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Effects of Grip Width on Muscle Strength and Activation in the Lat Pull-Down

Andersen, Vidar1; Fimland, Marius S.2,3; Wiik, Espen1; Skoglund, Anders1; Saeterbakken, Atle H.1

Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: April 2014 - Volume 28 - Issue 4 - p 1135–1142
doi: 10.1097/JSC.0000000000000232
Original Research

Abstract: 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—The lat pull-down is one of the most popular compound back exercises. Still, it is a general belief that a wider grip activates the latissimus dorsi more than a narrow one, but without any broad scientific support. The aim of the study was to compare 6 repetition maximum (6RM) load and electromyographic (EMG) activity in the lat pull-down using 3 different pronated grip widths. Fifteen men performed 6RM in 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. The 6RM strengths with narrow (80.3 ± 7.2 kg) and medium grip (80 ± 7.1 kg) were higher than wide grip (77.3 ± 6.3 kg; p = 0.02). 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 (p = 0.09), when the entire movement was analyzed. Analyzing the concentric phase separately revealed greater biceps brachii activation using the medium vs. narrow grip (p = 0.03). In the eccentric phase, there was greater activation using wide vs. narrow grip for latissimus and infraspinatus (p ≤ 0.04), and tendencies for medium greater than narrow for latissimus, and medium greater than wide for biceps (both p = 0.08), was observed. 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.

1Faculty of Teacher Education and Sport, Sogn og Fjordane University College, Sogndal, Norway;

2Department of Public Health and General Practice, Faculty of Medicine, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway; and

3Hysnes Rehabilitation Center, St. Olavs University Hospital, Trondheim, Norway

Address correspondence to Vidar Andersen, vidar.andersen@hisf.no.

Copyright © 2014 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.