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February 15, 2022 13 min read

EDIT: LOTS.

This article needs to be thoroughly proofread and re-written for clarity. I started to but do not have time to do this. There are many statements being repeated again.

Read each sentence and then ask yourself, 'does this make sense and how can I writre this more clearly'. For example, highlighted in red in the text.

 

Many athletes and recreational lifters often make the mistake of only training 'mirror muscles'. These are the muscles that you can easily see while looking in the mirror and most often on the front of the body.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with exercising the muscles that you can see, this can cause an imbalance between these muscles on the front of your body and the muscles on your back.

Not only can this can ruin your aesthetics, it can also limit your mobility.

One of the biggest muscles that can be affected by this imbalance is the latissimus dorsi, aka your lats. And that is one reason why the lat pulldown is such an incredible exercise.

What Is The Lat Pulldown?

A neutral lat pulldown variation illustration.

The lat pulldown is a strength-training exercise that helps to develop the latissimus dorsi muscle that spans the length of the middle and lower back.

The lat pulldown is performed while seated at a cable machine with adjustable resistance and uses the abduction and adduction of the shoulder joint and the continuous depression and rotation of the shoulder blades to work and grow your back muscles.

The great thing about the lat pulldown is there is more than one that you can perform.

The basic objective of this exercise is to target and isolate the flat muscles of your back while using your arms as a means to do so. This leaves you with the option of exploring with various grips and arm positions, as these are the two major factors that determine the stimulation of your lats.

But which is the best one?

The common gym argument is often based around the pronated narrow-grip pulldown, pronated wide-grip pulldown, neutral narrow-grip pulldown, neutral wide-grip pulldown, and the supinated. 

All of these grip positions change the angle and the range of motion in the lat pulldown.

The grip techniques differ in the way you hold the bar or handle of the lat machine.Regardless of the confusion about which grip generates the most activation of the lats and other connecting muscles, the neutral grip pulldown remains a favorite and common choice in the gym.

The Neutral Grip Lat Pulldown

A neutral grip is a grip position where your palms face each other, andis the go-to grip option when performing the lat pulldown due to its ease on the shoulders and the focus on the triceps.

This grip position helps to target the upper lats while simultaneously building lat width.

If you are trying to overcome a plateau, the neutral grip lat pulldown is the best way to perform moderate to high reps for better back-focused intensity.The neutral grip lat pulldown is also a superb option for targeting an array of upper body muscle groups while building an impressive wingspan. 

Muscles Worked In Neutral Grip Lat Pulldowns

The muscles worked and the extent are mostly determined by your grip width. A wide grip promotes more activation of the back and less of the arms, while using a closer grip will activate more of your biceps.

Regardless of how wide you grip the bar, the neutral grip lat pulldown primarily engages the latissimus dorsi and other supporting muscles like the brachialis, brachioradialis, teres major, posterior deltoid, and pectoralis major and minor. 

Latissimus Dorsi

The latissimus dorsi is the widest muscle of the body.

It is an extremely functional muscle that helps you perform simple activities like breathing, bending to the side, arm movements, and swimming.

The lats corroborate with other connected muscles like the teres major and pectoralis major to perform simple actions like stabilizing the shoulder joints during arm extension. Together, the lats and their connected muscles help adduct, medially rotate and extend the arm at the shoulder joint. The lats are not only important for providing a bulked-up look with aesthetically pleasing defects (<----THIS PHRASE DOESNT MAKE ANY SENSE) when you stare, but they are also important in your work at the gym. 

While the neutral grip lat pull down primarily focuses on helping you build wings, it engages, strengthens, and grows other connecting muscles.

Brachialis 

The brachialis is one of such muscles that benefit from the movements of the arms during this wonderful exercise. The brachialis is an important flexor of your forearms. It lays deeper than the bicep muscles and is easily one of the most significant elbow flexors in your hands. the brachial provides a full flexion of the hand at your elbows.

The brachialis is constantly activated during the neutral grip lat pulldown due to the flexing of the elbows throughout the exercise. This helps to strengthen the brachialis, improving mobility in the elbows.

The brachioradialis and the brachialis work together to achieve flexion of the forearm at the elbow. These muscles work in sync, and because of this, the brachioradialis is involved during the neutral grip lat pulldown. However, since this compound exercise focuses more on the lats of the back, both muscles receive just a fraction of the stimulation that the lats do. 

Teres Major

The teres major works with the lats to perform many actions of the upper body like the adduction, internal rotation, and extension of the hand. The teres major is often engaged in the pull-down as it helps your lats to pull the resistance down to your chest.

The teres major is a tiny muscle compared to other upper muscle groups, but it is so important that it is fondly known as the ‘lat’s little helper'. This is mostly because it is activated in many movements involving the lats.  

Levator Scapulae

As its name suggests, this muscle that sits on the back of the neck helps to lift the scapula. The levator scapula and the rhomboids, which are also activated during the neutral grip lat pulldown, work in assisting the movements of the scapula throughout your exercise. 

Deltoids

The neutral grip lat pulldown also works the posterior or rear deltoid. The posterior deltoid is located at the back of the shoulders and helps move your arms backward. It is a rarely worked muscle-if the shoulder helps with extension, external rotation and horizontal abduction. Posterior deltoid helps in other activities like pitching a football. 

Pectorals

The pectoralis major and minor are often most engaged when using the neutral grip lat pulldown. The pecs, as they are more commonly known, make up the most superficial bulk of the chest muscles. These muscles span across the upper part of the chest and are responsible for many arm movements and respiration to expand the lungs. 

Trapezius

The neutral grip lat pulldown also engages the trap muscle of the back. If you have ever debated the location of the traps, ignore the popular misconception that the traps are shoulder muscles. The trap extends from the base of the neck and spans across to the middle of the back.

While exercises like shrugs and pull-ups are a fantastic way to hit the upper traps, the neutral grip lat pulldown is better for the middle and lower trap muscles.

The middle and lower traps help with the movement, positioning, and stability of the arms, shoulder joint and scapula. While the activation of the stabilization muscles is not evident during the neutral grip lat pulldown, these muscles are no doubt constantly activated. 

Stabilizing Muscles

The stabilizing muscles help to keep the joints in place during the movements. For the neutral grip lat pulldown, the triceps brachii and the biceps brachii act as arm stabilizers, protecting the shoulder joints. The bicep is the muscle on the front part of the arm.

It is divided into two parts, namely the long head and short head of the biceps. While these heads might function independently, they flex and supinate the forearms outward. They also help to stabilize your shoulders and elbow throughout your lat pulldown routine. 

The triceps, on the other hand, is located on the back of the upper arm. Like the bicep, the tricep comprises three separate heads, namely the medial, lateral, and long heads. The tricep is principally responsible for the extension or straightening of the arms at the elbow.

The tricep is also partly responsible for the adduction and stabilization of the arms at the shoulder joint. Add in the engagement of the rotator cuffs, which include the teres minor, infraspinatus, and subscapularis, and you will find that this lat pulldown variation hits all the significant muscles in the body. 

These muscles might serve various functions, but altogether they are codependent and are simultaneously activated during the neutral lat pulldown. These muscles contribute to upper body strength and the v-taper physique many athletes go after.

How To Do The Neutral Grip Lat Pulldown 


The neutral grip lat pulldown might be a simple exercise, but it is often done incorrectly. This exercise goes past simply pulling a resistance towards your chest. It requires strict adherence to body posture throughout your routine. Many gym-goers mistakes pulling the cable with their bodyweight and almost getting yanked out of the seat or spraining their shoulders in the process.

The key to proper muscle activation during the neutral grip lat pulldown is proper technique and mind-body focus. This helps to activate the correct muscle groups while simultaneously reducing the risks of injuries.

To help you grow wings properly, here is the correct way to perform the neutral grip lat pulldown:

  • Attach a bar with handles to the lat machine. You can use a normal bar or a v-bar.
  • Hold the bar on either end so that your palms face each other. You can choose to use the wide or narrow hand position, but the wide position is a better option for activating the lats.
  • Sit on the bench and place your thighs under the thigh pads to secure your legs.
  • Extend your arms fully upwards. You should feel your lats stretch slightly.
  • Keep your back straight, and your chest pushed forward slightly.
  • Contract your lats and pull the weight towards yourself.
  • Use your lats as a drive to pull the weight towards your chest.
  • At the end of the movement, your shoulder blades should be pulled together, chest proud, and the bar should be against your chest.
  • Hold this position for a second.
  • Slowly let your arms extend, and the bar returns to the machine.
  • This is one repetition. Complete as many reps as possible.

As long as you follow the instructions closely, your lats will receive the bulk of the stimulation. This would strengthen and help them grow. The neutral grip lat pulldown requires a large degree of energy and sharp muscle-mind focus.

Benefits Of The Neutral Grip Lat Pulldown

The major benefit of the neutral grip lat pulldown is its ability to target major muscle groups of the upper body like the Latissimus dorsi, traps, forearms, triceps, biceps, and rotator cuffs. All these muscle groups contribute to the overall health and strength of the upper body, helping you to maneuver daily easily and in sporting activities.

Some benefits of the neutral grip lat pulldown are:

  • Bigger back: A big and strong back is a great way to add depth and v-taper shape to your form and body frame. The neutral lat pulldown is a great way to balance the effects of working your 'mirror muscles'.
  • Increase upper body strength: The neutral grip lat pulldown strengthens the single largest upper body muscle. This makes a major difference in your performance in sporting activities, especially in weighted exercises. If you are looking for a way to bulk up and escape a fitness plateau, lat pulldowns are a great way to give yourself the boost you need.
  • Back pain: If you spend an unhealthy amount of time sitting hunched over your desk, your back is bound to suffer from tightness and soreness, which in turn causes stiffness and reduced mobility.The neutral grip lat pulldown strengthens the muscles that might have been affected by these unhealthy habits, reducing or alleviating back pain and leading to a healthier back.
  • Better posture: Another problem caused by spending the whole day lounging over a desk or with your head buried in your mobile phone is bad posture. These unhealthy positions offset your natural and healthy spine posture and can lead to problems with your mobility. The neutral grip lat pulldown corrects this problem by strengthening your back and other affiliated muscles in charge of keeping your posture aligned. It strengthens your lats and the corresponding back muscles, leading to the correction of your body posture.
  • Balance: Half the battle for your upper body balance is played by the muscles in front of you. The muscles you cannot see also play a major role in keeping you upright and maintaining great muscle coordination. Strong back muscles are the key to stability to your other workout routines and functional activities. 
  • Reduce risks of injuries: Training your lats strengthens your back. This not only increases your functionality and performance but also reduces the risks of injuries during your activities.

Tips To Help You Perfect The Neutral Grip Lat Pulldown

Holding your form during the lat Pulldown can be a lot of work. Luckily, simple cues ensure that your form remains perfect throughout your exercise. Some of these tips include:

  • Use your lats: The point of the lat pulldown is to engage and activate the lats. This is impossible if you continue to use your arms and chest to pull the weight down. To do the neutral grip pulldown correctly, focus on using your lats to pull the weight. Imagine that your shoulder blades are a hinge that closes as you bring the weight down. Use your shoulder blades to drag the weight, and use your hands as hooks to hang on.
  • Try to touch your elbows: A great way to generate maximum lat activation is to touch your elbows together. This ensures that you generate a full range of motion and get a full contraction in your back muscles.
  • Don’t lean back: Avoid leaning back as you pull the weight down. Leaning back adds your body weight into the equation, taking the tension away from your lats. 
  • Use wrist straps:  Lift straps are great accessories for exercises like the lat pulldown. One common problem when performing the lat pulldown is that gravity fights against the handles and sometimes causes you to lose your grip. If the grip is a problem you face whenever you perform the neutral grip lat pulldown, you should consider investing in quality wrist straps. If, however you want to improve your grip strength as you go, you might as well dump the straps and persevere.
  • Use all grip: The wide grip is a better option for activating the upper lats for a wider back, while the close-grip lat pulldown is a better variation for building the lower lats for a thicker back. The wide grip lat pulldown is a more common variation that allows the blows to follow the range of motion that allows them behind your back. The narrower grip only allows your elbows to stay in front. While the wide grip is a more comfortable position, mixing your grip is the best way to ensure that your upper and lower muscles are balanced and proportionate. When you have mastered the easier wide grip variation, feel free to explore other grip variations.
  • Set the handle to a comfortable height: The last thing you need is a sore or sprained shoulder joint. Set up the machine to a comfortable height so you can reach the handles without overextending your shoulders. This would keep your shoulder joint safe while also ensuring that you go through the full range of motion necessary for full muscle activation. 
  • Stay vertical: When doing the neutral grip lat pulldown or any pulldown variation at all, you want to ensure that you keep your body as vertical as possible. This is not possible without starting in the right sitting position. A very common mistake is sitting too far forward on the lat seat. This would reflexively cause you to lean forward as you pull the pulley down towards you to avoid it hitting your head. Instead, sit back, almost at the end of your seat. In this position, your knees will be closer to the thigh pad. This enables you to remain vertical as you bring the bar towards your chest.
  • Don't go too low: While many bodybuilders agree that the chest should be your final stop when doing the lat pulldown, it is not always so. Your upper lats are least activated when you bring the bar to your chest. Your lats and teres major are most activated during the beginning of the concentric part. To maintain the tension in these muscles, end the concentric phase at your chin.
  • Lighten your weight: If you find it challenging to complete the full range of motion during your lat pulldown without ruining your form, lighten the weight a little. While you might not want to look like a wimp, reducing the resistance is best to help you stay safe while performing the exercise. There’s no point trying to look brave if you end up with a sore back or sore shoulder joints.
  • Recovery is important: Recovery is as important as your exercises. You need time to help the torn-down muscle fibers to heal and get stronger. To help your muscles recover faster, ensure that you get enough sleep after your workout session and before hitting the gym. As much as sleep is important, your muscles also need to recuperate in between reps and sets.
  • Pair your routine with ADALOAD  to help your muscles optimize your carb and macronutrients and accelerate your recovery time. As a plus, you enjoy increased muscle pump, better muscle endurance, and increased energy without the sugar crash provided by caffeinated energy drinks.

Alternatives For The Neutral Grip Lat Pulldown 

Versatility is a great feature that the neutral grip lat pulldown possesses. A little tweak in your grip type, hand position, and body angle is enough to birth a different variation that will activate your muscles from a new perspective. If you get bored of the neutral grip lat pulldown, simply alter one or more training variables and achieve a different level of muscle stimulation.

You can choose to:

  • Change your body position. You can do this by leaning your upper body slightly backward than recommended for the neutral grip. 
  • Switch to a pronated or supinated grip. You can also choose to use mixed or alternative grip types.
  • Change your hand position. You can choose a shoulder-width grip, a wider than shoulder-width grip, and a narrow grip.
  • While the neutral grip lat pulldown is often performed while sitting, you can choose to modify your exercise by standing or kneeling

While these changes might not seem major at first, they help you to target your lats differently. One modification can tune-up or decrease the intensity of your exercise, depending on your preference. In the end, it is important to find what works for you and execute it in the best way possible. 

The Neutral Grip Lat Pulldown and All of Its Benefits

While there are many lat pulldown variations you can incorporate into your training for the best muscle response, the neutral grip lat pulldown remains one of the best. That's because it not only strengthens your upper body, increasing your athletic performance in and outside the gym, but also because it targets the back for a more jacked and aesthetic v-taper fitness model look.

But if you are craving for more ways to build your back, here are  ten back exercises for size and strength.