Wide Grip Pulldown Best Guide – Benefits, Technique, Mistakes, Muscles Worked and Variations

This extensive guide will teach you everything you need to know about the useful and effective Wide Grip Pulldown exercise.

What is the Wide Grip Pulldown?

The Wide Grip Pulldown is a popular cable pulling exercise that strengthens and improves the back.

What Muscles Does the Wide Grip Pulldown Work?

The primary muscle group that the exercise targets are the latissimus dorsi, or lats as they are more commonly known.

These play an important role in almost all pulling exercises such as the Barbell Row or Pull Ups.

They also help to support and balance the spine and improve posture.

Man in garage gym on cable machine
©Serjan Midili

Beyond the lats, the exercise secondarily works all of the following:

  • Grip
  • Forearms
  • Biceps
  • Shoulders
  • Upper Back
  • Rhomboids
  • Core

Your abs and core must work hard to stabilise and control the weight throughout the full range of motion.

What are the Benefits of the Wide Grip Pulldown?

The exercise has many benefits for all types of different athletes and training disciplines and purposes.

Build Muscle

A staple during back day for many gym goers and bodybuilders, the exercise is a great way to build muscle and mass for the lats and other muscles outlined above.

The movement works the outer part of the lats more than the traditional Lat Pulldown.

Enhance Strength

The Wide Grip Pulldown is an excellent way to develop better pulling strength which translates into general overall strength for the body.

The variation of the grip also creates less tension for the forearms and grip, resulting in more tension (and more gains) for the lats themselves.

Functional Strength for Other Sports

The combination of the above two points will result in more muscle and strength that can be used and trained for other activities and sports such as rock climbing or kayaking.

rope climb
A strong back ©Luis Lopes

Even simple actions like putting up a tent will be easier with a stronger back.

Improved Posture

The positioning of the movement forces the body to adopt a straight spine and proud chest with the shoulders pulled back and down.

This counteracts poor posture (head drooped forwards, back arched, shoulders slumped) and helps the body to grease the groove for decent body posture.

If you spend hours every on a computer then the Wide Grip Pulldown is an excellent way to counteract the negative effects that this will have on your body.

A V-Shaped Torso

If aesthetics is your thing, then this exercise is a perfect way to build the classic V-shaped torso.

It builds a wider back by adding muscle mass.

How to Do the Wide Grip Pulldown

Use these instructions to perform the exercise correctly. Use a wide grip attachment and clip it onto the cable.

  • Fix the pad so that it is comfortable for your body. Your thighs should fit snugly against it
  • Reach up and grasp the bar with a wide grip, further apart than shoulder width
  • Establish a straight spine and look forwards
  • Retract the shoulder blades back and down
  • Inhale and brace your core, grip and glutes
  • Pull the bar down until it touches your chest
  • Slowly return the bar to the starting position. Control the movement at all times
  • Exhale
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps

Technique Training Tips

Don’t lean back during the movement. Keep your back straight and your torso upright at all times.

Tense your core and abs to stop any hyperextension of the spine.

Woman in gym on cable machine performing Wide Grip Pulldown
Train hard ©Matthew Sichkraut

Never use momentum to shift the weight. The movement must be focused and confident at all times.

Never let the head jut forwards when you lift. If you feel this happening, try turning the head to one side then the other to alleviate the tension.

If your grip keeps failing and before you feel the full effect of the exercise on your lats, utilise a false grip (thumbs over the bar) or use straps.

At the top of the range of motion, when the arms are extended, allow the shoulders to internally rotate.

Don’t lock the shoulder blades down then more through the glenohumeral joint. The shoulder blades should move back and down the ribcage during the movement.

Wide Grip Lat Pulldown Common Mistakes

Improve your technique, maximise your gains and avoid injury by not making any of these mistakes.

Overuse of the Arms

The primary driver of this movement should be the lats and back. The biceps, shoulders and grip are extensions of the generation of force that the former produces.

Don’t solely use the arms to bring the weight down. This will minimise the overall results you will achieve with this exercise.

Leaning Too Far Back

Hyperextension of the spine is not a good position to be in during this movement.

Leaning too far back is a common error with the Wide Grip Pulldown. Again, this will reduce overall tension on the lats and lessen the strength and muscle building benefits of the exercise.

Using Momentum to Move the Weight

One of the other most common mistakes is using momentum.

This often happens when the weight is too heavy for the lifter. Momentum will effectively minimise hypertrophy so the muscles will not grow as well as they otherwise would.

The movement should be slow and controlled at all times if you want to gain muscle and strength.

Wide Grip Pulldown Variations

Use these variations if you want a similar movement with a slightly different stimulus.

Reverse Grip Pulldown

The Reverse Grip Pulldown (otherwise known as the Supinated Lat Pull Down) switches the grip into an underhand position.

Grab the bar with your palms facing upwards and your hands shoulder width apart. This will increase resistance for the biceps and forearms.  

Resistance Band Lat Pulldown

This is a perfect variation if you don’t have access to a cable machine.

Attach the resistance bands over a door or beam and sit on the floor.

Repeat the same movement as you would with the cable machine.

Alternating Lat Pulldown (With Handles)

This is a great way to perform the exercise unilaterally and get all the benefits of this type of training.

Use two separate handles and lift one arm at a time. Repeat the full rep with each arm before moving onto the next.

This will help you to identify and work on any strength and muscular imbalances (we all have them) and become a better, more rounded athlete.

Wide Grip Pulldown Alternatives

Keep your training fresh with these alternatives.

Wide Grip Pull Up

An effective bodyweight exercise, this will provide many benefits for your body.

Although the movement is very similar, it alters the training stimulus because you must pull your body through space towards the bar.

With the Wide Grip Pulldown you pull the bar downwards towards your body.

These two can be tremendously effective when trained together in the same session or superset.

Wide Grip Seated Cable Row

Commonly performed using the close grip attachment, this alternative will hit the lats in a new and challenging way.

Barbell Row

Again, like the above two exercises, this mimics the same pulling movement, however it shifts the angle of the pull and the object of the weight itself.

If you want to build muscle mass and strength for your back then the Barbell Row is an excellent option.

FAQs

Still got questions? Scroll through to find the answers.

What’s the Difference between Wide Grip and Close Grip Lat Pulldowns?

With Wide Grip Pulldowns the upper arms pull out and back. When viewed from behind, at the bottom of the movement, they will flay out to the sides of the body.

They target the outer lats to a greater degree.

Close Grip Lat Pulldowns are performed with the arms and elbows much closer to the body.

They work the inner lats, biceps and forearms to a greater degree.

Lat Pulldown vs Pullups: Which is Better?

Both of these are incredible back and lat exercises.

The Pull Up is harder, and will take more time to progress towards properly.

The Wide Grip Pulldown is an effective tool to use to also build up the strict strength necessary for correctly performed Pull Ups.

Which Lat Pulldown is Best?

Reverse Grip (supinated) is best for developing the biceps at the same time as the lats.

Wide Grip Pulldown is best for the outer lats and for the lats in general.

Close Grip Pulldown is best for reducing the load on the lats whilst also building the shoulders, biceps, forearms and grip.

Does the Lat Pulldown build Biceps?

Yes, however the Reverse Grip Pulldown is a more effective way to achieve this goal.

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