The lat pull-down is a great exercise for building a good back. Is it possible to do this at home? Let’s see how you could do it.
There are two ways you can simulate a lat pull-down: A. Get equipment that allows you to do the exercise. B. Do exercises that target the same muscles. The cheapest and easiest way to do a lat pull-down is to get a high pulley add-on for your powerrack. The best alternative exercise is the pull-up.
There are a few more options you could consider. Keep reading to find out what they are.
How can you do a lat pulldown at home?
There are some great benefits of doing a lat puldown. It’s an awesome exercise and if you can do it at home that would be great. We’ll go a bit more into the benefits later but now let’s look a little more into what you need to do it.
What is a lat pulldown?
You probably already know what the pulldown looks like but here’s a quick recap.
To do a lat pulldown, you sit down, and pull down a bar or other attachment. The attachment is attached to a cable that moves vertically. The machine has a padded seat and a support bar that goes over your thigh so your body stays in place.
It’s called the “lat” pulldown since it mainly targets the Latismus Dorsi. This is the muscle that gives bodybuilders their ‘wings’. Check out the picture below that shows exactly where the lat is.
While the Latismus Dorsi is the main target of this exercise, you’ll also have to use a few extra muscles to help with the movement. You pull the bar down but also to your chest. To retract your shoulder blades you use the rhomboids, trapezius, and rotator cuff. Besides that you use your arms a little as well but they aren’t the main focus of the lat pulldown.
What can we do to target the same musculature in our home gyms?
Most home gyms don’t have the equipment to perform a proper lat pulldown like you’re used to in a commercial gym. What equipment can you get for your home gym to be able to do the same thing?
Lat pull-down station: The best way to be able to do a lat pull down at home is to get an actual lat pull-down machine. It will be exactly the same as a pull-down machine in a commercial gym.
Home gyms are usually not the biggest spaces however. And on top of that, most people with home gyms don’t have an unlimited budget. That means buying a machine or piece of equipment that is as large and expensive as this one, isn’t an option for most home gym owners.
If you are in the lucky position where this is an option, awesome! Check out the Valor fitness CB-12 machine that also has a low pulley so it’s almost like a full cable station. You can find it here on Amazon.
Cable station: The next best thing is a cable station. Yes, this piece of equipment isn’t any smaller or cheaper than a dedicated pull-down station but, it has one big advantage. You can do many, many exercises on a cable station while a pulldown station is limited to one.
So while it’s still an expensive piece of equipment that takes up a lot of space, it’s so much more versatile that it much easier to justify getting one for your home gym.
One other big difference is the seat. Sure you can just put your bench in the cable station and use it as a pull-down machine. A bench doesn’t have the thigh support that keeps you in place however. You could counteract this by wedging your feet under a loaded barbell or putting a weight on your legs. Alternatively you could perform the exercise with a lighter weight.
Power rack add on: If both of those options are too big and/or expensive, another option is a pulley add-on to your power rack. It’s a simple system but does the job. This system consists of a pulley and a cable. Attach the pulley to the top of your power rack and use a weight plate for resistance. Finally you can attach anything you like to the other side of the cable and there you go!
It still won’t give you the thigh support on the seat like a dedicated pull-down machine but it’s a cheap, simple and small alternative.
Pull-up bar. It sounds like a pull up would be the opposite of a pull down but actually it’s almost the same thing. The biggest difference is that on a pull-down, the weight moves and your body stays in place where during a pull-up your body moves. The movement pattern is very similar although pull-ups are a bit more technical and require a bit more practice to get a perfect form. People with a power rack already have a pull up bar built in.
For people that don’t have a power rack, a separate pull-up bar is cheap, small and easy to get. Check out this page for my recommendation.
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Without getting any other equipment, there are a few exercises you can do that mimic a lat pulldown pretty closely.
There are also a few exercises that don’t exactly have the same movement pattern but are still training your lats and other back muscles.
Pull ups/Chin ups: The closest alternative to a lat pulldown is the pull up or chin up. The movement pattern is very similar although a pull up is a bit more technical. Most home gyms will have a pull up bar in one form or another so you don’t need any extra equipment.
If pull –ups are too heavy, you can use resistance bands to make things lighter. If standard pull ups are too light, feel free to add extra weight through a weight belt. This way you can adjust the resistance to your needs.
Dumbbell pullover: Often seen as a chest and tricep exercise but, with the right mind-muscle connection, it’s also a great lat builder. Your mind can put more or less focus on certain muscles if you can control them. This connection takes some time to build up but it will help you in many exercises.
You can do the pullover on a flat bench but if you’ve got access to a decline bench, that could put the focus on your lats a bit more.
Resistance band pulldown: Resistance bands can be used to mimic similar movements as cables. While the strength curve is a bit different it’s a good way to do cable exercises without a cable station. Attach a resistance band to the pull-up bar or another bar that’s above you. From there you can use the resistance band in the same way you would do a lat pulldown. It’s a bit difficult to put an attachment on a resistance bands but you’ve got complete freedom to put your hands in any position you want. Resistance bands are usually a bit lighter (although you can get heavy ones). That means you might have to do more repetitions than with a weighted lat pulldown.
Looking for a set of resistance bands to get you started? Check out RubberBanditz.com. They have a very wide variety of high quality bands and accessories from light to very heavy. Besides free shipping above $60 they also provide a ton of information for beginners to choose the right bands and how to get started. Check out RubberBanditz.com
Dumbbell rows: Dumbbell rows are a bit different than the other options since you’ve got your arms stretched in front of your body instead of above your head. That means you use slightly different muscles in your back. It might also not translate into pull downs/ups too well but DB rows will still build your back.
The targeted musculature is shifted a bit more towards the traps instead of the lats but like the pullover, if you can create the mind-muscle connection, it is possible to target your lats effectively as well.
Barbell rows: Barbell rows are a great general back exercise. Like the DB row, the movement pattern is a bit different than a lat pulldown. Your arms are in front of your body instead of above your head. This targets slightly different muscles. If you can’t do any of the other alternatives or You can load them up pretty heavy and you’ve got a few options for hand placement that can target slightly different parts of the back musculature.
What can I do to replace pull ups? The best exercises that target the same musculature as the pull up are;
- Lat pull downs
- Resistance bands pull downs
- Assisted pull ups
- Low pull with close grip and elbows tucked in
- Barbell row with tucked elbows