You might be familiar with the lat pulldown exercise. You will find many people doing lat pulldowns in the gym. But you will also find some people doing lat pulldown by bringing the bar behind the neck instead of bringing it towards the chest. This is what is called behind-the-neck lat pulldown.

But why do people do behind-the-neck lat pulldown? Is there any benefit in bringing the bar behind the back? You might have these questions in mind. So let me clear some of your doubts.

Problems With Behind The Neck Lat Pulldown

Risk Of Injury

Whenever you bring the bar behind the back either during a shoulder press or during lat pulldown, it puts extra stress on the shoulder joints. Also, it is not a natural position for your body to be in. When you do behind the neck lat pulldown, it also pushes your neck to the front which creates a bad posture. Hence, it can lead to injuries.

Can’t Go Heavy

If you are doing behind-the-neck lat pulldown, then you will always have to lower the weights. You can not overload on this because one bad rep can lead to a major injury. So it is always done to isolate the muscles rather than going too heavy. However, during a regular lat pulldown, you can go heavy as the chances of injury is less.

So if there are problems with behind-the-neck lat pulldown then why do people do this? Let’s discuss this here.

Most of the time behind the neck lat pulldown is done to bring some changes in the workout program. To get continuous results from your workout and to avoid hitting a plateau, you must change your workout program and should add some variations in your workout program.

Most of the famous bodybuilders can be found doing behind-the-neck lat pulldown and they have no issue with it. But you need to understand that every person is different. Most people have a weak rotator cuff and have weak shoulder mobility which can put unnecessary strain on the joints. So if you are a beginner or even an advanced lifter, you can have problems with this exercise unless you have a very strong and mobile joint.

So due to these problems, it is always better to look for some alternative options. So in this article, you will find some of the best alternatives to behind-the-neck lat pulldown which is better and much safer. So let’s discuss them here.

Behind The Neck Lat Pulldown Alternatives

1. Lat Pulldown

Rather than pulling the bar behind the neck, you can get the same benefits if you do it regularly. Just bring the bar towards the upper chest and squeeze your lats. Lat pulldown is a great exercise to develop the size and increase the width of the back.

The regular lat pulldown is much safer than behind the neck because your neck stays neutral and will be in a safe position.

Muscles targeted- latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, teres major

How to do

1. Hold the bar of a lat pulldown machine at about shoulder-width apart. Sit down with your knees supported by the knee pads.

2. Before moving the bar down, take your shoulders back and squeeze your lower trapezius muscle. Your elbow should be slightly bent.

3. Now start the exercise by moving the bar down and bringing it towards the upper chest. Your elbows should be facing down and back.

4. Pause at the bottom position and then return slowly to the starting position. Make sure to stretch your lats at the top.

One of the major mistakes which people make during this exercise is that they add more weights and just swing the bar. You will have no benefits if you can’t focus on the muscle you are targeting. So make sure to maintain proper form and only add weights if the previous set was easy.

2. Dual Cable Lat Pulldown

This you can do on a cable machine. The prime muscles targeted are your upper lats, rhomboids, lower traps, and also your rotator cuff if you do it with a neutral grip. This will help in giving that wide look to your back. It is another way of doing lat pulldowns.

How to do

1. Grab the handles of cables and sit on your knees or a bench. The cable pulley should be attached to the top of a cable machine.

2. Roll your shoulders back and keep your chest up. Don’t bend your neck and back.

3. Now slowly pull the arms down by flexing your elbow. Your shoulder should not raise or go forward during the movement.

4. Pause at the bottom and flex those lats hard. Then slowly return to the starting position.

Don’t go heavy on this. Try to maintain a good mind and muscle connection. This exercise exactly targets the lat because when you look at the muscle fibers of lats, it travels diagonally inward. And here, you are similarly moving your arms.

3. Pull Ups

You cannot ignore pull-ups from this list because it’s one of the best alternatives to behind-the-neck lat pulldown. You can do this exercise at home if you have a pull-up bar. This is both for the thickness and width of a back.

Pull-ups and chin-ups are the exercises that are used in many military training tests. You will find many athletes, firefighters, and strength coaches doing pullups to improve their upper body strength. So if you haven’t started doing pull ups, then start it from today!

How to do

1. Hang on a pull-up bar with both hands shoulder-width apart.

2. Keep your hands straight and take your shoulders back. Then start moving up.

3. Pause when the lower part of your neck is in line with the pull-up bar. Squeeze you’re last tight.

4. Come all the way down slowly and repeat the exercise.

Always remember to tighten your core so that you don’t swing during the movement. You can raise your legs a little bit to tighten your entire body. This will prevent swinging.

Even 1 pull-up is better than doing no pull-ups. You can also take help from your workout partner to assist and support you from the bottom.

4. Bent Over Row

This is another popular exercise to target the lats. Bent over row is a compound exercise and is one of the best exercises to strengthen the back.

Bent over row is much safer if you can keep your back flat. If you have an option to fo bent over rows, then you should not choose exercises like behind the neck lat pulldown which has more chances of injury.

Targeted muscles – lats, rhomboids, teres major, traps, abs and biceps

How to do

1. Place your feet under the barbell. Bend down by moving your hips back and then lift the bar with your arms.

2. Now bend again by taking your hips back and stopping when the barbell reaches the knee level. Keep your chest up, this will be your starting position.

3. Start the exercise by pulling the weights up towards your stomach while keeping your chest up and shoulders retracted. Your lower back should not round during the movement.

4. Gradually lower the bar back to the starting position and then repeat.

Recommended reps- 10-12

As you go down to lift the barbell, your hips should go back, as if there is a chair behind you and you have to sit. Your chest should also be up as you go down. This keeps your back flat allowing you to be in the right position to perform the exercise.

5. Rack Chins

This is one of my favorite bodyweight exercises for the back. It is the perfect alternative to a behind-the-neck lat pull-down. I would highly recommend you to try this exercise if you haven’t done it before.

How to do

1. Set up the rack with a bar at about your waist height.

2. Get under the bar and grab it. Your grip should be shoulder-width apart. Keep your feet on the ground with your legs straight forward.

3. With your core tight, start going up by squeezing your lats. Your lower back should not overarch.

4. Hold the top position when the bar touches just below the clavicle. Come down slowly to the starting position and repeat the movement.

You can make this exercise harder by placing the feet on the bench. As it will make your body more parallel to the bar which increases the difficulty of the exercise.

6. Prone Rows

The prone row is another great exercise that hits the lats. One of the best parts about this exercise is that you cannot use much momentum during the movement as your body is completely resting on the bench. You can only use your lats and other back muscles to pull the weights, making it an awesome exercise for bodybuilders.

Muscles targeted- upper back, lats, rhomboids, traps

How to do

1. Choose an elevated bench and place the rod under the bench. Add weights according to your strength.

2. Lay down on a flat bench with your chest facing forward. Hold the barbell with your hands at a grip wider than the shoulders.

3. Retract (shoulder going back) your shoulders and start lifting the barbell. The barbell should move straight.

4. Pause at the top where the barbell is just below the chest. Then return to the starting position.

Keep in mind that your lower back should not overarch. You should feel the tension more on your upper back rather than the lower back.

7. V Pulldown

This exercise is for your thickness and is one of the popular old-school exercises. It’s a great alternative to behind-the-neck lat pulldown as it is safer and more effective.

It is a good exercise to add to your back workout. As it targets the lats and makes your back look much bigger and fuller.

Targeted muscles – latissimus Doris, teres major, trapezius

How to do

1. Attach a v grip handle on a lat pulldown machine. Sit down while holding the v bar handle. Keep your back straight and this will be your starting position.

2. Pull your shoulders down and engage your back without bending your elbows to engage your traps.

3. After that, start pulling the weights down while keeping your elbows in. Bring your hand toward the chest.

4. Pause at the bottom when your hands are almost touching the chest. Then slowly return to the starting position.

Recommended reps- 12-15

Your elbow should be in as you move the weights. And remember, don’t lift your butt off the seat. You should reduce the weights if necessary.


Your spine should be neutral and don’t bend your lower back while pulling. You can go heavy on this but never compromise on the form.

8. One-Arm Lat Pulldown

Another great variation of lat pulldown. Here, you can concentrate on each side of your last separately. It will work your entire last from upper to lower. So if one side is weaker than the other, then you should do this unilateral movement.

How to do

1. Grab the handle of a cable lat machine and sit with your side facing the machine. You can do this exercise on a cable machine also.

2. Sit straight and start pulling the weights down. You don’t have to take your elbows back or forward. It should move straight on side of the body.

3. Flex those lats at the bottom and then return slowly to the starting position.

You don’t need to go heavy on this exercise. It’s very important to feel your last throughout the movement.

9. Straight Arm Pulldown

This exercise will improve the stability of your back and shoulder. This exercise targets the lats and will help you with a width. You can do this easily on a cable machine with a straight bar.

How to do

1 Attach a pulley at the top and grab the bar. Bend your torso slightly without rounding your back.

2. Extend your arms forward. If you can’t step back into you can fully extend your arms.

3. Now start moving your hands down toward the body with a slight bend in the elbow. Breath out as you go down.

4. Pause at the bottom and return slowly to the starting position.

Keep in mind that your shoulder should be pinged back and down as you move the bar down. You should not round your shoulders forward during the movement.

10. Lat Pulldown at Home

This is a great alternative to behind-the-neck lat pulldown especially if you don’t have access to a gym. Here you just need a resistance band or a big towel and you are good to go. This will target the same muscles and will give you a nice contraction on those lats.

How to do

1. Take a resistance band and secure it around the legs of a dining table.

2. Lay down in a straight line from the table while holding the bands.

3. Now start pulling the band down by flexing your elbows. Your elbow should stitch with the floor and your shoulder should not come up.

4. Flex as you reach the bottom and go back slowly.

It’s very important to do this exercise slowly with a good mind and muscle connection. Your elbow should be down. Don’t raise your neck during the exercise.

11. Sliding Pull Ups

This exercise is similar to a pull-up. The only difference is that you are doing it on the floor. If you don’t have to pull up bars or can’t do pull-ups, then give this a try. This is another alternative option you have and can be done at home.

Targeted muscles- latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, traps, and lower back

How to do-

1.  Lay down on the floor with your chest facing down. Make sure the floor is slippery which allows you to slide. You can use a mat if you want.

2. Place your hands up. Your hands should be placed away from each other.

3. Start pulling your body up with the help of your hands and back. Keep your core tight and don’t bend your lower back.

4. Stop when your hands reach shoulder level and then repeat the movement.

You should not use too much lower back during the movement. You can avoid it by squeezing your glutes while you move.

Keep the tension on your lats all the time and always do the exercise with full focus and concentration.

Final Words

So these were some of the best alternatives to behind-the-neck lat pulldown. You can do all of these exercises without any risk of injuries as most of them are safe and effective.

As you have so many options available instead of behind the neck pulldowns, then there is no point in doing any exercise which is unsafe or is uncomfortable for the joints.

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