V Bar Pulldown (The ultimate back exercise)

V bar pull down

The V Bar Pull Down

The V bar pulldown is great for developing thicker lats and developing the entire midsection of the back. There is no better exercise for isolating and targetting the lats for adding serious mass. 

In this article, we will look at the V bar pulldown, how to perform it correctly, the muscles activated and variations of the movement. 


What is the V Bar Pulldown?

V bar pulldowns are a variation of the lat pulldown which is a resistance exercise that targets the latissimus dorsi muscle in the back. It is performed on a lat pulldown machine with a V bar attachment and is the best way to develop the lats for both size and strength.

It is particularly popular with bodybuilders as they are a great way of promoting hypertrophy in the back and definition between the back muscles. 

By developing big lats, bodybuilders are able to improve their lat spread pose which is a compulsory pose in the majority of bodybuilding competitions.


How to do a V Bar Lat Pulldown

If you are familiar with regular lat pulldown, you are going to find a V bar pulldown very similar. It is a simple movement to perform and really isolates the lats allowing you to fully connect with the muscle and focus on its development. 

  1. Attach a V bar to a lat pulldown machine and select your working weight from the weight stack. 
  2. Grab the bar, sit down on the seat and tuck your legs under the seat pad with your arms fully extended upwards.
  3. This is your starting position. 
  4. Take a deep breath. As you breathe out, pull the bar downwards towards your chest by flexing at the elbow. 
  5. Keep a straight back throughout the movement and the elbows tucked in tight to the body. As you pull down, lean back slightly. 
  6. When the bar is at your chest, hold it for 3 seconds and squeeze the lats. 
  7. After 3 seconds, slowly release the bar back upwards and relax the lats. 
  8. Repeat this movement for the required number of reps and sets.


V bar pulldown instruction


Benefits of a V Bar Lat Pulldown

A V bar lat pulldown is a great way to build the muscles in your back, improve your overall strength and increase your endurance while adding some definition between the muscles. 

Here are five benefits of using this version of the pulldown: 


1. Improvement in posture – The most common benefit of using the V bar lat pulldown is that it will help build stronger back muscles. With repeated use, you will find that the back muscles can handle heavier loads, and improve your overall posture. 

Strength trainers will find this pulldown useful as an accessory exercise for developing strength so that they can perform heavier deadlifts. 


2. Definition in your back muscles – Another benefit of using the V bar lat pulldown is that it can help add definition between your back muscles. 

By targeting the lats specifically, you are ensuring that they show separation between the rhomboids and spinal erecters. This is beneficial for bodybuilders looking to compete. 


3. Increased stamina – Working out with heavy weights for an extended period of time can be tough on your body. However, a lat pulldown does not require as much weight or effort as other exercises, which means it can increase your stamina over time. 

By focusing on correct form and time-under-tension, you can get great results from the V bar lat pulldown without having to train with heavy loads. This allows you to perform higher reps for better endurance and stamina. 


Alternatives to a V Bar Pulldowns

If you are working from a home gym or do not have access to a lat pulldown machine at your commercial gym, there are a few other alternatives for working the muscles in your back. Here are some of our favourites. 


Bent-Over Row

The bent-over row is a great mass builder for the entire back. The main target muscle is still the lats but the rhomboids, traps, biceps and rear delts all play a big part in the rowing movement. The core is also heavily activated to stabilise the bent-over position. 

Machine Row

Machine rows are a good way of building the lats without having to engage the core muscles. The advantage of using a row machine is that you can adjust the seat height to target different areas of the back, adjust the grip and quickly adjust the resistance. This is especially handy for drop sets and pyramid sets. 

Humble Row

The humble row is a great one to use if you are working out from a home gym. The only equipment needed is an adjustable dumbbell bench and a set of dumbbells. If you want to isolate the lats and really feel the mind-muscle connection, this is the best alternative to a V bar pulldown 

Cable Row

Rows are great for developing the back and if you have a cable pulley station, you are going to find it much easier. Some gyms will have a machine that is specifically set up for cable rows but if yours does not, just set a cable pulley on its lowest pin and sit on the floor. 

Pullups

Pullups with a narrow grip are a great alternative if you have limited equipment. A pullup bar and dip station should be the first bits of equipment that you buy for any home gym as they are cheap and allow you a full upper body workout.


Muscles Worked by the V Bar Pulldown

The primary target muscle with a V bar pulldown is the Latissimus Dorsi (commonly referred to as the lats). The Lats make up the largest proportion of the back and are involved with the majority of pulling and rowing motions.  

Well developed lats are essential for both bodybuilders and strength trainers. They are even great for the regular gym user as they promote good posture and lower the risk of back injury. 

Muscles worked with v bar pulldown

The secondary muscles activated are the rhomboids which are just above the lats and the rear delts at the back of the shoulders. 

The biceps are activated to a lesser degree as they are responsible for flexing the arm at the elbow and the forearms are involved as they provide the strength to grip the bar.

With all of these muscles being bought in to play, the V bar pulldown is a great movement for developing the entire back as well as adding thickness and width to the lats. 



V Bar Pulldown Vs Standard Lat Pulldown

Lat pulldowns are traditionally performed with a wide grip on a lat pulldown bar. A common theory is that you should use a wide grip on a wide bar to develop width in the lats and a narrow grip or V bar grip to add thickness to the lats. 

Recent studies are now showing that this is not usually the case. Whilst wide grip lat pulldowns will add width to the lats, a narrow grip pulldown will also add the same amount.  Furthermore, a narrow grip will add more mass to the lats because it also adds thickness. 

The majority of professional bodybuilders and industry professionals have listened to the results of these studies and are preferring a narrow grip pulldown or v bar pulldown to a wide grip version. 

There is still a place for wide grip lat pulldowns in some cases. If you have a thick back already and purely want to focus on width, opt for the widest grip possible. This will allow you a good lat spread without thickening your torso. 


V Bar Lat Pull Down Correct Form

When performing a V bar lat pulldown, form is everything. There is no point pulling a heavy weight up and down if you are not fully activating the target muscle. 

Choose a moderate weight and focus on a slow, controlled movement with strict form. At the top of each rep, squeeze the target muscle and try to feel the connection.

When releasing the weight back up, go for a really slow motion over 3-5 seconds. This will allow you to train with lighter weights and achieve better results. 

Check out the images below and make sure that you are taking particular note of the back position with both the v bar lat pulldown and wide grip lat pulldown. Also, notice the position of the arms and how close the elbows keep to the body.


Lat pulldown correct form

V bar pulldown form


Conclusion

If you want to add serious mass, strength and definition to your back, the V bar lat pulldown is an important exercise to have in your arsenal. Take the time to learn the correct form and focus on muscle isolation and connection and you will soon see great results. 

We hope that you have found this article informative. Check out our FREE 12-week bodybuilding program by clicking on the link below. It includes a comprehensive hypertrophy strategy, exercise instruction and nutritional advice and it won't cost you a cent!


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