Lat Pull-Down Alternatives

By Lisa M. Wolfe

The lat pull-down is a back-strengthening exercise that uses a long bar attached to the end of a cable connected to a weight stack. You sit, hold the bar with a wide grip and pull the bar to your upper-chest. This exercise targets the latissimus dorsi, which is the largest muscle in your back. An effective strengthening exercise, the lat pull-down machine is not always available, so having alternatives in your fitness toolbox is a good idea.

Mimic the Pull-Down

Pullups mimic lat pull-downs, only instead of moving the bar, you move your body. You can begin with an assisted pullup machine until you can perform pullups using your body weight. You can also modify pullups on an overhead bar by placing your feet on a chair for assistance. A resistance band pull-down also mimics the lat pull-down machine. Select a band that is flat or rounded with handles. Tie the middle of the band to an overhead bar or place the band through a door anchor. Face the band. Stand or kneel and take one end of the band in each hand. Hold the handles with your palms down, arms straight and hands higher than your head. Stand or kneel so that you have slight tension in the band. Lean forward slightly as you exhale, bend your elbows and pull down on the band until your elbows reach your sides.

Substitute the Pull-Down

There are also other exercises that target the same muscles as the lat pull-down. The first, straight-arm lat push-downs, uses the lat pull-down bar. Stand approximately two feet from the bar and grasp the bend of the bar with your palms down, your arms straight and your hands higher than your head. Keep your arms straight, but do not lock your elbows as you exhale and push down the bar to the tops of your thighs. The second exercise is dumbbell rows. Stand next to a flat weight bench. Bend your left knee and rest your knee and your shin on the bench. Lean forward until your back is straight and place your left hand on the bench with your fingers hanging off the side. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand. Straighten your right arm so it is hanging directly below your right shoulder. Position your palm toward the bench. Exhale, bend your right elbow and raise the dumbbell toward your right hip. Keep your elbow close to your body as you lift the weight.

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