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Alternatives for Reverse-Grip Pull Downs

author image Sandi Busch
Sandi Busch received a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, then pursued training in nursing and nutrition. She taught families to plan and prepare special diets, worked as a therapeutic support specialist, and now writes about her favorite topics – nutrition, food, families and parenting – for hospitals and trade magazines.
Alternatives for Reverse-Grip Pull Downs
Man doing pullups Photo Credit: dolgachov/iStock/Getty Images

The reverse-grip pull down, more often called the reverse-grip “lat” pull down, is an exercise that targets the back and biceps. It’s performed on a pull-down machine, which you'll find in gyms or health clubs. Alternative exercises for the reverse-grip pull down work the same muscles but don’t require such expensive equipment.

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The Basics

Lat pull downs primarily work the latissimus dorsi muscles, or “lats.” Anchored along the spinal bones, these broad muscles begin at the base of the spine and go up as far as the last four ribs. The muscles narrow as they extend and attach to the top of each arm bone, or humerus, just below the shoulder. Secondary groups of muscles, including the biceps, middle back and shoulders, also get a workout with lat pull downs.


All you need for a pullup is a level, sturdy bar placed high enough so you can hang from the bar and not touch the ground. Ideally, you should be able to hang with straight legs and not hit the ground, but if the bar is too low, cross your feet and bend your knees. Grab the bar with your hands as far apart as your shoulders. Keeping your arms straight, let your body hang from the bar, then pull yourself up toward the bar until your chin is over it. Lower yourself back down, using controlled motion and, never letting your muscles completely relax, pull yourself back up again. Keep your body straight and avoid swinging motions.

One-Arm Dumbbell Row

This alternative to the lat pull down requires dumbbells or other weights and an exercise bench or any sturdy, flat bench. To exercise the left side, stand on the left side of the bench, with your right hand, knee and lower leg up on the bench. With your back straight and parallel to the floor, extend your left arm straight down to the floor and pull your shoulder blade back. Grab the weight and lift it straight up to your chest, keeping your elbow next to your body. Hold the weight in position while squeezing your shoulder blades together, then lower the weight. Reverse sides to work the opposite set of lat and bicep muscles.

Incline Bench Barbell Row

Incline your bench and put barbells on the floor at the high end of the bench. Lie face down with your chest at the high end and your feet on the floor on either side of the bench for support. Using a wide, overhand grip -- with your hands slightly farther apart than shoulder width and palms facing toward you -- raise the bar up as far as possible, then slowly return it back to the floor. Throughout the lift, keep your head up with eyes looking forward and elbows held in against your body. You’ll increase the intensity if you pause at the top of the lift and squeeze your shoulder blades together before lowering the barbells.

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