When we refer to the Latissimus dorsi muscle, we talk about the muscle that originates from the mid to lower back. It is responsible for the internal rotation, adduction, and extension of the arm. Moreover, it also helps with respiration.
Such a critical muscle needs a proper set of exercises, like a close grip pulldown. It is also known as close hammer grip lat pulldown.
It directly targets the Latissimus dorsi muscle and helps in the downward rotation and depression of the scapulae.
This exercise is undertaken by people of all fitness levels- be it a beginner or an advanced athlete. Without circling around, let us understand this exercise in-depth.
Muscles Worked by the Close Grip Pulldown
As mentioned earlier, the primary muscle targeted by the close grip pulldown exercise is the Latissimus dorsi muscle.
It is a flat, broad, and long muscle on the back that has its reach to the sides and behind the arm. It is covered by the trapezius near the midline.
This muscle is helpful for transverse extension along with regular extension and adduction. The internal rotation of the shoulder joint is done with the help of this muscle. In addition to that, it is also responsible for lateral flexion and extension of the lumbar spine.
Besides helping with the close grip pulldown exercise, it also assists while performing chin-ups, bent-over row, T-bar row, straight-arm lat pulldowns, pull-overs, deadlift, etc.
The secondary muscles that are targeted by the close grip pulldown are the biceps, shoulders, upper back, abs, etc. It also activates your core.
Benefits of Close Grip Pulldown
If several strength training exercises target the Latissimus dorsi muscle, why should you incorporate close grip pulldown in your daily workout? The following are the reasons that will help you understand its main benefits:
Stimulate the Lats
As the Latissimus dorsi muscle, also known as lats, is a muscle that spreads across the back, it goes without saying that your back muscles are targeted the most.
You get a better contraction of your lats at the end of each rep that helps in strengthening the back. This can come in handy while performing heavy and compound lifts.
Along with that, you get an increased range of motion. As compared to the wide grip pulldown, you will be in the position to pull the weight down even further.
Lastly, you can target your back muscles without draining the triceps or biceps.
If you have a poor posture, it means that your spine is positioned in an unnatural way, thereby affected your back muscles. But this can be treated effectively with close grip pulldown as it targets the back muscles.
As your back muscles get strengthened, you get a better and improved posture. It can also help in relieving the built-up pressure on the back tissues.
Help with Pulling Movements
If pulling exercises are not your forte, you must start with the close grip pulldown as it can assist you in several other pulling movements. For example, opening a door, pulling a cart, dragging a heavy suitcase, starting a lawnmower. Etc.
How to Perform the Close Grip Pulldown?
Now it is time to get started with this exercise. But do not jump into it without learning about the proper form and techniques.
If you are a beginner who has never performed this exercise, you are in for a treat as we have the following step-by-step explanation for the close grip pulldown:
- Find a cable machine in your gym with a close grip attachment. It is available at almost all kinds of gyms, so this should not be an issue.
- Face the cable machine and place yourself firmly on the lat pulldown bench.
- Adjust the knee pads against your legs. Ensure that it has a snug fit so that your body is not raised while performing this exercise.
- With a close underhand grip, hold the close grip attachment with your arms less wide than your shoulder width.
- Sit in such a way that your toes is leaned back about 30°, and your chest sticks out. This should be your starting position. Now it is time to get started with this exercise.
- Exhale and bring the attachment towards your chest. Use your shoulders and upper arms to draw the extension close to your upper chest without touching it.
- Squeeze your back muscles and lats. Ensure that only your arms are moving and your torso is stationary.
- Inhale and return to the starting position with your lats stretched and arms fully extended.
Common Mistakes to Avoid While Performing Close Grip Pulldown
Several people complain about the soreness that follows the close grip pulldown. This could be due to an incorrect form or techniques.
The following are the most common mistakes that gym-goes unknowingly make that prevents them from reaping maximum benefits from this exercise:
When you perform the close grip pulldown, your lower body position should be completely locked. If there is room to wiggle between your knees and pads, your body will move up with the attachment. To correct this, you must change the attachments in the knee pads in such a way that there is no space between the pads and your knees.
Moreover, your feet must not be placed firmly on the ground. Instead, the heel must be raised.
People also keep the lower back straight without any arch. But there must be a 30° bend so that your upper chest moves forward. This will also help in engaging the lat.
Most trainers go with an overhand grip while holding the attachment. But it is more advisable to have an underhand grip. Moreover, opt for a false grip as it helps with more lat engagement. As it is a close grip exercise, it should be as wide as your shoulder width.
Momentum of the Exercise
When you are pulling down the attachment, you must always exhale. After holding the position for a second or so, inhale and return to the starting position. But the tempo should be slower while returning so that the eccentric part gets delayed. This is beneficial for developing the connection between the muscles and your mind.
Going with Light Weights
Some people opt for lesser weights so that they can finish the exercise without any soreness. However, by doing so and maintaining a faster tempo, your joints will eventually give up on you.
Hence, go with the weights that you are comfortable with and something that will help you target your lats.
Sets, Reps, Programming Recommendations for Close Grip Pulldown
Close grip pulldown is a crucial exercise. If it is complemented with the right kind of back exercises, you will eventually see a significant change in your body form.
We suggest you do this exercise twice a week. You can change the reps on different days.
Go with six reps on the first day and twelve on the other. You can also change the weights.
But always warm up before you perform this exercise.
Variations of Close Grip Pulldown
If you really need to work and improve your back muscles, consider undertaking the following variations along with the close grip pulldown:
- Single-Arm Lat Pulldown
- Wide Grip Pulldown
- Behind-the-neck Lat Pulldown
- Reverse Close grip Lat Pulldown
- V-bar Pulldown
- Neutral Grip Lat Pulldown
- Kneeling Lat Pulldown
- Hammer Strength Reverse-Grip Lat Pulldown
- Suspension Trainer Lat Pullup
- Straight-Arm Pulldown
Safety & Precautions for Close Grip Pulldown
It is best to stay on a safer end rather than getting yourself injured. Adhere to the following precautionary measures while performing the close grip pulldown exercise:
Keep your Back Arched
If you keep your back straight while performing the close grip pulldown, your lat muscles will not get engaged. Hence, keep your back bent with a slight arch.
Pull your Chest in Front
Once you maintain an arch in your back, your upper chest will lean forward. This is necessary while pulling down the attachment to target the muscles.
Raise your heels
Do not keep your feet flat on the ground but raise the heels. This will remove the space between your knees and the knee pads.
Maintain an underhand grip
An underhand grip is more favorable for close grip pulldown. Moreover, only keep your arms shoulder-width apart.
Only work with the weights that you are comfortable with. If you go with lighter weights, you will fasten the momentum and losing the benefits of this exercise. But going with significantly heavier weights will strain your joints, causing pain and soreness.
Also, try to lose control of the weights when you return to the starting position after contraction.
Avoid this exercise if you have a back injury
You must skip this exercise if you have any back injuries. Consult a doctor and act accordingly.
Alternatives of Close Grip Pulldown
The following are the alternatives for close grip pulldown exercise for more elaborate workout sessions:
- Bridge pose
- Kettlebell Swing
- Pendlay Row
- Child’s Pose
- Kroc Row
- Incline Dumbbell Row
- Decline Dumbbell Pullovers