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What Happens When You Flip Your Grip on Pulldowns?

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The overhand-grip pulldown is a great compound exercise for the lats, but what happens when you flip your grip from wide to a reverse grip?

By Jimmy Peña, MS, CSCS

Going Overhand

The most common way to perform the lat pulldown is with a wide, overhand grip.

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Most bars have angled ends for comfort as well as for increased range of motion at the bottom of the rep, allowing you to squeeze your back with precision and utmost intensity.

Standard Lat Pulldown

The standard wide-grip pulldown can and should be implemented into your routine in a couple of critical ways. First, the lat pulldown serves as a great starting exercise on back day. It helps warm up the arms, lats and lower back, stimulating all working parts to get ready for the heavy work ahead (deadlifts, bent-over rows, T-bar rows, etc.). But the lat pulldown is also an effective finishing exercise at the end of your session to fill up the target muscle with fluid (water, blood, nutrients). That pump helps you not only feel full and wide, but also helps trigger lasting growth mechanisms.

Make This Change

Reverse your grip on the bar and bring your hands in a bit closer to about shoulder width.

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Reversing your grip automatically puts you in a mechanical advantage, making you stronger. The narrower grip, the shortened range of motion and the greater biceps/forearm involvement instantly make whatever weight you’re working with feel lighter. It also shifts the focus of the pulldown from the upper lats (targeted best by the wide grip) to the oft-neglected lower lats. You’ll notice the elbows travel downward alongside the torso (not out wide), calling the lowest lat fibers into play.

Get the Benefits From Both

A well-developed back is a true indicator of an experienced bodybuilder. The lats, both upper and lower, are the keystones to such evidence. By alternating your grip from wide/overhand to shoulder width/reversed, you ensure complete symmetry and development of the V-taper. Along with wide-grip rowing movements that hit the rhomboids and middle traps (middle back muscles), the various pulldown options will help you complete the package.

Excerpted from the May 2012 issue of MuscleMag.

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