close grip v-bar pulldown

There’s a reason why most lifters in the gym tend to have under-developed lats in comparison to the rest of their upper body…

Aside from the basic issue of imbalanced workout programming, the lats are also the most challenging muscle group on the body for most people to effectively engage.

It doesn’t take much to really “light up” the pecs, delts, arms, and legs in the gym, but without the proper exercise selection and training technique, the lats are a different story.

You’ll usually feel them working to a certain degree, but often times it’s the forearms, biceps, shoulders, and other surrounding muscles that end up taking on the brunt of the load.

I’ve gone over several “uncommon” exercises to train the lats for improved results in my previous posts (including lat pull-ins, cable pullovers and seal rows), and today I’ll be showing you another great pulldown variation that you can test out as part of your lat training.

That exercise is the “close-grip v-bar pulldown”, and it’s an awesome way to hammer your lats effectively while also providing stimulation to the lower and middle traps, rhomboids and serratus.

Unlike standard overhand and underhand lat pulldowns, a close-grip pulldown with a v-bar uses a neutral palms-facing-in grip, which many people find feels a bit more natural while allowing them to hit the lats from a unique angle.

Here’s how to execute them properly along with a few important tips…

Proper V-Bar Close-Grip Pulldown Form

1) Attach a v-bar to the top pulley of a lat pulldown machine and hold onto the bar with a neutral grip, palms facing each other.

2) Sit down on the machine making sure to adjust the knee pad so that your legs are firmly locked in place.

3) Lean your torso back slightly, finding the best angle for yourself that allows you to maximally engage your lats during the exercise. For most people this will be around 30 degrees.

4) Next, puff out your chest and retract your shoulder blades in order to further increase lat activation.

5) From this position, pull the bar down to your upper chest while keeping your elbows tucked in. Always focus on driving the weight downward using your elbows rather than your hands, and keep your attention on squeezing the lats at all times.

6) Pause briefly in the fully contracted position, raise the weight back up under control, and repeat for anywhere from 5-12 reps.

Additional Tip To Keep In Mind

build wider lats

A small amount of natural body sway is fine throughout the movement, but don’t make the common mistake of loading up the machine with huge amounts of weight and then heaving the stack around with sloppy form and only a partial range of motion.

As I mentioned before, the lats are perhaps the most difficult muscle on the entire body to effectively engage, and this makes proper form especially important when performing your pulldown exercises.

To direct even more tension onto the lats during your v-bar close-grip pulldowns, you can also experiment by using a pair of lifting straps or hooks.

lifting straps and lifting hooks

I personally use these for all of my compound back exercises as a way of reducing stress on the grip/forearms and having one less thing to think about while focusing on targeting the lat muscles.

The close-grip v-bar pulldown can be inserted anywhere into your back workout and can be performed for reps as low as 5 up to around 12 depending on your individual training style and needs.

Again, just make sure you’re selecting a weight that you can remain in control of and that allows you to feel your lats working rather than other surrounding muscles.

Give the v-bar pulldown a try and let me know what you think. These certainly don’t have to be used as a replacement for overhand or underhand lat pulldowns, but are simply one additional lat exercise that you can add into your overall back training toolbox.

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