What Part of the Body Do Lat Pull-Downs Work?

The lat pulldown is effective for building overall upper-body strength. This exercise is performed on a machine found at many gyms and health clubs and mimics the motion of a pullup in a seated position. It's important to perform a lat pulldown with proper technique to get the most out of the exercise and work your muscles effectively.

Lat pulldowns can improve your overall upper-body strength. (Image: Ibrakovic/iStock/Getty Images)


Sit at a lat pulldown machine with a wide bar attached overhead. Secure your legs properly with your knees firmly positioned under the padding. Grasp the bar with an overhand grip, palms facing forward, and bend your elbows, pulling the bar down toward your chest. Hold this position for a second, then slowly return the bar to the starting position. Repeat this exercise for your desired number of repetitions, usually between eight and 15.

Latissimus Dorsi

A lat pulldown targets your latissimus dorsi muscles, which are located on the sides of your rib cage. The lats contract when the bar is pulled down and stretch during the eccentric phase of the exercise. Building the lats will improve your upper-body strength and, over time, create a "V" shape from the waist to the shoulders.


In addition to the lats, a lat pulldown will work your upper arms because the pulling motion recruits your biceps muscles to contribute to the exercise. Biceps work is increased on close-grip pulldowns as opposed to wide grip versions.


You also work several shoulder muscles during lat pulldowns, most notably the posterior deltoid in back of your shoulder, plus the teres minor and the infraspinatus in your rotator cuff. Building shoulder strength will add to your overall upper-body power.

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