Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown: Muscle Worked, Benefits & Alternates

If you want to add a new and effective exercise to your back workout routine, try the Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown. It’s a great choice.

The reverse grip lat pulldown is an effective exercise that targets your upper back muscles in a unique way. An underhand grip is used to target different muscles than the traditional overhand grip lat pulldown.

The traditional wide grip lat pulldown targets the lats, while the underhand reverse grip variation targets the posterior deltoids, rhomboids, and traps.

In this article, we’ll explain how to do reverse grip pulldowns correctly, which muscles are used, and why it’s good for your back.

What is Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown

The reverse grip lat pulldown also known as Underhand Grip Lat Pulldown is a popular back exercise that targets the upper back muscles in a unique way compared to the traditional wide grip pulldown.

In this move, you grasp the pulldown bar with an underhand (reverse) grip, slightly wider than shoulder width apart. The underhand grip puts more focus and tension on the upper back muscles, such as the following:

How It Differs from the Traditional Lat Pulldown

In the traditional lat pulldown, you grip the bar with your palms facing away from you (overhand grip). In the reverse grip version, your palms face towards you (underhand grip, also known as a supinated grip).

A wide grip pulldown emphasizes the lats more, whereas a reverse grip variation puts greater stress on the smaller and often neglected muscles of the upper back.

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Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown Muscles Worked

The Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown primarily targets the muscles of the back, but it also engages other muscle groups to a lesser degree. Here are the key muscles worked during this exercise:

Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown Muscles Worked

Primary Muscles Worked

  1. Latissimus Dorsi: It is the major muscle group targeted by this exercise. The reverse grip places a slightly greater emphasis on the lower portion of the lats.
  2. Lower Trapezius: During the reverse grip lat pulldown, the lower traps are still engaged. This muscle group plays a role in scapular depression.
  3. Rhomboids: These muscles, found between the shoulder blades, are engaged to help retract the scapulae (shoulder blades) as you pull the bar down.

Secondary Muscles Worked

  1. Biceps Brachii: The underhand grip leads to greater biceps activation.
  2. Brachialis: Assists in elbow flexion and is also activated due to the underhand grip lat pulldown.
  3. Brachioradialis: This muscle also engaged during the pulling motion, assisting the biceps and brachialis.
  4. Teres Major: The teres major is a muscle located deep in the back, beneath the lats. It helps to adduct (bring in) the arms and rotate them inward.
  5. Serratus Anterior: Though not a primary focus of the exercise, the serratus anterior helps with scapular movement and stability.
  6. Infraspinatus and Teres Minor: Part of the rotator cuff, these muscles get a mild workout as stabilizers.
  7. Core Muscles: The abdominals and lower back muscles are also engaged to some extent to stabilize the torso during the movement.

How To Do Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown

How To Do Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown
  1. Sit down on the lat pulldown machine and place your thighs under the knee pads.
  2. Grip the bar with your palms facing you (underhand/supinated grip).
  3. Your hands should be spaced closer than shoulder-width apart for optimal muscle engagement.
  4. Sit down with your arms fully extended, back straight, and chest up.
  5. Your feet should be flat on the floor. This is your starting position.
  6. Take a deep breath and engage your core muscles.
  7. Start pulling the bar downwards toward your upper chest.
  8. As you pull the bar down, focus on driving your elbows toward the ground.
  9. Your forearms should move vertically and come to a stop when the bar reaches your upper chest.
  10. Hold the position briefly and consciously squeeze your lat muscles for maximum contraction.
  11. Release the bar slowly with your arms fully extended, then slowly return it to the initial position. Exhale during this phase.
  12. Perform the desired number of repetitions and sets.
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Common Mistake To Be Avoided

Even though the reverse grip lat pulldown exercise is very popular, many people make common mistakes when they do it. Here are some of the things you should avoid:

1. Rounding the back

It’s one of the most common mistakes made when doing lat pulldowns, and it can lead to lower back pain. To avoid rounding your back, keep your core strong and pull with your lats instead of your lower back.

2. Leaning Back

Excessively leaning back can disengage the latissimus dorsi and put unnecessary strain on your lower back. Maintain an upright posture, leaning slightly back, just enough to prevent the bar from hitting your face.

3. Using Too Much Momentum

Avoid using momentum to finish a rep. Instead, use your back muscles to pull the bar down towards your chest. 

Control the negative on the way down. Don’t just let gravity drop the weight. 

4. Rushing Through the Exercise

If the exercise is performed too quickly, without control, it can lead to poor muscle engagement and increase the risk of injury.

5. Incorrect Hand Spacing

The improper grip of the bar, whether it is excessively wide or narrow, can have an impact on the targeted muscles and may result in discomfort or strain.

6. Do Full Range Of Motion

Not pulling the bar down low enough or not doing the top portion of the exercise can limit the effectiveness of the exercise.

Make sure you fully extend your arms at the starting position and pull the bar down at the upper chest level. Additionally, focus on squeezing the shoulder blades together at the bottom of the movement.

Underhand Grip Lat Pulldown Variations and Progressions

To help you target different areas of your back and continue making progress in your workouts, here are some variations and progressions.

1. Wide Grip Underhand Lat Pulldown

The wide grip underhand lat pulldown is a vertical pulling variation that targets the lats and upper back muscles. As the name suggests, you use a wide underhand (reverse) grip on the bar, wider than shoulder-width apart.

Using a wide grip underhand lat pulldown, you can build wing-like lats and increase upper body muscle mass.

Note: While a wider grip can target the outer portion of your lats, using a grip that is too wide may put excessive strain on your shoulders and elbows. Test out different grip widths to find the one that feels right and allows you to perform the exercise in the right way.

How To Do It

  1. Attach a wide grip handle to the lat pulldown machine.
  2. Sit down and grasp the handle with an underhand grip, just outside of shoulder width.
  3. Lean back slightly and pull the handle down towards your chest while keeping your elbows close to your sides.
  4. Pause briefly at the bottom of the movement, then slowly release the handle back to the starting position.

2. Close Grip Underhand Lat Pulldown

The close grip underhand lat pulldown is performed using a lat pulldown machine with a close grip handle and an underhand grip.

The close grip targets the inner portion of your lats, while the underhand grip increases bicep activation.

How To Do It

  1. Set the seat of the lat pulldown machine so that your thighs are parallel to the ground and your feet are flat on the floor.
  2. Attach a close-grip bar to the machine and hold it with an underhand grip. Just inside shoulder width.
  3. Lean back slightly and pull the handle down towards your chest while keeping your elbows close to your sides.
  4. Pause at the bottom of the movement, then slowly return the bar to the starting position.

3. Single-Arm Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown

The Single-Arm Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown is an advanced variation of the traditional lat pulldown that allows you to focus on one side of your back at a time.

The single-arm version often allows a greater range of motion, which contributes to better muscle engagement.

How To Do It

  1. Attach a single handle to the lat pulldown machine and adjust the knee pad.
  2. Sit down and grip the handle with an underhand grip using one hand.
  3. Extend your arm fully to feel a stretch in the lat muscle.
  4. Exhale as you pull the handle down towards your upper chest.
  5. At the bottom, pause and squeeze your lats and biceps for maximum muscle engagement.
  6. Slowly extend your arm back to the starting position while inhaling.
  7. Perform the exercise for the desired number of reps, then switch arms.

Benefits Of Reverse (underhand) Grip Lat Pulldown

  • Targets upper back muscles – rear delts, rhomboids, traps
  • Allows greater range of motion stretch in the lats
  • Helps fix muscle imbalances compared to wide grip version
  • Builds a thicker, wider back and improves posture
  • Enhances shoulder health and function
  • Increases stabilization demands – engages core
  • Variation in grip hits muscles from different angles
  • Complement to wide grip pulldowns for balanced development
  • Unique stimulus to prevent adaptation for continuous results

Reverse Grip Vs Standard Grip Lat Pulldown

Both the Reverse Grip (Underhand) and Traditional Grip (Overhand) Lat Pulldowns are effective exercises for targeting the latissimus dorsi. However, they offer distinct advantages and engage secondary muscle groups in distinct ways. Here’s a comparative look at the two:

Muscles Targeted

  • Reverse Grip emphasizes upper back – rear delts, rhomboids, traps
  • Traditional Grip emphasizes lats more directly

Grip and Hand Position

  • Reverse uses underhand grip wider than shoulder width
  • Traditional uses overhand grip wider than shoulder width

Range of Motion

  • Reverse grip allows greater stretch at bottom by tilting torso slightly
  • Traditional hits optimal lat contraction at various angles


  • Reverse builds upper back thickness and rear delt development
  • Traditional builds lats for width and v-taper


  • Reverse limits lat involvement compared to traditional
  • Traditional can cause shoulder impingement if poor form

Best Uses

  • Reverse as a supplementary exercise to target the upper back
  • Traditional as a core lat builder, often done with wider grip

Best Alternates Of Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown

1. Pull-Ups

Pull-ups are a great alternative to the reverse grip lat pulldown exercise, as they work the same muscle groups and offer a similar range of motion

2. Single-Arm Dumbbell Row

If you’re looking to add some variety to your back workout routine, then one-arm dumbbell row is a great exercise option.

This is a simple yet effective exercise that will help you build a bigger and stronger back and improve your posture. It’s a good exercise for working each lat individually and helping to fix muscle imbalances.

3. T-Bar Rows

The T-bar row is a compound back exercise that targets the latissimus dorsi, traps, rhomboids, rear delts, and biceps. T-Bar Rows allow you to use a neutral grip, which is biomechanically the strongest position to pull from.

4. Bent-Over Barbell Rows

Similar muscle engagement to the Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown, but allows for heavier weight lifting for mass building.


The reverse grip lat pulldown is a great exercise for strengthening your back and improving core and shoulder stability. If you follow the guide step-by-step, you can make sure your form is correct and get the best results.

Don’t forget to avoid common mistakes and try out different variations to keep challenging yourself. It is recommended to incorporate this exercise into your upper body workout regimen to enhance the strength of your back.

Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown (With Muscles Worked)

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