Pullups Vs. Lat Pulldown

By Tom 0
22 April 2015

It’s an age-old question I get asked on a regular basis. Which is better for me? What’s the different between the two?  Here i’ll go into more details about the pros and cons of each exercise. Firstly, it’s important to know that the lats are the muscles that work in synergy with your rhomboids and traps to develop an over-all ‘warrior’ looking back. They need to be included in anyones routine whether you can do one pullup or none.

Lets’ break this down…

Lat Pulldown

The lat pulldown is a great exercise, when done correctly it can have huge benefits. The problem is, 9 times out of 10 it is not performed correctly. For this exercise to be effective the correct technique must be applied. Grab the bar with an overhand grip, 4-6 inches wider than your shoulders, pull down to your chest keeping your chest elevated and put the focus on pulling your shoulder girdle down. This will then place emphasis onto your lats more than your biceps, when returning back to the top keep your elbows slightly bent to keep tension.


It’s a great exercise for those who are not strong enough to complete a pullup correctly, it gives you the flexibility to add or reduce weight, perform drop sets but overall gives you the ability of engaging and being able to squeeze your lats for a strong, correct rep.


One thing for sure is equipment, you need this piece of kit in order to use it. Everyone would probably prefer pullups (providing that they can do them) compared to pulldowns and lastly if it’s overused or used incorrectly, you won’t engage those important core and support muscles helping to build all-round strength.


The pullup is a beast of an exercise when performed correctly. Some would agree that it is the upper body strength exercise of a squat. They’re deadly, not only do they make you build a strong physique, give your body great, natural strength but they also make you look kick-ass in the gym.

Again, keeping your hand 4-6 inches wider than shoulder width with an overhand grasp of the pullup bar, aim to pull yourself up with your chest touching the bar at the top. Again, try to ensure you take the emphasis off your biceps and onto your lats by pulling your shoulder girdle down. Go down, slowly, keep the tension on your lats by not going to a dead hang.


They’re awesome. They make you strong. They look good. Shall I continue? When performed correctly (with a straight body and not flicking your legs up in the air performing a ‘kipping’ exercise) they are the daddy of go-to exercises in your arsenal. If you’re wanting to develop strength, size or even just look awesome in the gym, the pullup is the exercise for you. They build core strength, arm strength, back strength and will eventually give you that all-round gym warrior look, pullups display real strength. Also, a pullup bar is accessible almost anywhere, in any gym. Anything you can hang off, you can pullup to.


If someone is too weak to perform a pullup correctly you’ll see them swinging their legs, resulting in kipping. This means that they’re only really going to do half a proper rep. Please don’t. They are hard and require perseverance, persistence and patience.


There is no right or wrong, they are both great exercises when performed correctly. One of which you can utilise different techniques with drop sets or super high reps and the other is just plain hard, challenging but hugely rewarding. The pullups are definitely the king of upper body exercises as they are very hard to perform correctly but massively rewarding. My best answer? Perform both exercises to the best of your ability with good, if not great over-all technique with a consistent, periodised program and you’ll become strong (also look like superman in the gym when you’re playing with that pullup bar).

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author: Tom

Tom has been in the fitness industry for over 8 years. He is qualified in functional movement, Kettlebells, Boxercise, Nutrition and many other qualifications. Tom is also the founder and director of ActivityX. For more information on Tom, see his trainer profile.