The lat pulldown is one of the greatest back exercises for mass. But the biceps come along for the ride because of elbow flexion when pulling. But does the lat pulldown work the biceps enough for them to grow?
Lat pulldowns work the biceps as it is a pulling exercise involving elbow flexion. The biceps are activated at approximately 30% of their maximum capacity with the pronated grip lat pulldown.
With the biceps being a secondary muscle group for the lat pulldown, is there a best grip for bigger biceps?
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Which Lat Pulldown Grip Is Best For Biceps?
The biceps are significantly worked with all three lat pulldown grips: pronated, neutral, and supinated. However, the underhand grip is superior for biceps development. We can take research from pull-ups as the movements are biomechanically similar and well correlated .
And the underhand or supinated grip elicits the greatest biceps activation compared to the neutral and pronated grips . That doesn’t mean neutral and overhand grips don’t activate the biceps.
A medium grip is the best width during an overhand lat pulldown . But if you’re doing a lat pulldown to give the best biceps growth stimulus, use a supinated narrow grip.
Why Do You Feel Lat Pulldowns In Your Biceps?
Lat pulldowns are primarily to target the lats and back. But many beginners find their biceps burn and fatigue faster than their lats. Here’s what you can do to minimize this issue when using the lat pulldown to build a wide back.
A common mistake is to grip the bar too tightly. This forces your forearms and biceps to take over the movement. You want to use your hands like hooks with the bar sitting against your curled fingers, reducing the tension in your arms.
To make this better, use a thumbless grip with your thumb over the bar. This allows you to pull with your pinky and ring finger, improving the mind-muscle connection with your lats.
Finally, pulling with your lats rather than your arms significantly improves lat activation . Doing these three things will reduce the feeling in your biceps and increase the feeling in your lats when doing the lat pulldown.
Does The Lat Pulldown Make Your Arms Bigger?
The lat pulldown will hit the biceps making your arms bigger. But it will not maximize arm development. To get bigger biceps, you need to load them with elbow flexion exercises to isolate the biceps.
Lat pulldowns work the biceps as a secondary muscle to complete the pulldown, adding volume to your biceps training.
How To Activate Your Biceps Instead Of Your Lats During The Pulldown
While I’ve given you tips to reduce biceps involvement during the lat pulldown, here are some tips to increase biceps activation. Without outright performing a curl, use a narrow underhand grip when performing the pulldown.
You’ll still hit the lats, but you’ll have more involvement from the biceps to complete the movement.
The lat pulldown works the biceps but not enough to grow them significantly. You can increase biceps contribution by using a narrow underhand grip. You can reduce their involvement to target the lats by using your hands like hooks and thinking about working the lats.
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2. Andersen, V., Fimland, M. S., Wiik, E., Skoglund, A., & Saeterbakken, A. H. (2014). Effects of grip width on muscle strength and activation in the lat pulldown. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 28(4), 1135-1142.
3. Hewit, J. K., Jaffe, D. A., & Crowder, T. (2018). A comparison of muscle activation during the pull-up and three alternative pulling exercises. J. Phys. Fitness, Med. Treat. Sport, 5(4), 1-7.
4. Snyder, Benjamin J., and James R. Leech. “Voluntary increase in latissimus dorsi muscle activity during the lat pulldown following expert instruction.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 23.8 (2009): 2204-2209.