The Lat Pulldown Variation 6X Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates Calls a “Waste of Time”

Six-time Mr. Olympia winner Dorian Yates has one of the best backs in Open bodybuilding history. You’d be hard-pressed to find somebody who casts a larger shadow than The Shadow himself, which begs the question — what are Yates’ preferred back exercises

In a Jun. 20, 2024 Instagram Reel, Yates schooled his followers on the lat pulldown; specifically, the lat pulldown variation he calls a “waste of time.” 

[Related: How To Do Dorian Yates’ “Blood and Guts” Back Workout]

Let’s dive into Yates’ rationale and find out whether modern exercise science research — and other experts in the field of muscle growth — agree with him. Is the wide-grip lat pulldown something you don’t “ever, ever” need to do?

Why the Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown Is a “Waste of Time” 

Yates couches his argument in the idea that adjusting your grip width and position during lat pulldowns will influence which of your back muscles have the best leverage to perform work.

He’s Right: A 2002 study on grip styles during the lat pulldown noted, “changes in handgrip position affect the activities of specific muscles during the lat pulldown movement.” (1)

For Yates, the wide-grip lat pulldown is a suboptimal choice for targeting the lats because of 3 specific factors: 

Reduces the overall range of motion

Puts the biceps in a weaker position

Has an improper arm path for lat activation

So what does he recommend instead for anyone trying to develop their V-taper

Instead, Try…

Instead of using a wide, pronated grip when you perform lat pulldowns, Yates suggests performing close-grip underhand pulldowns during your bodybuilding back workouts. 

“You can do underhand pulldowns on the lat pulldown station or use the Hammer Strength machine,” Yates remarked on social media. Regarding exercise order, Yates recalled performing this exercise second during his back workouts. 

Generational Wisdom: Yates’ adoration of the narrow-grip, supinated lat pulldown is reminiscent of old-school bodybuilders like Mike Mentzer. Mentzer himself often went to bat for this same variation for its potency as both a back and biceps-builder. 

[Related: The Best Creatine Supplements for Muscle Growth]

What the Science Says

Yates certainly has the pedigree to make strong claims about bodybuilding programs; after all, he’s famous for having one of the best backs the sport has ever seen. Do his statements stand up to science? Let’s take a closer look. 

That same study from 2002 acknowledged that hand grip influences back activation, however, its findings noted the opposite of what Yates is saying here: “…using the [wide-grip overhand] position produces greater muscle activity in the [latissimus dorsi] than any other hand position.” (1)

Other studies, including a 2010 paper in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, noted that underhand pulldowns disperse a portion of the load to the biceps brachii. (2)

[Related: Best Pre-Workout Supplements for Bodybuilding Workouts]

Other Voices: In a Jun. 12, 2024 episode of The Stronger by Science Podcast, researchers Greg Nuckols, Milo Wolf, and Pak Androulakis-Korakakis examined the breadth of scientific data on back training — or, rather, the lack of it. “There’s almost no direct data on back hypertrophy, so we’re left to make inferences,” Dr. Wolf said. 

One consensus the SBS team landed on is that using fiber orientation (the direction of the muscle fibers as they connect across your skeleton) may be wise. This lends some support to Yates’ recommendation, as the tucked, vertical arm position of the close-grip underhand pulldown should align better with the orientation of most peoples’ lat fibers.

The Bottom Line

What we’re seeing here is a clash between anecdotal and empirical evidence. Modern scientific research isn’t fully on Yates’ side and it’s hard to refer to any bodybuilding exercise as a complete “waste of time.” Yet Yates undeniably has the sweat equity (and six Sandow trophies) to back up his statements. 

You’d be best served by heeding Yates’ words and exploring different adjustments to common back exercises like the lat pulldown. If you want to cover your bases, regularly swap between the close-grip underhand pulldown and the wide-grip overhand pulldown every few weeks. 

[Related: Best Supplements for Bodybuilding]

Just don’t expect either lat pulldown variation to make a world of difference in your back hypertrophy — prioritize good form, high effort, and diligence in the kitchen. Same as it ever was. 

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Signorile, J. F., Zink, A. J., & Szwed, S. P. (2002). A comparative electromyographical investigation of muscle utilization patterns using various hand positions during the lat pull-down. Journal of strength and conditioning research16(4), 539–546.

Lusk, S. J., Hale, B. D., & Russell, D. M. (2010). Grip width and forearm orientation effects on muscle activity during the lat pull-down. Journal of strength and conditioning research24(7), 1895–1900.

Featured Image: @templegymuk / Instagram

The post The Lat Pulldown Variation 6X Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates Calls a “Waste of Time” appeared first on BarBend.


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