Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown Exercise Guide — How to, Muscles Worked, & Alternatives

reverse grip lat pulldown

Using a reverse grip on lat pulldowns allows you to use heavier weights and place less stress on your shoulders. 

The lat pulldown is a superior workout for strengthening your back muscles, earning high praise from professional bodybuilders. Its versatility shines through the ability to target different muscles by simply adjusting from a wide to a narrow grip (1). Additionally, introducing a reverse grip offers another variation to diversify your exercise routine. The reverse grip variation of the lat pulldown exercise more effectively targets the middle back, allowing individuals to handle heavier weights. Additionally, it places greater emphasis on the arms.

This article delves into the reverse grip lat pulldown, highlighting its advantages and providing a detailed guide on executing this exercise for optimal results. Continue reading to discover alternative exercises that effectively target the back and complement the reverse grip lat pulldown.

Techniques & Muscles Worked

The reverse grip lat pulldown works on your lats, forearms, biceps, traps, and rhomboids. To perform this routine, you use an underhand grip on the lat pulldown machine, which biases the biceps. This grip brings your hands closer together, increasing your range of motion more than other variations of this routine. 

You use the lat pulldown machine to do them. Adjust the knee pads before starting the exercise to ensure a comfortable fit for your height. Then, follow the step-by-step guide below.

  1. Attach the wide bar to the top pulley and sit in the lat pulldown machine. 
  2. Grab the bar with an underhand grip (palms facing you) and sit down. Your arms should be shoulder-width distance apart and your chest out. This is your starting position.
  3. Bracing your core, pull your elbows down and back to bring the bar lower towards you.
  4. Pause when the bar gets past your chin and touches your upper chest.  
  5. To complete the rep, slowly return the bar to the starting position. Your torso should remain straight throughout the movement.
  6. Repeat for as many reps as you desire. 


It’s an effective exercise for your back and biceps. For some people, the hand positioning of this routine is also more comfortable around the shoulders. This allows you to lift heavier when doing the routine. Below are more benefits of this exercise. 

Stronger Back & Biceps

All lat pulldown exercises involve the lats as the primary movers. The reverse grip lat pulldown recruits your traps, making it an excellent routine for building a stronger back. It also works on your biceps, increasing your arms’ strength

Better Grip Strength

The reverse grip lat pulldown puts lots of emphasis on your biceps and forearms. This will naturally increase your grip strength. Just remember to pull with your back when doing this routine. Your arms will still get worked with you just holding onto the bar.

Lower Injury Risk

They’re a more shoulder-friendly alternative to the lat pulldown. It doesn’t involve strenuous movements like squats or deadlifts, making it less prone to back injuries. 

More Time Under Tension

The pulldown machine provides a unique force for training. When performing the reverse grip lat pulldown, the cable machine produces constant tension throughout the movement. Research shows that more time under tension increases muscle growth (2).

Greater Strength & Mobility

The reverse grip lat pulldown works on your scapula and shoulder muscles. This leads to greater mobility as you add weights and lift heavier. It also strengthens the shoulders, making routines like presses and deadlifts easier. 

Carryover to Chin-ups & Other Exercises

The chin-up and reverse grip lat pulldown have similar pulling mechanics. Since you use the same grip for the chin-up, you can use the reverse grip lat pulldown to practice for chin-ups. 

Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown Alternatives

The reverse grip lat pulldown is an excellent routine for your pull-day workout. Compared to other pulldowns, it allows you to lift more, increasing strength and muscle hypertrophy. Below are some other great routines for building your back and biceps. 

Bent-Over Row

The bent-over row trains back muscles like the lats, traps, rhomboids, and teres major. However, this routine also works on your biceps due to the grip on the barbell, dumbbell, or kettlebell. To get the best results, use an overhand grip.


Chin-ups are the next progression after your reverse grip lat pulldown. However, This bodyweight exercise is more challenging because it stabilizes your core and entire body during movements. 

T-Bar Row

The T-bar row is another compound exercise that hits the back and biceps. This routine also works on your rear delts and lower body muscles like the hamstrings. Due to its setup, you can work this exercise to failure more safely than many other routines.


How do you do a reverse lat pulldown?

To do the reverse grip, you use the underhand grip on the lat pulldown machine. However, you must keep your torso upright throughout the motion. The exercise guide above provides step-by-step instructions.  

How do you do a reverse grip pulldown without a machine?

You can try an assisted chin-up to do a reverse grip pulldown without a machine. Connect resistance bands to a pull-up bar, then use them to pull yourself using a reverse hand grip.  

What is the difference between reverse grip and overhand lat pulldown?

The reverse grip lat pulldown allows you to lift more weight. It also targets your biceps more than the overhand pulldown. This is because your arms are naturally more narrow when using the reverse grip. 

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  1. Andersen, V., Fimland, M. S., Wiik, E., Skoglund, A., & Saeterbakken, A. H. (2014). Effects of grip width on muscle strength and activation in the lat pull-down. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 28(4), 1135–1142.
  2. Mang, Z. A., Ducharme, J. B., Mermier, C., Kravitz, L., de Castro Magalhaes, F., & Amorim, F. (2022). Aerobic Adaptations to Resistance Training: The Role of Time under Tension. International journal of sports medicine, 43(10), 829–839.
Terry Ramos
As a personal trainer and writer, Terry loves changing lives through coaching and the written word. Terry has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and ISSA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He enjoys playing music, reading, and watching films when he's not writing or training.