The lat pulldown machine is up there with bent-over rows, pull-ups, and deadlifts as some of the best back exercises you can do. However, not everyone has access to this machine. Whether you can’t do lat pull-downs because you don’t have it or because it doesn’t work for you, this is your guide to finding an alternative that works just as good if not even better.

How to mimic the lat pulldown machine:

The lat pulldown is typically done with a straight bar handle that is attached to a pulley system whereby you can select the weights using a pin. The movement is done by anchoring your body using a foam pad at the base of the seat and pulling the bar handle down to your chest. This movement uses the lat muscles as well as other muscles in the back.

One quick look at the lat pulldown and you will quickly realize that this is just a machine pull-up system. Any movement that loads the arms in a downward motion is going to be similar to the lat pull down. The primary function here is shoulder adduction. There are other variations that use a supinated grip or a neutral grip.

Alternatives for the lat pulldown machine:

There are many alternatives for the lat pulldown machine and you can use these to replace the machine entirely.


The lat pulldown machine is basically an easier version of the pull-up. While it’s more comfortable, the lat pulldown machine requires less activation of the stabilizing muscles. The only reason why you would use a lat pulldown is that you can easily and conveniently change the load with just the weight pin whereas it’s a lot more difficult to change the weight in bodyweight pull-ups. In order to make the pull-up harder, you can hang weights from a calisthenics belt. To make the pull-up easier, you can attach a resistance band at the pull-up bar and at the base of your feet.

The GR8FLEX lat pull down:

While not everyone has access to a gym with a pulley system, the best thing to do is get yourself a GR8FLEX which allows you to not only get the lat pulldown, but also hundreds of other exercises. The way you can use a lat pull down in the GR8FLEX is by lying flat on the sliding mat while grabbing the handles. Adjust the tension appropriately and pull yourself up as you would in a regular lat pulldown. The great thing about GR8FLEX is the fact that you can pull your elbows a lot further down which means you get a lot of activation in your lats and back.

Lat Pullover Machine:

This exercise is almost the exact same as the lat pull-down machine except it can be a lot harder. Unlike the lat pulldown, this exercise uses no biceps at all. It can be a good alternative to the lat pulldown since it works the same muscles.

Banded pulldowns:

Using resistance bands can be a good replacement for a weight stack that is typically used in a lat pull-down machine. For this alternative, you can attach a resistance band to a bar or a hook and pull the resistance band down to your chest as you would in a regular pull down.


This exercise is done by grabbing a dumbbell or a barbell while resting the upper body on a bench. Your feet should be touching the ground with only your upper back resting on a bench. While grabbing the dumbbell up, lower it slowly backward behind your head and then come back up when you feel your lats stretched.


Any type of row would be a good alternative to the lat pulldown machine. Cable rows, dumbbell rows, bent-over rows, or machine rows are all good options. This is because they mimic the movement pattern in the lat pulldown except you can typically go much heavier with rows since they use a lot of lower back and core muscles.

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