It's a common question for everyone on back day - should I perform a wide grip or narrow grip during lat pulldowns for maximal muscle growth?
Common opinions are that a wider grip means bigger and wider lats, but science doesn't seem to back this theory!
In this study, the 6RM (rep max) load and EMG activity was compared across three different pronated grip widths (1).
A pronated grip (and a supinated grip) can be seen below:
Fifteen men performed their 6RM on the lat pull-down with narrow, medium, and wide grips (1, 1.5, and 2 times the biacromial distance) in a randomized and counterbalanced order.
Not surprisingly, the 6RM strengths with the narrow and medium grip were superior to the wide grip (80.3 ± 7.2 kg vs 80 ± 7.1 kg vs 77.3 ± 6.3 kg respectively.)
But what about the lat activation - which grip was the best?
Let's bring in the authors:
"There was similar EMG activation between grip widths for latissimus, trapezius, or infraspinatus, but a tendency for biceps brachii activation to be greater for medium vs. narrow when the entire movement was analyzed."
And they go on:
"Collectively, a medium grip may have some minor advantages over small and wide grips; however, athletes and others engaged in resistance training can generally expect similar muscle activation which in turn should result in similar hypertrophy gains with a grip width that is 1-2 times the biacromial distance."
So the conclusion is pretty simple - don't stress too much about grip width.
The most important thing might be to just get into the gym and just get it done!
Supinated Grip Vs Pronated Grip For Maximal Lat Muscle Activation
In this study (2), the wide grip pulldowns to the chest came out on top for lattisimus dorsi activation when compared to wide grip pull downs behind the neck and closed grip pull-downs (V grip).
The authors concluded:
"Considering the main objectives of lat pull-down, we concluded that front of the neck is the better choice, whereas back of the neck is not a good lat pull-down technique and should be avoided. V-bar could be used as an alternative."
Another study found that width didn't matter, and that it was grip that was most important; a pronated grip irrespective of width was the best for maximal lat activation (3).
How To Best Train Your Lats - The Conclusion
Basically, stay away from a supinated grip and pulldowns behind the neck.
And as for the grip width? It really isn't that important - what's important is a pronated grip (palms facing down) and making sure you don't perform the pulldowns behind your neck.
Combine that with consistent lat training and a solid diet - and you'll be well on your way to building a solid pair of wings!
"Stay Fit, Stay Flexed!"
(1) Andersen V, Fimland MS, Wiik E, Skoglund A, Saeterbakke AH. Effects of grip width on muscle strength and activation in the lat pull-down. J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Apr;28(4):1135-42. doi: 10.1097/JSC.0000000000000232.
(2) Sperandei S, Barros MA, Silveira-Junior PC, Oliveira CG Electromyographic analysis of three different types of lat pull-down. J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Oct;23(7):2033-8. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181b8d30a.
(3) Lusk SJ, Hale BD, Russell DM. Grip width and forearm orientation effects on muscle activity during the lat pull-down. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Jul;24(7):1895-900. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181ddb0ab.