Best Home Lat Pulldown Machine

XMark Lat Pulldown and Low Row Cable Machine XM-7618The best home lat pull down machine can be just as effective as one found in a commercial gym if you know what to look for. Though there are just a few models that are really worth buying, these come with a few attachments or at least with options to add them so that you can extend the usefulness of the machine beyond just doing lat pulldowns. Not only can you workout your back muscles thoroughly, but also your shoulders, arms, core, and maybe even your legs.

A big difference between most commercial lat pulldown machines and those designed for home use is that commercial ones are more solid and stable. The second big difference is that they often use weight stacks for resistance instead of free weights in the form of standard or Olympic plates. A weight stack affords a smoother movement of cables through the pulleys. If the unit is a plate loaded lat pulldown machine, you have to load them onto their holders everytime you want to change weight resistance. With a weight stack there’s a selector pin for that. However, if you read further, you’ll see that we have picked one home lat machine that gives you the option to add a weight stack to it.

 


 

Quick Compare

ProductRating (out of 5)DimensionsWeight capacityPrice
Valor Fitness CB-12 Plate Loading Lat Pull Down4.480" x 50" x 38"250 lbs$$
Powerline PLM180X Lat Machine4.481" x 48" x 25"250 lbs$$
Akonza Lat Machine Low Row Cable Pull Down Fitness Closed Handle Attachment Pulldown4.476.5" x 48" x 24"396 lbs$
Body-Solid Pro Lat Machine4.782" x 60" x 32"unknown$$$
XMark Lat Pulldown and Low Row Cable Machine XM-76184.282.7" x 56.7" x 48"400 lbs$$$$
Powertec Fitness Lat Machine4.982" x 55.3" x 41"400 lbs$$$$$

 

What is a Lat Pulldown Machine?

Wide Grip Lat Pulldown

By Everkinetic (http://everkinetic.com/) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A lat pulldown machine is a largish piece of equipment featuring a horizontal bar suspended at its center from a cable that runs through a set of high and low pulleys and anchored on the other end by a moving set of weights. You pull the lat bar down towards you and release it back up several times, so you’re indirectly lifting weights through the system. You can control the amount of weight that you work with.

A traditional lat pulldown involves you sitting down facing the machine and stretching up as much as possible to grasp and pull the bar down towards you. The bar should ideally allow lat pulldown grip variations from wide to close grips so that all parts of the lats as well as other muscles get worked on.

Most lat machines also come with a shorter bar low down that you pull either upwards towards you if you’re standing, or straight back towards you if you’re seated on the floor. Therefore, you can do exercises like standing bicep curls, seated rows and more.

 

How to Choose a Cable Pulldown Machine

With the ability to do so many exercises with just one piece of equipment, how do you know which home lat pull down machine is best for your needs? There are a few considerations besides quality and construction that you should take into account before you buy the right machine designed for home use.

  • Weights: Most home lat machines are designed as plate loaded machines and don’t come with any plates. If you don’t already have them, you have to buy them separately. It doesn’t matter if the weight carriage rods are made for standard 1″ plates or Olympic weights, if the machine doesn’t already come with adapter sleeves and you already have plates that don’t match, you can buy the sleeves separately. A few home machines and many commercial machines use a weight stack and it’s easy to change the weight load by just using the inbuilt weight selector.
     
    Even if you’re a beginner, you should determine what your long term goals are so that you don’t choose a machine with too low a weight capacity because the more you workout, the easier it gets and you may want to steadily increase the weight you can handle for certain exercises. On the other hand, if you’re not looking to build too much muscle, you may be able to stick to a beginner level long term.
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  • Bottom pulley with short bar: In my opinion, it’s a bit of a waste to buy a lat pulldown machine that does not come with a bottom pulley and short bar because just this small additional feature greatly enhances the number of exercises you can do with the machine. With these two features you can also do standing curls and seated rows among others.
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  • Adjustable seat & leg restraint: To suit people of different heights, the seat should be adjustable up and down by at least a few inches. Tall people should be able to lower it to get a full stretch and range of motion, while short people should be able to plant their feet firmly on the ground. There should also be adequate space between the seat and knee brace rollers that lock your legs down, so it’s good if the rollers are adjustable too.
     
    In order to do standing exercises, the seat should not be in the way, so the seat should either be removable or moved out of the way.
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  • Versatility: Beyond having a lat bar and short bar with high and low pulleys, you should be able to add as many additional attachments as possible to get more value for money and exercise as many muscles groups as possible. Some machines have optional attachments for their lat pulldown machine that you can choose to add.
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  • Construction quality: A common issue that some home lat machine owners face is that the unit tends to tip or lean when doing certain exercises. While you can overcome this by either placing a pair of dumb bells on the front legs or stand on the legs or foot plate if possible, you should also try to choose a unit that is as stable as possible. This likelihood increases if the steel used for the frame is at least 12 gauge and not the weaker 14 gauge. 11 gauge is even better.
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    Best Lat Machines for a Home Gym

    Valor Fitness CB-12 Plate Loading Lat Pull Down

    Valor Fitness CB-12 Plate Loading Lat Pull DownThe Valor Fitness CB-12 is a medium sized option for a home gym and constructed with 2″ x 2″ 12 gauge steel tubing. There are 4 rubber caps for the base of the legs to keep the unit level on uneven ground and to prevent scratching of your floor.

    It is highly adjustable via lock down pins to accommodate people with different exercise needs. The seat can be adjusted to 4 different positions 5″ up or down and so is the front foot plate, which you’ll need for seated or stand up rows and curls. The former instance serves to help you brace your feet, while for the latter two, you will stand on the plate to keep the machine from tipping back. The Lat pulldown allows you to do Tricep pulldowns and Lat pulldowns. When not in use, there’s a pair of storage hooks on top to rest the bar on. You also get a shorter front lower cable bar for leg extensions, standing arm curls and seated and upright rows. There’s a comfortable neoprene harness with soft handles for ab crunches. Two additional chains are provided for accessory attachments, which you can buy separately. If you want to do overhead triceps extensions, the ab crunch feature can do double duty when sitting with your back to the machine.

    At the back are plate storage pegs with the loading carriage being able to handle up to 250 lbs of weight. The pulleys move smoothly and can handle the same maximum weight. The seat is contoured and dual layered for ultimate comfort. This unit is made for standard 1″ weights but can be used with Olympic weights as well. If you want a snug fit, then get adapters.

    We rate this piece of equipment as the best lat pulldown machine for your home gym because it is highly versatile and not only helps exercise your arm and back muscles but also your core and legs. You get great bang for your buck with the machine alone, but you have the ability to add all the attachments you need as well.

    Pros

  • Great value for money with lots of versatility.
  • Good tension pulleys that are smooth moving.
  • It is light enough to move around a room.
  • Can accommodate users up to 6’2″ tall by allowing full extension.
  • Cons

  • The cable may slip off the lower pulley but to prevent this, fix the cable before attaching the pulley and twist the cable a few times to tighten the tension.
  • The unit tends to lean or rock from side to side if you’re not sitting on the seat or standing on the footplate but it won’t tip over. To prevent the leaning to the side, you have to be sure to align everything first before tightening the bolts properly during assembly.
  • Assembly instructions are not the best.
  • Seat pad is a bit small for very large users.
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    Buy the Valor Fitness CB-12 Plate Loading Lat Pull Down here.
     

    Powerline PLM180X Lat Machine

    Powerline PLM180X Lat MachineIf you don’t have a lot of floor space or a big budget, the Powerline PLM180X is a good option.

    This compact machine includes a Lat Bar and Low Row Bar along with a foot rest for seated rows. You can do Deltoid Raises, Wide grip and Close grip Lat Pulldowns, Seated Rows, Tricep press downs, Ab Crunches, Seated Biceps Curls, Extensions, and Kickbacks, Glute Kicks and Thigh Adductions. With an optional Revolving Straight bar you can do Upright Rows, straight bar curls, arm pullovers and more. Seated back rows need to be done while sitting on the floor, and you run the cable under the lower pulley and remove the seat to do this. Cable curls are trickier but can be done if you add weight to the front legs or stand on them to prevent them from lifting up and the machine tipping back.

    The carabiner hooks on the cable and cross bar are too small but similar larger ones are easily found at your local Home Depot or hardware store.

    The seat is not adjustable but the 8″ foam rollers for locking your knees has two height settings. However, those with really large thighs won’t be able to use this. There’s no proper foot plate for seated rows but the front leg bar is thick enough to act as a foot rest for this purpose. The patented nylon bushings ensure smooth and clean movement at high and low weights, which is up to 250 lbs.

    Use 1″ standard weights or buy adapter sleeves for Olympics weights.

    Pros

  • Patented bushings prevent slippage of cables.
  • Small footprint.
  • Cons

  • The assembly instructions are just in the form of a diagram.
  • You need to add weights to the front legs in order to do stabilize it for standing bicep curls.
  • Very muscular thighs won’t fit between the seat and thigh rollers.
  • Anyone over 6′ tall will probably find it limiting.
  • The cable and cross bar hook carabiners are two small to release easily.
  • There are no storage hooks for the lat bar, leaving it to hang down and possibly get in your way.
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    Buy the Powerline PLM180X Lat Machine here.
     

    Akonza Lat Machine Low Row Cable Pull Down

    Akonza Lat Machine Low Row Cable Pull DownThis is an amazingly solid Lat machine for the price and can bear up to 395 lbs in weights. This is a very good buy if you have low ceilings and very little floor space.

    Seat height can be adjusted from 16.25″ to 19.25″ and the knee locking foam rollers are also adjustable. Both the pull down and pull up stations feature padded hand grips on the bars and the pulley system features smooth sealed ball bearings. There is no foot plate but the front leg acts as a foot rest for seated rows. Curls will require you to anchor the front with some dumbbells.

    When doing lat pulldowns, you may find that you have to lean back a little more than on other machines because the seat is set more forward than usual, with the overhead bar and Lat bar ending slightly behind you. It’s just a slight variation that doesn’t feel uncomfortable for most people. This is designed so that you don’t have to remove the seat when you want to do seated rows. While not recommended, if you like to do behind the neck lat pull downs you don’t need to lean forward.

    Movement is very fluid, smooth and silent. You can use either standard plates or Olympic weights, as it is designed for the former but comes with an adapter sleeve for the latter as well.

    Pros

  • Can handle users up to 6’2″ in height but still fit under low ceilings.
  • Includes an Olympic weight adapter.
  • Both seat and foam rollers are adjustable.
  • No need to remove the seat for seated rows.
  • Cons

  • Cable is a bit cheaply made for heavy weight use, but can be replaced by any generic cable from a fitness machine store.
  • You have to lean back a little bit more than normal when doing lat pulldowns but it’s not uncomfortable.
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    Buy the Akonza Lat Machine Low Row Cable Pull Down here.
     

    Body-Solid Pro Lat Machine

    Body-Solid Pro Lat MachineWe now start getting to the higher end lat machines made for home use. There’s no need for cable changes when you switch between lat pull downs and pull ups on the Body-Solid Pro Lat Machine. Adjustments are made by changing pins. It is a solid machine and has diamond plate stabilizers to keep it from rocking. The smooth pulling movements are made possible by patented nylon bushings.

    The seat is slightly adjustable and so are the 8″ foam roller bars that keep your legs still while doing seated pull downs. If you want to do standing curls you need to remove the seat first or risk creating a hole on the two sides of it due to friction. There’s a foot brace in front to help you do seated rows.

    Wide and close grip lat pulldowns, upright, bent over and seated rows, shoulder shrugs, standing bicep curls, tricep press downs, ab crunches, glute kicks, and outer and inner thigh abductions are all possible with this lat machine.

    This machine is made for standard weight plates, so Olympic plates would need the optional adapter sleeves. There is no official weight capacity stated for this machine, but you can safely go up to at least 200 lbs.

    Assembly is relatively easy even though there are no step by step instructions but only an exploded diagram. Remember to thread the cables through the pulleys before installing them.

    Pros

  • Dedicated foot rest for seated rows.
  • Easy switch between high and low bar exercises.
  • Lots of different exercises are possible.
  • Machine doesn’t tip backwards when using the low bar.
  • Cons

  • Not meant for users taller than 6’2″.
  • Only exploded diagram given for assembly.
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    Buy the Body-Solid Pro Lat Machine here.
     

    XMark Lat Pulldown and Low Row Cable Machine XM-7618

    XMark Lat Pulldown and Low Row Cable Machine XM-7618The X-Mark Lat Machine XM-7618 is rated for a generous 400 lbs weight capacity and is designed for both standard or Olympic plate weights, as 14″ Olympic adapters are included. It comes with high and low pulley stations and lat bars so that you can do lat pull downs, low rows, shrugs, bicep curls, triceps presses and more, but you can buy several more attachments from the same brand to extend its usefulness.

    The seat is adjustable and has extra thick padding, and there’s a flip up footplate for comfortable support when doing seated rows. The lat bars come with rubberized textured grips and the feet are skid resistant. Movement is smooth with nylon coated aircraft quality cables and ball bearing pulleys. Assembly is easy as long as yo route the cables through the pulleys before installing them.

    The lower cable pulley is positioned fairly low, so the cable may not extend straight enough for tall users while doing seated rows.

    Pros

  • Stable and solid while doing all exercises.
  • Works with standard or Olympic weights right out of the box.
  • Cons

  • Has a large footprint.
  • Some users say that it’s not great for tall people doing seated rows.
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    Buy the XMark Lat Pulldown and Low Row Cable Machine XM-7618 here.
     

    Powertec Fitness Lat Machine

    Powertec Fitness Lat MachineThe final option is the most expensive and highest quality lat machine on this list. The sleek and slimline machine features weight slide rods that are easy to load and glide smoothly on nylon bushings when moving the weight carriage. To prevent the weight carriage from over extending and perhaps crashing into the pulley, there are ring stoppers on the slide rods. You can use up to 400 lbs in weight plates. In addition to using free weights on this machine, you have the option to add a weight stack of up to 200 lbs. The 190 lb Powertec weight stack ws-190 works particularly well.

    The seat is unique in that it is built into the machine and can either be locked into position or turned outward for when you want to use the middle of the machine for certain standing exercises like overhead tricep extensions. Other standing exercises like bicep curls can be performed in front of the seat after it has been turned sideways.

    The knee pad rollers are adjustable and have three height settings. The seat profile is low and engineered so that tall people can get a full range of motion. There’s a footplate for seated rows, and when the lat bar is not in use, you can store it up and out of the way using the two storage hooks. Both bars have rubberized hand grips and there’s no need to change cables when switching between the two.

    It comes with Olympic weight horns but you can buy standard weight horns separately. With lighter weight, the top pulley is not completely smooth moving but that can be corrected by oiling it.

    Unless you have a lot of time and patience, this machine is best assembled by two people.

    Pros

  • Good for tall users.
  • Solid and balanced and doesn’t move while in use.
  • The only good lat machine designed for home use that is compatible with a weight stack.
  • Cons

  • Heavy and difficult to move once assembled.
  • Will take a few hours to put all the pieces together.
  • Top pulley needs oiling when light weight is used.
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    Buy the Powertec Fitness Lat Machine here.
     

    Lat Pulldown Machine Benefits, Muscles Worked and Exercises

    Underhand Lat Pulldown

    By Everkinetic (http://everkinetic.com/) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

    A lat or cable pulldown machine will let you mainly focus on the lats or latissimus dorsi muscles, which are the large muscles found in your back. Each lat (one on either side of the spine) connects to the spine, pelvis, ribs and scapula. These muscles are vital to performing actions such as abduction, rotation, arm extension and moving your arms back and down. They also help with good posture and stabilizing your upper body. Those who have chronic back or shoulder pain or poor posture probably have weak lats and should try to perform exercises that strengthen them.

    There are many exercises that work on the lats, like deadlifting, pull ups and bench pressing. Doing lat pulldowns is especially good for those not used to working with weights, as you can start with a fairly light weight load for resistance. Another benefit you get from a lat pulldown machine is that you are constantly stretching and contracting your muscles as you go through pulling and pushing motions. This is something you can’t get by just using free weights.

    Straight Arm Pushdown

    By Everkinetic (http://everkinetic.com/) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

    Through the use of cables you are forced to keep to a proper line of motion and not just go half way through with a particular action.

    Even just the regular lat pulldown exercise can be varied to activate different sets of muscles. While a wide grip is most useful for the lat muscles, a close grip is great for activating the chest and forearms. For extra variation you can change to an underhand close grip too.

    In addition to working on the lats, a cable pulldown machine also helps exercise the biceps, triceps, shoulders, forearms and traps. If your lat machine also comes with a bottom pulley and low bar then you greatly enhance the usefulness of the machine. For example, you can pull the low bar up towards you while standing up and using an underhand grip to strengthen your biceps with bicep curls. Do this either with both hands or one hand at a time.

     
     
     

    Cable seated rows

    By Everkinetic (http://everkinetic.com/) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

    If you sit on the floor in front of the machine, and pull the low bar towards you, you mimic a rowing action. In fact this machine could be a substitute for a rowing machine, except that the latter also allows you to work your legs. Seated rows using the low bar on a lat machine works the deltoids, biceps, trapezius muscles, forearm flexors and more.

    Upright rows, bent over rows, seated rows, shoulder shrugs, ab crunches, tricep press downs, glute kicks, and outer and inner thigh abductions are usually all possible with a lat machine that has both high and low lat bars. The other muscles that can get a good workout are the pecs, rhomboids, rib muscles, rotator cuffs and scapula muscles.

    To do ab crunches, you sit or stand with your back to the machine and grab the lat bar or short bar that is fixed to the top pulley, pull it to your shoulders and keep it there while you bend forwards from your waist to work your abs.

     

    Proper Lat Pulldown Machine Form and Common Mistakes to Avoid

    It is important to maintain proper form while using a cable lat pulldown machine in order to prevent injury and doing useless reps. beginners are often seen making some common mistakes that end up straining the spine or muscles, or that make exercising less effective because the movements and form are targeting the wrong muscles. Here are the most common mistakes to avoid:

  • Pulling the lat bar behind your head: You should always pull the bar in front of you, whether you prefer the traditional way of facing the machine as you do the pull downs, or whether you like to have your back to the machine. Pulling it behind your head is less effective because your lats don’t get the full range of motion.
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  • Pulling the bar to your stomach: Always lean just very slightly back and pull the bar only up to your chest. If you pull any lower you put too much stress on your shoulders and you continuously engage and disengage your lats, which is not effective. If your elbows are not always pointing down it means you’re pulling too low.
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  • Using too wide a grip: Many people tend to grasp the lat bar near the ends but for most that is too wide. Not only does that shorten your range of motion but it also causes stress on your shoulders. Even if you want to do wide grip lat pulldowns instead of regular pull downs, the place where the bar bends (for shorter people), or right after the bend (for taller people), is usually more than adequate.
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  • Leaning back in a rowing motion: You must keep your back still and only use your arms to pull steadily. If you use too much weight this will be more difficult, and instead of only using your lat muscles to do the work, you’ll tend to row back to compensate and your mid and lower back muscles will take over. If you find that you’re doing this, lower the weight.
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    How to Do a Lat Pulldown Properly


     

    Lat Pulldown Machine Alternatives

    Many non-commercial lat machines are lightweight and tend to tip backwards when doing bicep curls with the low lat bar. You can always stabilize the unit by placing a couple dumbbells on the front legs but if this bothers you, consider getting a power rack with a lat machine attachment and a free standing bench.

    If you prefer working out doing more body weight exercises, a power tower with pull up and dip stations is the way to go.

    If you have a lot of space at home, a cable cross over machine can help you focus on many if the same muscle groups as well as allow you to move your arms in more planes of direction.

    For the most freedom of movement, free weights are still the most popular kind of fitness equipment for strength training.

     

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