floor.

Action

  1. Brace your core, contract your back muscles to pull the straight bar until it reaches the tip of your rib cage.
  2. Pause for a count or two, squeeze your lats, and slowly return to the starting position.
  3. Maintain your core’s tightness and repeat!

Recommendation

Perform 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps of lat pulldowns. Adjust the number of sets and reps as you get more comfortable challenging yourself.

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Standing Lat Pulldown Common Mistakes

woman frustrated using a lat machine

These are common mistakes you would like to avoid when performing this workout:

Arching your Back

There is a tendency for weightlifters to arch their backs when pulling the bar.

While leaning back does more work on your lats, it also creates unnecessary tension on your spine.

So, make sure you keep your back straight as much as possible when performing the workout exercise. It also applies for other exercises like the straight arm lat pulldown.

Using Arms Too Much

shirtless man using a lat machine

It’s a common mistake for those performing exercises like straight arm lat pulldown to use their arms way too much when pulling the bar.

While straight arm lat pulldown motion does activate the arm muscles, it primarily targets the upper and back muscles.

Instead of using your smaller arm muscles, try drawing back your shoulder blades and contract your lats when pulling the bar down.

Using Momentum

Because you are doing this workout in a standing position, there is a tendency to add extra weight and use your upper body weight to pull the bar.

It is a wasted movement because it does not target the back muscles.

To avoid this mistake, try to decrease the weight on your upper body and focus the contraction on your back muscles.

Other similar exercises:

Standing Lat Pulldown Variations

Here are different kinds of lat pulldown variation you can try that are a great addition to your back exercises:

Kneeling Lat Pulldown

Kneeling Lat Pulldown
  1. Assume a straight standing position and set the bar at a high level.
  2. Pull the bar with an overhand grip at shoulder-width with your arms straight.
  3. Maintain your torso straight. Pull the bar down until it reaches your chest.
  4. Pause for a count or two, then slowly return to the starting posture, and repeat.

Single Arm Lat Pulldown

single arm lat pulldown
  1. Stand in front of an adjustable cable machine
  2. Grip the handle with your palm facing in, your torso fully erect, your arm fully extended and chest out.
  3. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, inhale and pull the handle to your upper chest. Pause for a count or two. 
  4. Exhale and slowly release the bar back to starting position and repeat.

Straight Arm Lat Pulldown

Straight Arm Lat Pulldown

Straight arm pulldown variation is a great exercise to activate your lats in greater range of motion and reduce the work on your biceps.

    1. Adjust the height of your bar to shoulder level.
    2. Stand at an adjustable cable machine with your feet shoulder width apart.
    3. Grab the bar with an overhand grip about shoulder distance, knees slightly bent, and arms straight.
    4. Exhale, squeeze your lats, and pull the bar down to your thighs.
    5. Inhale, then slowly return to the starting position and repeat!

Standing Lat Pulldown Alternatives

Here are some exercise alternatives that do the job of strengthening your lats, core, and arm muscles.

Dumbbell Bent Over Row

Dumbbell Bent Over Row

Stand with legs about shoulder-width apart and knees bent slightly.

Hold a dumbbell in each hand and your palms facing the body.

Exhale and lift the weights straight up. Make sure your arms are not higher than parallel with the shoulders.

Inhale and slowly lower the weights.

Decline Dumbbell Pullovers

Decline Dumbbell Pullovers

Lie comfortably on a declined bench.

Hold a single dumbbell between your hands right above your chest.

Go all the way behind over your head, contract the lats.

Slowly pull back to the starting position and repeat!

Wide Grip Pull Up

Wide Grip Pull Up

Pull-ups are also great in building your lats and shoulder blades.

Grab the bar with each hand at hip width grip.

Look straight ahead and pull your body upwards towards the bar.

Pause for a count or two, then lower yourself back down to the starting position and repeat


References:

  1. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4889643/
  2. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3981267/
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About The Author

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
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
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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