Does it matter how far apart or close my hands are when doing a lat pulldown? Is one more effective than the other?
The lat pulldown is a great exercise for your back. Primarily, it works the lat muscles (hence the name) – but you’ll also feel this exercise in your biceps and traps. There are four basic variables involved in a lat pulldown: The distance between your hands on the bar (wide or close grip) and the type of grip you employ (overhand or underhand).
When it comes to close vs. wide grips and underhand vs. overhand, researchers at Penn State put lat pulldowns to the test:
Twelve healthy men performed the 4 grip variations using an experimentally determined load of 70% of 1 repetition maximum. Two trials of 5 repetitions were analyzed for each grip type.
The researchers measured the effectiveness of each grip variation and found that a overhand
(pronated) grip is the most effective:
We conclude that… a pronated grip is recommended for safely and optimally training the LD [latissimus dorsi muscle], irrespective of the grip width.
An pronated or overhand grip is when your palms face away and your fingers turn downward over the bar. Interestingly, as the research notes, there is no difference in effectiveness between a wide or close grip – so hold the bar at a width that feels comfortable.
Bottom line: Use an overhand grip at any width when performing a lat pulldown.
I hope that helps!