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Cable Pullover For Lats: Full Guide & Alternatives

 Upper back - cable pullover


If you’re looking to put some serious size on your back, it’s time you focus on your lats. 

Being the largest muscle in your upper body, the latissimus dorsi (lats) should not be neglected.

Many back workouts compliment the lats, but few directly target them. 

Until Now!

Today I have for you the cable pullover for lats.

In this post we’ll cover:

Pullover Form

How To Guide

Pullover Tips

More back exercises



Cable Pullover Form

First, choose between standing or sitting pullovers. This is more of a comfort thing.

Kneeling is great for getting that extra range of motion at the top of the movement, especially if you’re on the taller side.

Standing in my experience is more comfortable because it allows for a sturdier stance with the ability to increase weight.

A common mistake with the cable lat pulldown is standing too close to the machine. To target the lats effectively, give yourself enough room to engage the full range of motion. 

Grip choice

Next choose an attachment, either straight bar or rope. 


The general rule of thumb is that a wider grip is used for growing the width of your back while a narrow grip is utilized for growing the thickness. 

Cable Pullover For Lats - How To

To start the movement, 

Slightly hinge at the hips and maintain a small arch in your spine.

As you grip the attachment, you should feel a stretch in your lats at the top of the movement.

pulldown - starting position

keep a slight bend in your elbows, squeeze your shoulder blades together, and brace your core

As you bring the weight to your waist, your upper body should be moving slightly upward, as a result of bringing the weight down.

lat pulldown movement

As you get to the bottom of the movement, squeeze your lats and hold for a second or two (this is the most important part of the movement). 

cable lat pulldown - hold

Slowly raise the weight back to the starting position

Focus on slow and controlled while you draw your upper body back to the starting position.




This exercise can harm your shoulders if done incorrectly. 

Bearing weight in the overhead position with straight arms is an extremely vulnerable shoulder position. 

That said, staying slow and controlled and starting with a lighter weight will help you avoid unwanted pain or injury.

Muscles Worked

You guessed it! The Lats


Lat function:

The movement of the latissimus dorsi (lats) is to draw the arm down and in toward the chest, with the elbow turned toward the body (internal rotation and adduction). The posterior deltoid muscle helps stretch the arm backwards [1]. 

Latisimus dorsi - cable lat pullover

Secondary muscles worked - The pectorals, teres major, triceps, deltoids, and rhomboids all assist in arm movement, but they are not targeted to the extent the lats are.

Common mistake

It’s easy to let form slip and fall back into a vertical position. Normally when this happens your elbows tend to bend more and you’ll notice you’re using your delts and triceps more than your lats. 

Remember, this is not a tricep push-down.

The more horizontal you get to the weight, the easier it is to attack the lats directly. 

Focus on the form described above (hinging at the hips and keeping your arms straight).


Alternative Lat/Back Exercises

Lat pulldown

Definitley one of the most popular lat exercises out there, the lat pulldown is an excellent workout regardless of your fitness level. This demands a more targeted action from your upper back and lats. Because your lower body is secured in place and you can change the weight, this is a great beginner exercise.

Lat pulldown


Wide grip and neutral grip pullups are both beneficial options. Wide grip will focus more on your lats, as if you're mimicking a lat pulldown, while neutral will focus more on biceps and deltoids. 

neutral grip vs regular pull up


There are a lot of different variations of rows to choose from. Your decision should be based on comfort and accessibility to equiptment. Below are some popular options outside of the standard barbell and dumbell row that fit great in any fitness routine. 


Gorilla Row - Unlike standard bent-over rows, the gorilla row exercise is unilateral, meaning you work one side at a time. The combination of utilizing one kettlebell to anchor yourself while rowing the second kettlebell up provides several additional advantages to building the upper back, including core stability and hip mobility.


Landline Row - The Landmine Row involves an anchored set up and moves the barbell through a limited range of motion, successfully engaging a specific set of muscles. This exercise strengthens the entire back while addressing issues like shoulder stability, posture, and overall back aesthetics.


Low Cable RowThe low cable row is a seated cable exercise that primarily targets the lats, traps, delts, and rhomboid muscles


T-Bar Row - The T bar row will consist of a bar and a handle that extends on either side of the bar, mimicking the letter "T." This attachment can be utilized in a handful of different settings including a T bar machine, landmine attachment, chest supported row, or cable attachment.


Bird Dog Row - The bird dog row is a complex exercise that works many back muscles, including the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, quadratus lumborum, traps, and erector spinae. These muscles are essential for supporting your spine, keeping proper posture, and general wellness.

While the bird dog row focuses on the muscles in your back, it also works other muscle groups. Lifting your arm and leg off the ground engages your glutes, hamstrings, and core muscles to maintain balance and stability.


For more, check out --> 6 barbell back exercises.



What does a lat pullover work?

The lat pullover is a cable exercise that directly targets the latissimus dorsi of the upper back. 


Is standing or kneeling better for lat pullovers?

Kneeling is great for getting that extra range of motion at the top of the movement, while standing tends to be more comfortable by allowing a sturdier stance with the ability to increase weight.


What grip should I use for lat pullovers?

The general rule of thumb is that a wider grip is used for growing the width of your back while a narrow grip is utilized for growing the thickness. 


How do I know if I'm targeting my lats?

You should feel a minor strain underneath your armpit. If you're attempting to target your lats, focus on your elbow position and the weight path of the exercise.





[1] Donnelly, Joseph M. Travell, Simons & Simons Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: the Trigger Point Manual. 3rd ed., Wolters Kluwer Health, 2019.

[2] Davies, Clair, and Amber Davies. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief. 3rd ed., New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 2013.


comment 1 comment

Laura calendar_today

Thank you for posting this article. My physical therapist was having me do the standing cable pullover lat while standing straight up, no bend in the back or knees. That caused my lower back to have a very painful burning sensation. I have had to walk with a cane ever since. (I herniated my lower back disc. I am in physical therapy to help my back because stronger. I used to be able to walk without a cane and pain free.)

The next time I go to physical therapy, I am going to do this exercise as per your instructions. Based upon what I have found both in your article and numerous videos, it appears the way my physical therapist was having me do these exercises was doing far more harm than good.

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