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Many people complain of back pain and bad posture. One of the causes of these two issues is weak back muscles, which is why it’s important to perform different exercises for the back. One of the resistance training exercises that strengthen the back is the lat pulldown and a great variation of this exercise is the reverse grip lat pulldown.


Below we’ll look deeper into reverse grip pulldowns and we’ll cover the following:

  • Muscles involved in reverse grip pulldowns
  • Benefits associated with reverse grip pulldowns
  • How to properly do reverse grip pulldowns
  • Common mistakes when performing reverse grip pulldowns
  • Video on how to do reverse grip pulldowns
  • Back exercises to complete your back workout

What Muscles Do Reverse Grip Lat Pulldowns Work?

The reverse grip pulldown is a compound exercise that works multiple joints at the same time:

Primary Muscles

  • Latissimus dorsi: This is the largest muscle in the back that starts under the tail end of the trapezius and goes all the way down to the sacrum, and out onto the posterior iliac crest. It also has some fibers arising from the lower four ribs, and occasionally from the tip of the scapula. The lats are powerful adductors of the humerus and depressors of the scapula
  • Rhomboids:  Muscles located in the upper back in between the scapula. They support and draw the scapula superomedially, and rotate the glenoid cavity

Secondary Muscles

  • Biceps (biceps brachii): The muscle on the front of the arm or biceps brachii has 2 heads (short and long head)
  • Forearms: Located in the upper limbs between the elbows and the wrists. They help hold the weight
  • Erector Spinae (lower back): Set of muscles that run vertically along the side of the vertebral column, originating at the hip and extending up to the skull. These muscles help rotate and extend the spine and neck
  • Trapezius (large paired muscles that extend longitudinally from the posterior top of the neck to the middle of the back and laterally from one end of the scapula to the other end). They support the arm and retract, rotate, and depress the scapula
  • Deltoids: These muscles are part of the shoulders and are divided into the anterior, lateral, and posterior delts
reverse grip pulldowns

Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown Benefits

Now that you know what muscles reverse grip lat pulldowns work, let’s look into the benefits associated with the exercise:

  • Strength: Reverse Grip Lat pulldowns help strengthen your back.
  • Hypertrophy: They help you to get that awesome V-back. Besides increasing width in the upper back, lat pulldowns give you thickness. This variation hits the lower part of the lats a bit more.
  • Posture: Reverse Grip Lat pulldowns help correct that forward-head / rounded-back posture. Getting used to the movement helps train your body to bring down (depress) and pull together (adduct) the shoulder blades, giving you a straighter posture and a more confident figure.
  • Lower Back Stability: Strengthening the lats helps stabilize your back.
  • Improved Performance: This can help you perform other exercises such as deadlifts, squats, and even chest presses. It also can help with chin-ups.
  • Back Pain: Reverse Grip Lat pulldowns help you deal with and prevent back pain since back pain is commonly caused by an unstable lower back.

How to Do Reverse Lat Pulldowns

  • Approach the lat pulldown machine and make sure the knee pads are adjusted to a level that fits your height.
  • Grab the bar at a distance slightly closer than shoulder width, and hold the pulldown bar using a supinated or underhand grip so that the palms face your torso – not away from your body like in the traditional lat pulldown.
  • Bring your shoulders back and keep your chest tall.
  • Sit down with the bar in your hands so your arms are fully extended.
  • Move your upper back slightly backward, around 30 degrees, and keep a tall neutral spine.
  • Bringing your shoulder blades down and together, pull the bar down to your upper chest.
  • Keep your elbows pointed down and squeeze your lats.
  • After holding for a second or two, allow the bar to come up slowly in a controlled manner so your arms are completely extended – back to the starting position.
  • Repeat.
  • Perform 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions. 

Reverse Lat Pulldown Mistakes

You know how to perform reverse grip lat pulldowns with the correct form. Next, let’s look into the most common mistakes associated with the exercise:

  • Improper posture: Keeping the shoulders back and your lower back neutral allows you to perform the exercise correctly and gain all its benefits.
  • Pulling the bar behind the neck: People used to perform lat pulldowns behind the neck, which can cause injuries and avoid targeting the lats properly. You should always keep the bar in front of you.
  • Bringing the bar down below your chest, allowing the elbows to flare out: This removes the tension from the lats and causes the shoulders to come forward. Once you achieve maximum contraction, your elbows should remain close to the body
  • Using momentum: Bouncing removes lat engagement toward middle-back engagement. If you are using momentum to move the weight, you need to go lighter.
  • Grabbing the bar too wide: Grabbing the bar too wide doesn’t allow for a full range of motion and can irritate the shoulder joint. 

Reverse Lat Pulldown Video

Back Workout

You can also alternate between this exercise and the original lat pulldown – by switching the grip to the regular overhand grip. You can complete your back workout by performing the following exercises:

As you can see the reverse lat pulldown is a wonderful back exercise. It offers tremendous benefits associated with hypertrophy, strength, endurance, and aesthetics. Now that you know how to properly perform reverse lat pulldowns, you can avoid the most common mistakes and enjoy their benefits. Remember, whether you want to lose weight, tone your body, or gain strength or size, all muscles must be trained.

Lift, Burn more Fat, Get Stronger, and Live Healthier!

To a Fitter Healthier You,

Adriana Albritton

The Fitness Wellness Mentor

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