Logo Sciences du sport

Logo Sciences du sport


Informations sur les Sciences de l'Entraînement Sportif

Does grip width influence muscle activity during lat pull-down?

by P. Debraux | 28 April 2020

grip, width, pull-ups, lat pull-down, fitness, sport, training, workout, muscle, activity, hypertrophy, exercise, choice, lats, back
Lat Pull-Down

Figure 1. Lat Pull-Down.

In resistance training, the lat pull-down exercise is a classic (Fig. 1). Many people practice it as the main exercise or as a replacement for pull-ups/chin-ups. The interest is for the most part to isolate the back by removing the management of the body instability observed in pull-ups, but also to be able to pull a load greater than its own body mass.

And it is not uncommon to observe experienced practitioners placing their hands at the end of the pulling bar. The belief behind this gesture is that a wide, even very wide, grip will have a greater influence on the muscular recruitment of the back, and it will make it easier to develop a V-shaper. But is this practice really effective in the muscle development of the latissimus dorsi? Does it really allow better recruitment?

The Study

To answer these questions, a team of Norwegian researchers tested in experienced resistance-trained men 3 different grip widths according to their shoulder width and according to an intensity relative to the maximum load they were able to move for each grip width.

Close grip: 1 × bi-acromial width.

Figure 2. Close grip: 1 × bi-acromial width.

Medium grip: 1.5 × bi-acromial width.

Figure 3. Medium grip: 1.5 × bi-acromial width.

Wide grip: 2 × bi-acromial width.

Figure 4. Wide grip: 2 × bi-acromial width.

For this study, 15 men, with a training record of an average of 6 years, participated. The protocol consisted initially in evaluating the 6RM lat pull-down, and this, for each of the 3 grips: close, corresponding to 1 times the bi-acromial width; medium, corresponding to 1.5 times the bi-acromial width; and wide, corresponding to 2 times the bi-acromial width.

A week later, the testing procedure actually started with a 6RM set for each grip in random order. To control the movement, a goniometer was placed at hip level to ensure the same angle between the trunk and the femur. Surface electrodes were placed on the participants' skin to record electromyographic activity (EMG) of the bicep brachialis, latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and infraspinatus muscles.

Results & Analyzes

The main results of this study show that at the same relative intensity, regardless of the width of the grip, the muscle activity of the 4 muscles observed is similar during lat pull-down (Fig. 6). In addition, the wide grip does not allow you to pull as heavy as the close and medium grip (Fig. 5). It therefore seems more interesting for athletes and practitioners wishing to gain strength, to choose a hand grip spacing closer to the width of their shoulder (between 1-1.5 times the bi-acromial width).

Figure 5. Load equivalent to 6RM for each grip width in the lat pull-down. *Significant difference with close grip. #Significant difference with the medium grip.

The strength decrease as the grip becomes wider is explained by the mechanical principle of the lever arms. The larger the lever arm, the greater the joint moment of force. This will make the movement more difficult to perform.

Figure 6. Electromyographic activity (EMG) during the concentric and eccentric phases of the different muscles studied during a 6RM lat pull-down according to the grip width.

Practical Applications

In summary, this study confirms the low interest of seeking the widest possible grip in order to better recruit the lats. The EMG data clearly show that the close and medium grips make it possible to recruit the lats, trapezius, infraspinatus and biceps brachialis in an identical or even slightly superior manner. In addition, as the displaced load and the amplitude are greater with close and medium grips, they seem to be more judicious choices for athletes.

Finally, if on the muscular level, these three grips seem similar, it is important to remember that the increase of joint moment of force will increase the stresses on the joints. Also, taking as wide as possible may not be an optimal long-term solution for shoulder health, for example. But we will have to wait for future studies on the subject to confirm or refute these hypotheses.


  1. Andersen V, Fimland MS, Wiik E, Skoglund A and Saeterbakken AH. Effects of grip width on muscle strength and activation in the lat pull-down. J Strength Cond Res 28 (4) : 1135-1142, 2014.

We remind you that you can quote articles by limiting your quotation to 200 words maximum and you must include a nominative link to this one. Any other use, especially copying in full on forum, website or any other content, is strictly prohibited. In doubt, contact us.

Follow us