Wide Grip Rear Pulldowns – Back Exercise Guide with Photos

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Muscles Targeted: Wide grip rear pulldowns primarily targets the latissimus dorsi muscles of your back. It also strengthens the middle back, deltoids (shoulders), biceps and forearms as secondary muscle groups.

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Exercise Instructions: Position yourself on a lat pulldown machine and grab the bar securely using an overhand grip with your hands a little wider than shoulder width on the bar. Slowly pull the bar down using primarily your back muscles and bring the bar behind your neck until it touches the back of your neck (upper trapezius muscles). Slowly return the weight back up to the starting position and repeat. Please Note: You need to be very careful when performing this exercise since it places a lot of stress on the delicate rotator cuff tendons and muscles in the shoulder. It’s very important to avoid pulling the bar down too far behind your head so always use a very slow and controlled movement and stop if you experience any type of pain or discomfort in the rotator cuff area. It’s always better to choose the normal wide grip pulldown exercise where you pull the bar down in front of your head.

Why This Exercise is Important: Many inexperienced bodybuilders do not realize the importance of training their back, and focus predominantly on their front side muscles as this is what they see in the mirror. However, working on your back not only develops your overall proportions and symmetry, but it is also the key to improving other exercises such as the bench press and deadlifts.

Exercising your back, especially your lats, will broaden it and give your body width, improving your overall appearance. On top of this, it will also improve your posture which is important not only for general life activities, but also for other exercises you use in the gym. Having bad posture while performing different exercises may lead to injury.

Most importantly, training your back is the gateway to getting stronger in many other key mass building exercises. Your upper body will gain mass faster as other exercises that use the lats will be better complemented and supported. You will notice a considerable difference in your bench press for example. The initial movement in the bench press comes from your lats just as much as your chest, so working on your lats will help with this. Exercises like deadlifts will also improve as stronger lats will mean your posture is better while doing the exercise, and you can go heavier with the weights being used. You will also find push-ups, pull-ups and many other exercises easier if you work on your lats and build up your back muscles.

Things To Avoid: It is important to focus your attention on your lats as you perform wide grip rear pulldowns. Try to avoid relying on your arms and shoulders otherwise you will miss the point of the exercise and take the tension off of the primary back muscles. Also, make sure your back is straight since repeatedly doing this exercise with a bad posture may cause injury and put a lot of strain on your neck. Finally, do not go heavier than is comfortable for you because it may cause damage to your rotator cuffs, as it is an unnatural movement for your shoulders to move in this way when you pull the bar behind your head with this exercise. You may find it more efficient to do regular wide grip pull downs to the front of you have shoulder issues.

Reps and Sets: These will differ depending on what your goals are, but for a basic plan, do 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps. Try increasing the weight for each set and lowering the reps in a pyramid style down to 6-8 reps for your last set.

Other Exercises To Use: Nothing can beat bodyweight pullups and deadlifts for developing your back. If you find regular pullups easy then you can try doing weighted pull ups. Also, it is advisable to use a few exercises that isolate the lats with single-joint movements. Something like straight arm pulldowns is a great exercise to use for this. Changing the movements will mean your muscles are worked much more deeply and from different angles. On top of this you may also do regular wide grip pulldownscable rows, and T-bar rows for a complete back workout. Here is a sample routine:

  • Wide grip rear pulldowns (3 sets of 10-12 reps)
  • Pull ups/weighted pullups (3 sets of 10-12 reps)
  • Straight arm pulldowns (3 sets of 10-12 reps)

View our extensive database of exercise guides for a comprehensive list of exercises that target the back.

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