Exercise Profile
  • Target Muscle Group
  • Exercise TypeStrength
  • Equipment RequiredCable
  • MechanicsCompound
  • Force TypePull (Bilateral)
  • Experience LevelBeginner
  • Secondary Muscles
    Abs, Biceps, Shoulders, Upper Back
Target Muscle Group


Lats Muscle Anatomy Diagram

Straight Arm Lat Pull Down Overview

The straight arm lat pull down is a variation of the lat pull down and an exercise used to build the muscles of the back. While the exercise will primarily target the lats, you will also notice a fair amount of bicep and middle back activation.

The back is a muscle group that requires a fair amount of variation. So, experiment with several different angles and hand positions to maximize your back muscle growth.

The straight arm lat pull down mimics the movement of a dumbbell pullover. The emphasis should be on feeling the entire range of motion, not the amount of weight you use on the exercise.

The straight arm lat pull down can be performed during your back workouts, upper body workouts, pull workouts, and full body workouts.

Straight Arm Lat Pull Down Instructions

  1. Attach a wide grip handle to a cable stack and assume a standing position.
  2. Grasp the handle with a pronated grip (double overhand) at roughly shoulder width and lean forward slightly by hinging at the hips.
  3. Keep the elbow slightly flexed and initiate the movement by depressing the shoulder blades and extending the shoulders.
  4. Pull the bar to your thigh until the lats are fully contracted and then slowly lower under control.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Straight Arm Lat Pull Down Tips

  1. Keep some tone through your abdominals as you pull the bar into your body to ensure you don’t arch excessively through the spine.
  2. If you feel your biceps being overused and your back remaining under active, consider utilizing a false grip (i.e. don’t wrap the thumb around the dumbbell).
  3. Don’t allow the head to jut forward as you pull.
  4. Similarly, ensure the shoulder blade moves on the rib cage. Don’t lock the shoulder blade down and just move through the glenohumeral joint.
  5. If you can’t seem to feel your lats engaging, try to “screw your shoulders” into their sockets by pointing your elbows behind your body. Another cue that works exceptionally well is to “squeeze oranges in your armpits”.
Posted on: Thu, 01/19/2023 - 04:30

I can feel my triceps being engaged a bit despite not listed as a secondary muscle here,normal or bad form?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 01/19/2023 - 15:35

I actually feel they should be listed as a secondary muscle, Pav. The long head of the tricep goes across the shoulder joint, so it will engage. You're likely doing them correctly.

Posted on: Mon, 02/27/2017 - 17:39

Any alternate exercise if you don't have access do that machine?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 02/28/2017 - 08:59

Hi Isaac,

Dumbbell Pullovers mimic the same movement pattern.

Posted on: Tue, 01/20/2015 - 19:54

when I do this exercise and a couple other back exercises my back BURNS just on the left side right above my lats by my scapula. Is there something I'm doing wrong?

Posted on: Tue, 04/23/2013 - 09:48

It feels more like triceps. Almost no feeling on lats. I have tried different hand width and all but no success. Any advice?

Posted on: Tue, 06/25/2013 - 10:25

Try keeping your elbows nearly straight. If you are bending at the elbow it will work your triceps way more than the lats.

Posted on: Fri, 11/22/2013 - 14:26

I suspect you keep your shoulder up during the exercise. You need to keep the shoulder down to get the contraction of the lat. So when you set up at starting point (90 degree), start pressing shoulder down while maintain your chest high before pulling the cable down.

Posted on: Mon, 09/05/2016 - 19:34

Thank you, after using this advice, I immediately felt it working my lats like crazy!

Posted on: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 20:48