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Back Exercises for Women

Wide-Grip Pulldown

When it comes to improving strength and size in your back, and creating that V-taper every woman wants, nothing beats wide-grip pulldowns. Here’s the skinny on how to make the most of the move and build your best back ever.

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Muscles worked: latissimus dorsi, serratus anterior, lower and middle trapezius, rhomboids!


1. Sit up tall. Don’t lean back or allow your back to round because this will disengage your back muscles and put the burden of the work on your arms and shoulders rather than your back.

2. Lift your clavicle up to create a small arch in your upper back and pull your shoulder blades down and back. Imagine squeezing a pencil in between them to set your scapulae and shoulder joints in the best position possible to generate power in your back.

3. Pull the bar down by driving your elbows down and back until the bar touches your upper chest. Imagine lifting your chest to meet the bar as it comes down to intensify the contraction.

4. Resist the pull of the cable and weight stack on the return to work the negative (eccentric) contraction, helping develop strength and power and helping prevent shoulder injuries.

5. Don’t seesaw back and forth or use momentum to do the move. This puts your lower back at risk and does nothing for your back development.

6. Your grip and forearms should not fatigue when doing pulldowns. Your hands are to be used as an extension of your back, so if they are getting tired, you’re not using your back to pull but rather your arms.

Do it better! Change the attachment to alter the focus of the move. For instance, swap the long bar for a V-handle to hone in on the middle and lower back.

Grip Tip! Take an overhand grip on the bar with your wrists straight. The wider you grip the bar, the greater the emphasis on the lats.

Beginner tip: Use a heavy enough weight that you can actually feel your back engaging. Sometimes if the weight is too light, it’s difficult to maintain proper form.

Behind-The-Neck Pulldowns: Yea or Nay?

Skip it. This position externally rotates your shoulders to an extreme, putting your rotator cuffs in a delicate position. Dropping your head forward also pulls your spine out of alignment, which can lead to shoulder and neck strain. Finally, it shortens the range of motion you can achieve with your lats, which defeats the purpose of the move altogether.

Other moves to work the same muscles:

• One-arm dumbbell row

• Bent-over barbell row

• Pull-up

• T-bar row

• Seated row

• Reverse-grip pulldown