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December 12, 2021 9 min read

A reverse grip pulldown can be performed on the vertical rowing exercise machine that most gyms have. This type of pulldown is a cable-based machine exercise and it mainly targets your lats and biceps. It also involves using your forearms, triceps, rear delts, rotator cuff, your rhomboids, traps, and scapula muscles for a highly effective workout.

Reverse Grip Pulldown: Other Muscles Worked

The reverse grip pulldown works some of the muscle groups in your back and arms, such as the latissimus dorsi, the teres major (one of the back muscles near the latissimus dorsi), the biceps brachii, and the posterior deltoid. Various other muscles in the upper back, such as the traps and rhomboids, are also involved to a lesser degree.

Compared to wide-grip pulldowns, reverse grip pulldowns will target your lower lats more.

They will use your pec major, but not your rotator cuff as much. You are basically doing a chin-up without using any of your momentum to make the exercise easier. The fact that you can adjust the amount of weight you are lifting is a major advantage for people who are not strong enough to do chin-ups.

How to do the Reverse Grip Pulldown

The reverse grip pulldown may seem a little awkward at first, but we are confident that you will be able to perfect your form for these exercises quite quickly and start including reverse grip pulldowns as part of your regular workout routine.

We suggest you get started by performing all of the basic movements listed below with moderate to high reps, such as 8 to 12 reps per set or more.

Follow the step-by-step instructions below to start doing the exercises:

  1. First, attach a wide-grip bar to the cable pulldown machine and then assume a sitting position. 
  2. Adjust the knee pads to a level that fits your height.
  3. Place your hands at a distance slightly closer than your shoulder width.
  4. Hold the pulldown bar using a supinated or underhand grip so that your palms are facing your torso.
  5. While both your arms are extended in front, bring your torso back at an angle of 30 degrees by bending your lower back and pushing your chest out as the starting position.
  6. Draw your shoulders and upper arms down to pull the bar towards your body so that it touches your upper chest.
  7. Hold this contracted position for a second or two at the top of the movement and then gradually bring the bar to the initial position when your lats are stretched, and your arms are completely extended.
  8. Slowly let the bar raise up a little and then repeat the exercise for your desired number of reps and sets.

Looking at the Number of Reps and Sets

You can do reverse grip pulldowns lots of different ways, so there is really not a recommended rep number. Reverse grip pulldowns can be performed using straight sets, pyramid sets, drop sets, rest-pause sets, supersets, giant sets, paused reps, and slow negatives. We recommend trying a variety of heavy, low rep sets and also include some lighter, higher weight rep sets.

The number of sets you need to do depends on how frequently you have been training your back, how many sets you need to stimulate growth, and what other exercises you intend to do in those back workouts. In general, somewhere between two and four work sets is about right for most people.

A Few Other Reverse Grip Pulldown Tips

Getting the most out of your reverse grip pulldowns often comes down to experience. There are a few things that will help you perfect your technique, but you might have to do some experimenting with your reps, sets, and weights.

For example, many lifters suggest using a thumbless grip to increase the level of lat and bicep engagement, pull more weight, and decrease shoulder movement during this exercise.

Another good way to reduce slip risk is to  wear a wrist wrap.

Your hands and wrists are essential parts of every workout, but don’t let your grip strength keep you from pulling more weight. Your wrists perform an important function when you are lifting heavy loads. The main function of a wrist wrap is to support your wrist joints during heavy or maximum effort lifts in pressing motions and overhead lifts.

A related tip is to use straps for some of your other muscles too. Using some types of straps will allow you to pull more and heavier weights without losing any of your grip. The focus of this exercise should be to strengthen your lats, biceps, and other supporting muscles. While you should work on improving your grip strength in general, this exercise might be better done with straps. 

Squeezing your shoulder blades together in the middle of your back is another good thing to remember as you are completing your sets. Failing to pack your shoulders will result in too much emphasis on your shoulders instead of your lats and biceps. Squeezing your shoulder blades together also helps keep your chest up.

Finally, never use momentum to do your lifts. This is a piece of advice that applies to pretty much all of the exercises you will be doing in the gym. If you want to build the strongest back you can, you will need to limit your momentum as much as possible.

Try to be explosive in your strength, but don’t sway your body back and forth every rep just to pull the weight.

Some Reverse Grip Pulldown Variations

When doing a reverse grip pulldown, lean slightly back, and pull the bar down towards your sternum. However, there’s a difference between leaning back slightly and loading up the lat pulldown machine with so much weight that you need to swing and use momentum to complete a rep. Nor do you want to go so far back that you turn the exercise from a pulldown into a row. A slight backward lean in the upper body is enough.

You can use an overhand grip to target more of the upper lats. If you try this variation, keep your elbows close to your sides and not flared out. Never lock your arms out at the top of the exercise. The reverse-grip lat pull-down targets your lower lats but your biceps will also be worked during the positive portion of the exercise.

You can use an underhand wide grip to keep some tone through your abdominals as you pull the bar into your body. Never arch excessively through your spine and don’t allow your momentum to dictate the movement. Rather control the weight throughout the range of motion of each rep. If you feel your biceps being overused and your back remaining under active, try using a false grip and don’t wrap your thumb around the bar.

Both a pronated (palms facing away from you) grip and supinated (palms facing you) grip are quite safe for your shoulders, just as long as you don’t bring the elbows too far behind the body. Some people pull their elbows too far past the middle of the body. This can lead to anterior humeral glide, which is potentially bad for your shoulders.

To avoid this, bring the bar down to the point where your upper arm is almost level with your torso. You can also bring your elbows behind the line of your body, but only by utilizing more scapular retraction. If your shoulders hurt at all with a particular lat pulldown variation, especially with a close grip, then rather use the type of grip that feels better for you.

There are a few differences between wide-grip pulldowns and reverse-grip pulldowns. There are lots of muscles in the back, and including a variety of back exercises helps to ensure complete development of those muscles. Using different grip widths and hand positions can reduce the risk of any repetitive stress injuries to the elbows, wrists or shoulders, which can happen if you do the same exercises all the time.

By using a reverse-grip you target more of the lower lats since your upper arms are closer to your body, and you will also pull more with your biceps, which allows you to train with more weight. The underhand grip pulldown is an excellent exercise for people at all levels of training, and you can build an impressive amount of muscle and strength over a reasonably short period of time.

This exercise is also a good way to improve other back movements such as rows and pull-ups because you will be progressively increasing your upper body strength.

Starting a Workout Routine

It is hard to tell which is a better compound exercise for biceps: weighted chin-ups or reverse grip lat pulldowns. Both exercises are done with a supinated grip, and work the same group of muscles.

So they will both do a similar job. However, a lot depends on your ability to do weighted chin-ups well, under control, with a full range of motion. If you can do them, and do them properly, go with chin-ups. But many people are actually better off doing reverse grip pulldowns until they become strong enough to do multiple sets of five to ten real chin-ups.

As you get started, we suggest training for about an hour three times a week at a reasonable level of intensity. If you do three solid sets of pulldowns, deadlifts and squats every week each on separate days, you will quickly see some real results in terms of how your body looks and feels.

The best and most sustainable approach is to follow a progressive bodyweight training regime and  follow a customized diet plan that will help you build muscle.

Always warm up the muscles and joints you will use for these types of workouts. If you start developing any type of injury, never just ignore it and hope it goes away. Rest the painful area and exercise other parts of your body that don’t hurt. You might even consider seeing a physiotherapist or consulting a personal trainer if the injury lasts longer than a few days. 

Getting Your Benefits

A major benefit of the reverse grip pulldown is that you can add a lot of variety to your exercise program. This reduces the risk of overuse injuries and keeps your body from becoming too adapted to one movement, which can potentially stall your gains. Some variety in your workouts decreases the risk of getting tired of following the same type of workout routine indefinitely.

Strength and muscle building really requires an extended long-term commitment, so varying your exercises becomes very important as you progress in the world of bodybuilding.

Reverse grip pulldowns can improve the overall strength, power, and speed of many types of athletes. The exercises will force you to stay tight and strong at all times, making you concentrate on your breath and bracing your total body through the full range of motion.

The movements in this exercise can really improve your grip and forearm strength, so if strength improvement is your main focus, you can use a low rep count and a heavier weight.

Mastering the reverse grip pulldown and  increasing the amount of overall strength and mobility of your body can relieve pain in your lower back. Always reduce the amount of pain you experience in any workout by staying hydrated and stretching your body.

Always keep your core tight and your back straight, and ease into the movements when you are just getting started with any type of new exercise. Doing intense reverse grip pulldowns can really lead to some impressive muscle gains over the long run and it is a strategy that  can also help you with weight loss.

If you have a personal trainer, be sure to use him to help you with the proper form for these exercises and to get you following a safe and effective workout plan.

Reverse grip pulldowns are really effective if you have access to a cable machine. The exercise is an excellent compound movement that presents a limited risk of injury. Most people, even beginners, should be able to do this exercise and benefit from it. Use good form and experiment with your weights, sets, and reps to try and improve as much as possible.

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Using Supplements to Enhance Your Performance

Using dietary supplements can really take your training and performance to the next level.

We recommend trying the Alpha Omega Stack T-Boosted Muscle Builder for fat loss, pump, and deep sleep recovery. This supplement will help you increase your lean muscle mass while also improving your body’s strength and power.

Rest and recovery are vital for your overall workout routine.

If you are feeling low on energy, a good supplement to try might be our  Enhanced Pre-Workout Stack for advanced energy, focus, pump, and endurance. If you are looking for the maximum results in the least amount of time, this is an excellent all-in-one stack fueling the body with everything it needs, before, during and after training to achieve your goals as fast as possible.