When’s the last time you worked your back muscles? Pulldown exercises are just right for building a strong back, and resistance band lat pulldowns are great to start with.
In this article, we’ll go through everything you need to know to get started with lat pulls with bands. In addition to the standard banded lat pulldown, we’ll share with you different lat exercises with bands too. Read on!
In This Article:
What Muscles Do Lat Pulldowns Work?
This exercise works primarily the latissimus dorsi muscles, the largest muscle group of the back. Broad and flat, these muscles are in the lower and mid-back.
They serve multiple functions, including contributing to back and shoulder movements, reinforcing posture, rotating the trunk, and stabilizing your back.
Well-developed latissimus dorsi muscles give your upper body a broad and tapering V look. The effect creates the illusion of a narrow waist.
Resistance band lat pulldowns can also work your upper back muscles, deltoids, abs, forearms, and biceps.
Banded Lat Pulldown Benefits
There’s more than one reason to try out this exercise.
Strengthen and define latissimus dorsi muscles
Resistance band lat pulldowns increase resistance as you pull downward. The lat muscles are stimulated the most toward the end of the exercise. According to a study, focusing on performing this exercise with your back muscles over the arms activates your latissimus dorsi muscles more.
Incorporating the exercise into your weekly strength training workout can help you build a stronger back. More than the visual candy, a strong back can improve your athletic performance. It can also make other strength training easier.
Improve your posture
Are you sitting or driving a lot? Sitting makes the shoulders slouch and increases tension in the back. The trouble is that regular strength workouts may not work your back muscles effectively enough. So even if you train several times a week, you may still have a bad posture.
That’s where lat exercises with bands come in. Lats play a key role in posture. By strengthening and growing your lats, these exercises can improve your posture like few other exercises can.
Reduce back pain
According to research, planks, chest presses, and other core stabilization exercises alone may be ineffective in alleviating lower back pain. Resistance band pulldowns can show better results, especially when combined with lower trapezius exercises.
How to Do Resistance Band Lat Pulldowns
You can do banded lat pulldowns at home. You’ll need a resistance band. A band with resistance handles often makes the exercise easier for beginners. But you can also do it with bands without handles without too much trouble.
Depending on the bands you use, you’ll also need an elevated hook and a door frame or another stable structure to fix it on.
Once you’ve set up the bands, here’s how to do a lat pulldown step by step:
1. Kneel or sit on the floor facing the door or feature to which you fixed the bands. Your arms should be at shoulder width. Note: Resistance band seated lat pulldowns can be more challenging than ones you do kneeling since you have to do more pulling.
2. Extend your arms and grab one end of the band in each hand. If the band has handles, grab the handles. Either way, your palms should be facing forward. Keep both arms straight.
3. Engage your core and back, and slightly bend forward.
4. Pull down the band with both hands at the same time until it reaches your upper chest. Your shoulder blades should go down during the movement.
5. Pause for a moment at the end of the movement and squeeze your lat muscles. Remember: you’re working your back muscles, not your arms. Maintain proper form!
6. Return your arms to the starting position. Do it slowly and gradually, without rushing the movement. And with that, you’ve completed a rep.
How Many Lat Pulldowns Should I Do?
Just starting out with lat pulldowns? You can do 3 sets of 10 reps twice a week. It’s better to focus on proper form and do them slowly than rush the exercise. You can gradually increase the reps and sets up to 4 sets of 15 reps twice a week.
Important: Performing fewer reps correctly is better than doing more in a rush.
Variations of Banded Lat Pulldowns
You can use different types of resistance bands for lat pulldowns at home. You can choose between power bands, loop bands, tube resistance bands, door bands, and more. How much resistance you get from your band will influence the difficulty of the exercise. So, factor that in.
Straight arm lat pulldowns
When doing a band straight arm pulldown, you start at shoulder level.
1. Stand with your feet under your shoulders.
2. Grasp the ends of the band with an overhand grip.
3. Fully extend your arms.
4. Slightly lean forward, bending your knees a little.
5. Engage your lat muscles and pull the band down. Make sure to keep your arms extended.
6. At the end of the movement, pause for a moment and squeeze your lats again.
7. Slowly return to the starting position, keeping your core engaged. And with that, you’ve completed a rep.
One hand large loop band lat pulldowns
Here’s another effective variation of this exercise.
1. Bend one knee to enter a staggered stance.
2. Extend your arm and grip the loop band with one arm using an overhand grip.
3. Engage your abs and push your chest forward. Keep your shoulders and hips square.
4. Drive the band so that it’s stretched and your elbow is behind the back. Avoid rotating the arm.
5. Return to the initial position slowly to complete a rep.
6. Do all reps for one hand and then switch to the other.
Lying lat pulldowns
For this variation, you can fix the end of the resistance bands on the lower door frame, just above the floor. Then lay a mat on the floor behind the door.
1. Lie down on the mat facing the door. You should be a few feet away from the door so that the bands are stretched in the starting position.
2. Begin with arms spread wide, palms touching the floor, and shoulders down. Keep your grip relaxed.
3. Pull your elbows down and around behind your back.
4. Slowly return to the starting position, lengthening the muscle.
Tip: You can put a pillow on your chest.
Should you go for narrow grip pulldowns, neutral grip pulldowns, or wide grip pulldowns with resistance bands? Which grip is best for lat pulldowns?
The width of the grip may influence the muscles you work out during the exercise. The longstanding belief in the bodybuilding world is that wide grip resistance band lat pulldowns work primarily your lat muscles. And that a close grip works more of the secondary muscles.
However, a 2014 study casts doubt on this belief. It suggests that you could work your biceps more with medium grip resistance band lat pulldowns.
Lat Pulldown Alternatives
Don’t have a resistance band? No problem, you can still work your back muscles with alternative exercises. For these, you’ll need dumbbells or a kettlebell.
One hand kettlebell back rise
Grip the kettlebell with one hand and bend at the waist. Your back should be parallel to the ground. Keeping your arm straight, bring the kettlebell back on a diagonal path, contracting your lat muscles. Your palm should face back. Pause at the end of the movement and return slowly to the starting position. That’s one rep.
Straight arm dumbbell pullover
In addition to a dumbbell, you’ll also need a mat for this one. Lie on the mat on your back and grab a dumbbell in each hand. Bend your knees. Your feet should lie flat on the ground. Extend both arms at the same time up and over your chest. Don’t rush. Bring your arms back so that the dumbells touch the ground, and squeeze your lat muscles to complete a rep.
Banded Lat Pulldown Mistakes
This exercise can be challenging for a beginner, so it’s important to watch out for common mistakes.
- Doing many partial reps. Focus on quality over quantity. It’s resistance at the end of the movement that often works your lats the most. Skip that part, and you’re not working out your muscles properly.
- Turning it into an arm exercise. As you pull the band down, squeeze your lats and bring your elbows down. You want to work your lats, not your arm muscles.
- Swinging your chest and back. It means you’re using momentum and rushing the exercise. Slow down.
- Not keeping your back straight. Engage your core and your back muscles to keep yourself straight.
Safety and Precautions
Keep the following tips in mind to avoid injuries and accidents.
- Warm up before you exercise.
- Don’t use a band that’s too tough. The band you use should provide enough resistance to be challenging without exhausting you after a few reps.
- Fix the bands firmly in place and test their resistance before exercising.
- Grip the bands firmly so that they won’t slip from your grip.
- Don’t suddenly release the bands.
- Doing too many reps too soon increases the risk for injury. Start slow and steady.
- When performing lying pulldowns behind a door, make sure it’s closed.
- If you experience pain while exercising, stop immediately.
In the end, here are the key things to remember:
- When done right, resistance band pulldowns work your lat muscles, the biggest back muscles.
- What is better – lat pulldowns or pull-ups? Lat pulldowns are great for beginners and easier than pulldowns. They can help you build the strength for doing pull-ups at the gym.
- Pulldowns can help you build a stronger V-tapering back, improve posture, and alleviate back pain.
- You can use different resistance bands for at-home setups.
If you’ve never done resistance band pulldowns, now’s a good time to try them. Your back will love them!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I do a lat pulldown without a machine?
Absolutely! There are several effective ways to train your lats without a machine:
- Resistance bands: Anchor a resistance band to a high point like a doorframe or pull-up bar and perform “banded pulldowns” similar to the machine exercise.
- Bodyweight exercises: Pull-ups and chin-ups directly target your lats and require no equipment. Start with assisted versions if needed.
- Free weights: Barbell rows, dumbbell rows, and seated cable rows work your lats with different variations and angles.
What is the home equivalent of a lat pulldown?
The closest equivalent depends on your available equipment:
- Resistance bands: Offer the most similar pulling motion and adjustability in resistance.
- Pull-up bar: Allows pull-ups and chin-ups for a challenging and effective lat workout.
- Dumbbells or barbell: Offer different variations like rows, targeting your lats from various angles.
How to do a lat pulldown with dumbbells?
Here’s a basic dumbbell row variation:
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand, feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and hinge at the hips.
- Keep your back straight and core engaged.
- Row the dumbbells towards your torso, squeezing your shoulder blades together.
- Lower the weights slowly with control.
- Repeat for desired reps and sets.
What is the alternative to the lat pulldown?
Several exercises effectively target your lats as alternatives:
- Pull-ups and chin-ups: Compound exercises engaging various back muscles, including lats.
- Barbell rows and dumbbell rows: Provide different grip variations and angles for a dynamic workout.
- Seated cable rows: Similar motion to the machine pulldown but require access to a cable machine.
Is the lat pulldown good or bad?
Lat pulldowns can be a valuable exercise for building back strength and muscle, but they’re not the only option. Here’s a balanced view:
- Targeted lat activation.
- Adjustable weight for progressive overload.
- Easy to use with proper form.
- Requires access to a gym with the machine.
- Limited movement pattern compared to free weights.
- Can lead to muscle imbalances if not combined with other back exercises.
Ultimately, the “goodness” depends on your goals and preferences. If you enjoy lat pulldowns and have access to the machine, they can be a part of your workout routine. However, consider exploring alternative exercises for a more holistic approach to back training.
- Iversen, V.M., Mork, P.J., Vasseljen, O., Bergquist, R. and Fimland, M.S., 2017. Multiple-joint exercises using elastic resistance bands vs. conventional resistance-training equipment: A cross-over study. European journal of sport science, 17(8), pp.973-982.
- Ronai, P., 2019. The Lat Pulldown. ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal, 23(2), pp.24-30.
- Sperandei, S., Barros, M.A., Silveira-Júnior, P.C. and Oliveira, C.G., 2009. Electromyographic analysis of three different types of lat pull-down. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 23(7), pp.2033-2038.
- Andersen, V., Fimland, M.S., Wiik, E., Skoglund, A. and Saeterbakken, A.H., 2014. Effects of grip width on muscle strength and activation in the lat pull-down. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 28(4), pp.1135-1142.
- Page, P. and Ellenbecker, T.S., 2019. Strength band training. Human Kinetics Publishers.