Straight Arm Lat Pulldown 101 Guide - Proper Form & Benefits

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Published by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: March 12, 2024
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If you have trouble feeling your back work on traditional lat pulldowns, then straight arm lat pulldown exercise is for you. It’s a fantastic isolation exercise to target your lats through a greater range of motion.

Check out our guide to the top lat pulldown machines for home gyms to find one that has durability, material, and functionality you'll love.

Here’s a quick rundown of everything you need to know on how you can perform straight arm pulldown to get that bulkier and stronger lats.

Quick Summary

  • Examples of straight-arm lat pulldown variation exercises are single-arm lat pulldown,  straight-arm band pulldown, and straight-arm pullover.
  • The benefits of straight arm lat pulldown include improved posture, improved mind-muscle connection, and they give biceps rest.
  • Perform 3-4 sets of 10-12 straight arm lat pulldowns, gradually increasing sets and reps for a greater challenge.
  • The most common mistakes most people make when performing lat pulldown workouts are bending arms, and performing partial reps.

Straight Arm Lat Pulldown Muscles Worked

Working muscles when performing straight arm lat pulldown

Primary Muscle

  • Latissimus dorsi

Straight arm lat pulldown exercise focuses the latissimus dorsi, a.k.a lats, on a longer period of time, which activates your upper and midback muscles more than other lat pulldowns. It helps form that head-turning V-taper.

Secondary Muscles

  • Teres Major

Teres major is a thick muscle in the upper arm. It is important for maintaining proper posture and swinging the arms.

  • Triceps

If you want to build bulkier arms, working on your triceps is the key, and the straight arm pulldown does just that.

  • Chest

Straight arm lat pulldown also engages the chest muscles. Working out your chest muscles increases your upper body strength and power for pushing and pulling heavy objects.

Straight Arm Pulldown Benefits

Straight arm pulldown variations are one of the best isolation workouts for your lats. Here are other results you can gain from this workout:

1. Increases mind-muscle connection

The mind-muscle connection is the conscious contraction of your muscles. It means an exercise is more effective the more you feel the contraction of your muscles [1]. This is also confirmed by the study published on the National Library of Medicine website [2].

With straight arm pulldown, the more you feel the contraction of your lats without other muscles getting in the way.

2. Improves posture

You will not only get broader and stronger lats but also better posture. Doing the exercise over time trains our body to be brought down and our shoulders to be brought together.

3. Gives the biceps rest

If your arms ever felt tired after back-to-back lat pulldowns, it could be that your biceps are too tired to do any more pulling-type movement.

Straight arm pulldowns involve little biceps activation, so you can give your biceps a rest and still focus on working your lats.

How to do Straight Arm Lat Pulldown

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



You will need a pulley system and a cable machine with a lat bar attachment to perform straight arm pulldown.


  1. Adjust the height of the bar to shoulder level.
  2. Stand at an adjustable cable machine with your feet at shoulder width.
  3. Hold the lat pulldown bar with an overhand grip.
  4. Keep your knees slightly bent and feet shoulder width apart.


  1. Exhale, squeeze your lats, and pulldown the straight arm bar down to your thighs.
  2. Keep your arms straight, elbows locked. Pause for a count or two.
  3. Inhale while slowly returning to the starting position and repeat!


Complete 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps of the straight arm lat pulldown. You may increase the number of sets and reps as you get comfortable to challenge yourself.

Straight Arm Pulldown Mistakes

Bending arms while doing straight lat pulldown

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

  • Bending Your Arms

If you bend your arms way too much, it puts more tension on your triceps than it should, and it becomes an arm exercise instead of a lats isolation exercise.

So, try to slightly bend your arms keeping it almost straight, and focus the contraction on your lats.

  • Not Utilizing Mind-Muscle Connection

Intensify your workout by visualizing lat contractions during each rep. Quality trumps quantity; focus on muscle activation for efficient, effective training.

Many gym persons go through the movement but don’t actually connect their minds to the muscles being worked. If you’re doing this, you are missing the great results of the whole exercise.

So, make sure to feel the lats being worked while doing the straight arm pulldown movement.

  • Completing Partial Reps

Partial pull-downs with heavy weights risk injury and reduce effectiveness. Full range is essential.

So, bring the straight arm bar way down your thighs and feel the contraction of your upper back muscles.

Straight Arm Pulldown Variations

Here are other kinds of back exercises you can perform similar to straight arm pulldown:

single arm lat pulldown1. Single Arm Lat Pulldown

  • Stand at an adjustable cable device with your feet.
  • Hold the handle with your palm facing in, your torso fully erect, and your arm fully extended.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together, inhale, and pull the handle to your upper chest. Pause for a count or two.
  • Exhale, release the handle back to its original position and repeat!

Straight Arm Band PulldownStraight Arm Band Pulldown

This is a home variation of a straight arm pulldown workout using a cable stack machine.

  • Stand with your knees slightly bent, your back flat, and your arms at shoulder height.
  • Pull down the band towards your body until it is parallel with your back while keeping a straight posture.
  • Bring your arms to the starting position and repeat!

straight arm pullover3. Straight Arm Pullover

  • Lie your back flat down on the bench, your legs bent, and your feet firm upon the surface.
  • With an overhand grip, grab a pair of dumbbells and extend your arms straight up above your chest.
  • Bring your arms back until the dumbbells touch the bench.
  • Restore the dumbbell back to the starting position and repeat!

Straight Arm Pulldown Alternatives

Alternatives for straight arm lat pulldown

Here are some alternatives you can also try for your back muscles exercises:

  • wide grip lat pulldownWide Grip Lat Pulldown

For effective back workouts, use a full-range lat pull-down. Grip wide, exhale on pull, and return slowly.


  • underhand-barbell-rowUnderhand Barbell Row

Lean at 45 degrees, underhand grip the barbell, and engage lats for each pull towards the belly. Repeat.


  • Alternating-Lat-PulldownAlternating Lat Pulldown

From my experience, alternating lat pulldowns effectively balance right and left back muscles. Using separate handles, focus on each side individually for balanced strength.


Are Straight Arm Lat Pulldowns Suitable for Beginners?

Yes, straight arm lat pulldowns can be suitable for beginners. It's important to start with a lighter weight to master the form and prevent injury.

Can I Substitute Traditional Lat Pulldowns with Straight Arm Variations?

No, you cannot substitute traditional lat pulldowns with straight arm variations because the latter primarily isolates lats, while traditional pulldowns engage both back and biceps for a more comprehensive workout.


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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.
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Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
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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.
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