Both the pull-up and the lat pulldown follow a similar movement pattern, where you start with your hands overhead and hands wrapped around a bar, and then close the distance between your head and your hands by pulling on the bar.
Pull-Up vs Lat Pulldown: Which Is Better for You?
What are the differences, pros and cons for each, and which one should you be doing? Learn this and more below.
The pull-up is a close kinetic chain exercise, this means that the hands are fixed on a surface and the body moves.
Research shows that these types of exercise are superior to open kinetic chain exercises. This is because they elicit a greater amount of motor unit recruitment, aka more muscle fibres. This in turn leads to greater strength development and more muscle mass.
- Highly versatile
- No specialised equipment required
- Develops body awareness
- All upper body training
- Great carryover to other exercises
- Full range of motion might be hard for certain body types
- Entry level barrier can be high
- Not everyone is strong enough to perform them at first
The lat pulldown is an open kinetic chain exercise, meaning your hands move while your body remains stationary.
Lat pulldown pros
- Excellent for increasing absolute strength
- Fixed body position
- Greater force generation through hip and leg drive
- Beginner friendly
- Helps build muscle through progressive overload
- Great for drop sets
- Easy to adjust weight being lifted
Lat pulldown cons
- Poor carryover to other strength exercises
Pull-Up vs Lat Pulldown
When deciding which team to do, pull-up vs lat pulldown, all you have to answer is what is the purpose of your training? When you know what you’re training for then you know which path to take to achieve your goal.
Do you want to increase your relative strength? Focus on the pull-up more. Is absolute strength your aim? Then the lat pulldown is a better tool. In both cases, you can always continue to use the other exercise to aid your progress.
Relative strength refers to how good you are at moving your own bodyweight while absolute strength refers to maximum force production.
Always ensure you’re going through a full range of motion and control the eccentric portion of each exercise.
Do the exercise that you want to get stronger at for the specific purpose that you want to get stronger at, but don’t be afraid to use a variety of exercises.