Pull Ups Vs. Lat Pull Downs

by Cindy Hamilton

About Cindy Hamilton

Cindy Hamilton is the creator of Family-Health-And-Nutrition.com. Hamilton has been writing on the topic of healthy living on a budget since 2007 and has been featured on Mamapedia.com. In 2009 Family-Health-And-Nutrition.com was named one of the 100 best websites for healthy parents by onlinenursingprograms.net. Hamilton holds a Bachelor of Science from Capital University in Columbus, Ohio.


Pull ups and lat pull downs generally work the same muscle group, however they are different exercises. One exercise is pulling your body weight upwards toward a bar and the other one is pulling weight down toward the ground from over your head. You may be wondering which exercise is better for your workout. While both can be beneficial, learn how each one is properly performed and the benefits of both.

Pull Ups

Pull ups are an effective exercise for building strength and muscles in the back and shoulders. To perform a pull up, grip the pull-up bar with your palms facing outward. Decide on the type of grip you want to use. A wide grip places your hands outside your shoulder width. A medium grip places your hands at should width, and a narrow grip puts your hands inside of shoulder width. During a pull up, arch your back and push out your chest. Raise your body with your arms while squeezing your shoulders and back at the top. Exhale as you raise your body and inhale as you lower your body. Don't pull the bar behind your head, as this can strain your rotator cuff.

Lat Pull Down

Perform lat pull downs on a weight machine with a bar and a stack of weights. To perform lat pull downs, select the desired amount of weight you want to pull down and then grip a wide bar. Make sure your knees are snugly placed under the knee pad so the resistance of the weight doesn't pull you up. Push out your chest and pull your torso back about 30 degrees to create a curvature in your lower back. Pull the weight down to your chest while exhaling. Squeeze your chest and shoulders in the downward movement. Slowly let the bar raise back up and repeat.


The main difference between a lat pull down and a push up is the lat pull down requires you to pull weight down while a pull up requires you to pull weight up. A lat pull down can be easier to perform because you can choose a weight that is less than your body weight. You can add weight to a pull up by using a weight belt, but your minimum starting point is your own body weight. People that regularly perform both exercises report that a pull up is harder to perform than a lat pull down. The pull up is a free weight motion, while the lat pull down is a controlled weight exercise.


The pull up requires a stable bar big enough to grip with your hands and high enough that your feet are off the ground when fully extended. A lat pull down requires a weight machine with a bar attached to weights.


The pull up and the lat pull down work all the major muscles in your back. They target your lats which are the muscles on your side between your waist and your armpits. Both exercises also work your biceps and middle back as well as develop overall strength.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.