Reverse Grip Pulldown - Concise and Comprehensive Overview
It’s well-known that one of the best exercises for building back width is a pull-up… but what about its sister, the pulldown?
A pulldown is a vertical rowing exercise that most gyms have. This is a cable-based machine exercise and it targets your lats and biceps.
Chances are, you’ve seen someone walking around the gym with their arms out like they have huge lats… but nothing is there. Invisible lat syndrome is where these little guys get a little pump and they feel that they are bigger than they are.
Since having this V-taper is aesthetically pleasing, you can increase the illusion of broader shoulders and a narrower waist. Performing reverse grip pulldowns involves using your forearms, triceps, rear delts, rotator cuff, your rhomboids, traps, and scapula muscles — it’s simply an effective workout.
When you compare reverse grip pulldowns to wide-grip pulldowns, reverse grip targets the lower lats more, it involves the pec major, and it doesn’t involve as much rotator cuff.
It’s basically a chin-up without the ability to use momentum to make it easier. The adjustability of the weight you lift is great for those unable to perform chin-ups.
Performing a Reverse Grip Pulldown
Before you start lifting, sit down at the machine and make sure the adjustments are correct. Make sure your feet fit under the bar that holds you down and isn’t too loose. Once you start lifting, your body will come off of your seat, so setting it properly will allow you to train heavy.
Now that everything is set up and you have your weight selected, go ahead and grab the bar with a supinated grip. That means you’ll see the palms of your hands.
Pick a weight that you can conservatively do around 10 to 12 reps with. Be sure they are quality reps with a full range of motion — don’t let your ego get in your way.
Slightly arch your back away from the machine and initiate the pull by engaging your lats, pulling your shoulder blades back, and pulling your elbows towards the ground. Your biceps are more involved in the reverse grip pulldown rather than wide-grip, so use your arms as levers to transfer power from your lats to the bar.
Be sure to pause for a solid second every rep at the bottom of the lift to get a good contraction. You don’t have to touch your chest for the rep to count, but go as far as your shoulders allow.
Slowly let the bar raise and repeat for your desired reps and sets.
Reverse Grip Pulldown Rep Scheme
You can program reverse grip pulldowns in a few different ways, so there really isn’t a recommended rep scheme.
Reverse grip pulldowns can be performed using straight sets, pyramid sets, drop sets, rest-pause sets, supersets, giant sets, paused reps, and slow negatives.
Try a variety of heavy, low rep sets and also include some lighter, higher weight rep sets.
Reverse Grip Pulldown Tips
Getting the most out of your reverse grip pulldowns comes down to experience. There are a few things I’ve learned over the years that will help you get a good start on them, but you’ll have to do the rest of the work.
Try Thumbless Grip
Many lifters state they improve lat and bicep engagement, pull more weight, and decrease shoulder movement when they utilize a thumbless grip.
Don’t let your grip strength keep you from pulling more. Using some straps will allow you to pull more and heavier without losing grip.
The focus of the exercise is to improve your lats, biceps, and other supporting muscles. While you should work on improving your grip strength, don’t be afraid to bust the straps out.
Don’t Use Momentum
One thing I regret back in the day was using momentum to do my lifts. Then when I would try to do a dead hang pullup, it was a completely different monster.
If you want to build the best back you can, you’re going to have to limit your momentum and keep your ego at the door.
Don’t be afraid to be explosive, but don’t sway your body back and forth every rep just to pull it.
Learn to Retract Shoulders
Have you ever been smacked in the middle of your back? Maybe someone whipped a towel there?
Squeezing your shoulder blades together as if you just got smacked in the middle of your back is what you need to do throughout your set. Failing to pack your shoulders will result in more emphasis on your shoulders instead of your lats and biceps.
Squeezing your shoulder blades together also helps keep your chest up.
Wrapping It Up
This exercise is great if you have the machine available to do it.
The exercise is a great compound movement with limited risk of injury — unless you ego lift and use momentum. For the most part, everyone should be able to do this exercise and benefit from it.
Use good form, play around with weight, sets, and reps, and consistently try to improve.