When you do lat pulldowns, you primarily work your latissimus dorsi, the large muscle that covers much of your upper lateral back. Smaller muscles -- such as your biceps and triceps -- assist the latissimus dorsi throughout the exercise. If you prefer not to do lat pulldowns during your workout, you can still target these muscles with a variety of other exercises.
Pullups target the same muscles as lat pulldowns. To make sure you target the latissimus dorsi, grasp an overhead bar with your hands wider than shoulder-width apart and assume an overhand grip. Lift your legs off the floor, bend your elbows and pull yourself up until your chin reaches the bar. Lower to the straight-arm position and repeat until you're fatigued. If you cannot do pullups on your own, use the assisted pullup machine at a gym or have a partner hold your legs and assist with the movement. After your partner helps you up to the bar, bend your knees so your feet are behind you. Your partner can then place a hand under each knee and move with you through the pullup motion, taking as much or as little of your weight in his hands as you need.
Lie with your upper back on a bench. The bench should support your neck while the top of your head should be slightly off the bench. Place both feet firmly on the floor to support your low back. Hold the barbell over your chest with your arms slightly bent and your palms facing forward. This is your starting position. Keeping the slight bend in your elbows, lower the bar over your head until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Return to the starting position and repeat. Complete two to three sets of six to eight repetitions to build strength and two to three sets of 12 to 15 reps to increase stamina.
Rolling Ball Pull
Kneel on the floor with a stability ball in front of you. Place your forearms shoulder-width apart on the ball. Keeping your back straight, roll the ball forward and straighten your arms in front of you. Keep your shoulders, hips and knees in line. When your arms are fully extended, roll back up, using your upper back to pull the ball toward you. To ensure you’re using your back during the exercise, don't bend from the waist as you move the ball. Complete two to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions.
Tips and Warnings
Before performing any weight-training exercises, warm up your muscles with at least five to 10 minutes of cardiovascular activity. Check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise routines, especially if you've suffered any recent injuries. Stop exercising if you feel pain in any of your joints. Consult a personal trainer for assistance If you’re unsure of the proper form.