Single Arm Lat Pulldown: Step-by-Step Guide, Muscles Worked, and More

One Arm Lat Pulldown

Most experienced gym enthusiasts are familiar with the benefits of a regular lat pulldown. However, there may be a variation you’re overlooking that can take your training to the next level: the single arm lat pulldown. This unique exercise provides a different challenge for your muscles and can help you break through plateaus.

What is a Single Arm Lat Pulldown?

The single arm lat pulldown is a unilateral exercise performed typically on a cable machine. It targets one side of your upper body at a time, allowing for more concentrated work and better mind-muscle connection.

The Why: Distinguishing the Single Arm Lat Pulldown

The standard lat pulldown is a fantastic exercise for developing your back muscles. However, it can sometimes inadvertently lead to muscle imbalances if one side of your body dominates the other. The single arm lat pulldown can help rectify this issue, ensuring both sides of your back receive equal attention during your workout.

Furthermore, the unilateral nature of the exercise allows you to really focus on the contraction and extension of your lats, leading to better muscle activation and potential growth.

Benefits of the Single Arm Lat Pulldown

The single arm lat pulldown isn’t just a novelty exercise; it provides several unique benefits.

Improved Muscle Balance

Working out one side of your body independently can help address and prevent muscle imbalances. The single arm lat pulldown ensures that each lat muscle does its fair share of the work, helping to create a more symmetrical physique.

Enhanced Mind-Muscle Connection

By training one side at a time, you can focus more intently on the movement and sensation of the exercise, enhancing your mind-muscle connection. This can lead to better muscle activation and development over time.

Increased Core and Lower Body Activation

Performing the exercise in a kneeling position also engages your core and lower body, providing a more holistic workout.

Versatility and Accessibility

If your gym doesn’t have a lat pulldown machine, you can still perform the exercise at any cable station, making it a versatile addition to your workout routine.

How to Perform a Single Arm Lat Pulldown

Now that you know why you should include the single arm lat pulldown in your routine, let’s break down how to perform it.

Step 1: Equipment Setup

Start by attaching a single handle to a high pulley on a cable machine. Adjust the weight to a level that allows you to perform at least 10 smooth repetitions.

Step 2: Positioning

Sit or kneel in front of the cable tower. Reach up and grasp the handle with one hand, your arm fully extended. Your torso should be fully erect and your chest out.

Step 3: The Pull

With your working arm fully extended, lean back 10–15 degrees and look straight forward. Lower your shoulder by depressing your clavicles, avoiding pinching or shrugging your neck. Pull the handle to your upper chest, focusing on the lats and pulling your elbow back and down.

Step 4: Return to the Overhead Stretch

After a brief pause at the bottom of the movement, return to the starting position. Lower the weight slowly, controlling the movement as you reach overhead to full extension.

Common Mistakes to Avoid in Single Arm Lat Pulldown

Despite its benefits, the single arm lat pulldown requires proper form for optimal results. Here are some common mistakes to avoid:

Going Too Heavy

It can be tempting to load up the weight, but doing so can lead to form breakdown and potential injury. Ensure you select a weight that allows you to perform the exercise with proper form.

Overcompensating with the Torso

Avoid twisting or leaning your torso during the exercise. Your lats should do the bulk of the work. If you find yourself leaning or twisting, it may be a sign that the weight is too heavy.

Muscles Worked by the Single Arm Lat Pulldown

The single arm lat pulldown primarily targets the latissimus dorsi (lats), but it also works several other muscles:

Primary Muscles

  • Latissimus Dorsi (Lats): The lats are the primary movers in the single arm lat pulldown. They are responsible for pulling your arm down towards your body.

Secondary Muscles

  • Rhomboids, Teres Major, Upper, Middle and Lower Trapezius: These back muscles provide stability and assist in the movement.
  • Biceps: Your biceps assist in pulling the handle down towards your body.
  • Obliques: As a unilateral exercise, the single arm lat pulldown also engages your obliques, which help stabilize your torso during the movement.

How to Progress the Single Arm Lat Pulldown

Progressing the single arm lat pulldown can be as simple as increasing the weight or changing the number of sets and reps. You can also experiment with different grips or perform the exercise in a half-kneeling position to engage your core and glutes more.

Single Arm Lat Pulldown Variations

The single arm lat pulldown can be done with various tweaks to hit your muscles from different angles or to provide a new challenge. Here are a few variations to try:

  • Single-Arm Supinated Lat Pulldown: In this variation, you perform the exercise with your palm facing you, which can help engage your biceps more.
  • Single-Arm Band Pulldown: If you don’t have access to a cable machine, you can use a resistance band instead. Perform the exercise in the same way, using the band to provide resistance.
  • Single-Arm Pause Pulldown: Adding a pause at the bottom of the movement can increase the time under tension, leading to greater muscle activation and growth.

Bonus One Arm Lat Pulldown Variation


The single arm lat pulldown is a versatile and effective exercise for improving muscle balance and enhancing mind-muscle connection. Whether you’re looking to address muscle imbalances, kickstart your lat development, or simply add some variety to your workouts, the single arm lat pulldown is worth incorporating into your routine. Remember to start with a weight you can handle, maintain proper form, and progress gradually for the best results.

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June 2024