The neutral grip lat pulldown is notorious for working the back, shoulders, and arms simultaneously, making it not only a great compound movement but a stable exercise at that for all lifters – novice and experienced alike.
Contrary to the common belief that wide overhand grip results in wider lats, a neutral grip actually trumps for wings and lat activation, according to scientific studies. It’s also gentler on the shoulders while achieving that winged effect for a massive back spread. Moreover, the general movement of lat pulldowns works beyond mirror muscles.
So if you’re aiming for a well-sculpted physique in all angles, the neutral grip lat pulldown is a must-have in your workout routine. This article discusses benefits, muscles worked, and novice mistakes to recognize and avoid. We also enumerate and discuss lat-pumping variations and alternatives to help you achieve those wings.
This Ultimate Guide Will Cover:
- How To Perform Neutral Grip Pulldown
- Neutral Grip Lat Pulldown Benefits
- Common Neutral Grip Lat Pulldown Mistakes To Avoid
- Neutral Grip Lat Pulldown Muscles Worked
- Neutral Grip Pulldown vs Wide Grip Pulldown
- Our Trainer’s Suggested Reps, Sets, & Programs
- Neutral Grip Lat Pulldown Variations
- Neutral Grip Pulldown Alternative Exercises
- FAQs About Neutral Grip Pulldown
How To Perform The Neutral Grip Pulldown
What You’ll Need:
- Lat pulldown machine: This is where you will attach your choice of a bar to perform the neutral grip lat pulldown effectively
- Lat pulldown bar with D-handles: Choose a medium-range bar with D-handles to achieve a neutral grip with your palms facing inward
- Rope attachment: A rope attachment can help you target your lats properly with just the right width between your hands
- Short straight bar: You can opt for a straight bar that is either knurled or rubberized in texture, although you will have to go for an underhand or overhand grip
- V-bar: Same with a rope attachment, you can position your hands in a neutral grip and activate your lats properly
Step 1: Prepare the Lat Pull Down Machine
Attach a lat pulldown bar with handles to a Lat pulldown machine. Fix the bar to a level that you can grab from a seated position. Place your thighs under the pads and ensure a snug, comfortable fit. Bend your knees at a 90º angle. Make sure the pads are comfortable enough to roll your thighs under while being secure enough so you can avoid getting pulled upward by the bar as you perform the exercise.
Step 2: Grip the Handles
First, fully stretch your arms upward to reach for the bar. Then, position your hands in a neutral grip where your palms are facing each other. This is your starting position. Next, hinge back or slightly lean backward to prepare your lats and back muscles for activation. Keep a rigid torso and use your elbows to pull down your arms.
Step 3: Pull the Bar Downward
With a strict neutral grip, pull your elbows down until your hands are parallel with your upper chest. Exhale as you pull. As you reach the bottom of the movement, contract your lats (shoulder blades) for one or two seconds for full activation. Aim for a slow and controlled movement to perform the exercise in under 2 to 4 seconds.
Step 4: Raise Back the Bar
As you undergo the eccentric phase, extend your arms but not overreach. Exhale as you raise the bar high enough to a level that your lats are still activated. Avoid shrugging your shoulders. Count this as one repetition. Repeat the reps to complete the sets required by your program.
5 Neutral Grip Pulldown Benefits
1. Best Grip for Wrist Protection
It has been proven that performing a neutral grip lat pulldown is the best way to negate wrist pain and injuries. On the other hand, a supinated or pronated grip proves to be more taxing on the wrists. This could render the exercise less effective when your lats still have power, but your hands are starting to lose grip.
2. Great Lat Activation
A neutral grip lat pulldown provides an optimal grip width for lat activation and strength. As opposed to wide grip pulldowns that limit the range of motion per repetition, a neutral grip lat pulldown allows for more contraction on the latissimus dorsi, as well as other working muscles involved in the movement.
3. Stronger Upper Body
Being a staple compound exercise for the back, the lat pulldown in different variations contributes to a stronger back. It places great work on the upper body muscles, which can be practically utilized for everyday activities, as well as better sports performance.
4. Bigger Back
The latissimus dorsi consists of a massive chunk of your back muscles. Bigger lats result in better depth and shape on the back. Thereby, this balances your mirror muscles and gives your upper body more dimension and structure from the back and the sides, achieving that most sought-after V-taper.
5. Better Posture
Given the rigid body position required in lat pulldowns, this naturally fixes one’s posture and form. It also reduces significant tightness and soreness in the back. If you’re feeling some pain or discomfort in the upper back, consider adding the lat pulldown to your workout regime.
Common Neutral Grip Pulldown Mistakes to Avoid
Feet Not Planted Firmly on the Ground
This reduces leverage and places unnecessary tension on your calves. Fix your form by adjusting the thigh pads securely against your quads. If your legs are too short to reach the floor, place weight plates or blocks under your feet.
Pulling Bar Too Low
Once your bar passes the chest, this automatically activates the shoulders and triceps and removes tension from the lats. To aim for a proper bar path, aim for the bar to reach only until your upper chest. Avoid any elbow extension by all means, and keep your elbows on your sides only.
Hunching the Shoulders
When the shoulders are hunched, this transfers the brunt of the work to the deltoids, arms, and even the core due to the crunching motion. Putting your body to an 80º angle and reducing the weights will remove the shrug on your shoulders and keep activation on your lats.
Momentum results from having an unsteady body or torso. This leads to joint strain and a sloppy technique, making the whole movement unproductive. Applying momentum is a great technique for advanced lifters but usually means that the weights are too heavy for novice lifters. To fix this, apply proper technique and lighten the stack as necessary.
Neutral Grip Lat Pulldown Muscles Worked
A neutral lat pulldown activates the following muscles:
- Latissimus dorsi
- Teres major
- Posterior deltoid
- Biceps brachii
The lats take the brunt of the work and engage, strengthen, and grow the connecting muscles around it. The teres major is responsible for internal arm rotation, where it coined its name as the “Lat Little Helper.” The traps stabilize the scapula and fix the shoulder joint in position. The rhomboids retract the scapula and rotate the shoulder socket.
As the lat pulldown primarily targets these above muscles, it also activates the biceps and delts. The posterior deltoid helps pull back the arms to the sides and activate the lats while the biceps allow elbow flexion.
Neutral Grip Pulldown vs Wide Grip Pulldown
The neutral grip pulldown starts off with a neutral grip or the palms facing each other. On the contrary, the wide grip pulldown has its starting position with an overhand grip or the palms facing forward. These two different positions focus on different muscle activation but nevertheless can help sculpt and strengthen your back, lats, and even arms.
When it comes to muscles worked, as discussed in the previous section, the neutral grip pulldown primarily targets the latissimus dorsi, teres major, trapezius, and rhomboids. Meanwhile, wide grip pulldowns focus on the biceps, forearms, upper back, and shoulders.
Our Trainer’s Suggested Reps, Sets, and Programs
For Muscle Building
To achieve hypertrophy, perform 10 to 12 reps for 3 to 4 sets. Rest for 1 to 2 minutes in between each set. Apply with moderate weights.
For Strength Training
To gain strength on the lats, perform fewer sets with a heavyweight. Do 1 to 5 reps for 3 to 4 sets. Rest in between each set a little longer for 2 to 5 minutes.
Neutral Grip Pulldown Variations
Close neutral grip lat focuses effective activation on the whole lats. The variations below will assist you in targeting other specific muscles in achieving an impressive v-taper.
Wide Grip Lat Pulldown
This variation works on the outer portion of the lats. The strength you gain from this exercise can cross over into other exercises such as rows and pull-ups. Beyond fitness, the wide grip lat pulldown is also great for posture correction and optimal spinal alignment.
Kneeling Neutral Grip Lat Pulldown
Kneeling lat pulldowns give your lats a full stretch while targeting multiple muscles, including the upper lats, teres major, and lower traps. With your grip shoulder-width apart, this variation replicates a bodyweight pull-up in a neutral grip. Thus, working on your core, back, and arms while improving your lower body stability.
Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown
The reverse grip pulldown transfers tension to the lower lats while encouraging engagement from your biceps and middle back. Overall, this strengthens the back, shoulders, biceps, and even forearms.
Neutral Grip Pulldown Alternatives
Whether you have no pulldown attachment available or you’re simply looking for alternatives to the close neutral grip lat pulldown, the following exercises will come in handy.
Seated Cable Row
This increases upper body strength by activating several muscles such as the latissimus dorsi, erector spinae, rhomboids, and lower traps. This makes use of a cable row machine, which is a great alternative for lat pulldowns.
One-Arm Cable Row
Another great alternative to the close neutral grip lat pulldown is the one-arm cable row. By adding unilateral training into your program, you’re able to involve more muscle contraction and core stability and strength. This results in better bilateral muscular balance, better posture, and a great back definition to boot.
We all know how Pull-ups strengthen and sculpt the shoulders, forearms, and chest more than anything. This places drastic strength on your grip and improves bone density in the process. Most importantly, it’s convenient to practice on any sturdy high bar or when you have access to any type of pull-up bar.