How To Do V-bar Pulldown For A Bigger And Stronger Back

A big, thick back, in my opinion, just screams strength and power. Take a look at all of the strongest individuals on the planet and you will notice that a well-developed back is a very common trait among them. V-bar Pulldown

Your back supports the rest of your body so is vital from a strength standpoint and if aesthetics is your goal, a wide, muscular back is essential for the attaining the V-taper look.

The problem is that the biggest and most powerful muscles of the back, your latissimus dorsi or lats for short, are often the ones that are under-developed in lifters. I think a big reason for this is because it can be quite hard for you to actually feel them working, which means it can become difficult to target your lats effectively.


This is where V-bar pulldowns come into play. The neutral grip and position of your forearms during a V-bar pulldown makes it much easier to feel the lats contracting throughout the range of motion. The big stretch you get on your lats at the top of a V-bar pulldown is also great for feeling the muscles work.

If you want to make your back training more effective, I highly recommend including some V-bar pulldowns in your training program.

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How To Perform V-bar Pulldown

The exercise should be performed on a standard cable pulldown machine by using the triangular shaped V-bar attachment. The cable is a great way to work your muscles even harder due to the constant tension that the cable pulleys apply to them.

Step by step:

  1. Grip the handle attachment with a neutral grip, i.e palms facing each other.
  2. Sit down on the machine and position your sternum directly below the top pulley of the machine. This will require a small amount of backwards lean.
  3. Keep your chest out, shoulders down and maintain a slight arch in your lower back.
  4. Drive your elbows downwards and pull the bar to the very bottom of your chest.
  5. Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the bottom of the movement and pause for a brief moment.
  6. Return back to a straight-arms position in a controlled manner.
  7. Repeat the movement while minimizing movement and swaying of your body.
Watch bellow video:
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Muscles Worked In A V-bar Pulldown

As mentioned, the V-bar pulldowns are an excellent exercise for building your lats. However, it is a compound movement, which means it requires movement at multiple joints. Therefore, it works a large number of muscles. Choosing exercises that work a large number of muscles is a great way to build total body strength and make your workouts even more efficient.

Aside from your lats, your trapezius muscles, or “traps”, do a lot of work in the pulldown. Your traps are responsible for supporting your shoulder girdle and are involved in the retraction of your shoulder blades during a v-bar pulldown.

Other muscles involved in pulling your shoulder blades backwards (scapular retraction) are your rhomboids. The rhomboids help the traps with scapular retraction but also perform scapular depression, which is the motion of bringing your shoulders down. Keeping your scapular depressed during a pulldown is crucial to good form so the rhomboids serve an important purpose here.

Pulldowns not only work your back muscles, your biceps get heavily involved as well. The act of pulling a weight towards you by bending your elbows will always recruit the biceps. So,m not only are you building a big back, your arms will benefit as well.

The muscles covered above are just the main movers in a V-bar pulldown. There are some smaller back muscles, like your teres major and minor, as well as your deltoids and forearms that can be added to the list too. V-bar pulldowns, when done correctly, are an absolute powerhouse in terms of total muscle activation.

Tips For Getting The Most Out Of V-Bar Pulldowns

To ensure that you are getting the very most out of this awesome exercise and that you are effectively working all of the muscles listed above, I have come up with a list of tips for you to use.

Drive Your Elbows Down Hard

Instead of thinking about pulling the bar down with your hands, think about driving backwards and down with your elbows.

Imagine that your hands are merely hooks for gripping the bar and that all of the movement is initiated by your elbows. This tip will really help you to recruit your lats and feel them working during a pulldown.

Keep It Strict

It can be very tempting to pile the weight on with this exercise and use your body to help you. Using poor technique is counterproductive, even if you are using more weight.

You will be much better served by lowering the weight and applying strict form that enables all of the target muscles to be worked. Swinging your torso and using momentum starts to involve other muscles and decreases the work done by the muscles you are actually trying to work.

So, keep it as strict as possible and minimize torso rocking. A little bit is fine and almost unavoidable, but don’t let it get out of control.

Use Straps.

Straps can allow you to really concentrate on your back muscles during a V-bar pulldown. When using straps, you don’t need to be so concerned with gripping the bar and can focus on your back muscles instead.

Of course, straps will take away some of the forearm recruitment but you are probably using the pulldowns as a back builder and not a forearm developer.

Vary The Rep Ranges

Don’t be afraid to switch up your rep ranges with V-bar pulldowns, as long as your technique remains solid. Training different rep ranges provide different types of stimulus to the muscle fibres.

The cable pulldown machine is a very safe way to incorporate different rep ranges or training styles like drop-sets and pyramid sets. The weight isn’t going to come crashing down on you, so it can be used to experiment with some new techniques in your back training.

Stretch And Squeeze

Muscles worked over a bigger range of motion get worked harder. V-bar pulldowns utilize a relatively large range of motion so use it to full effect. On the way up, extend your arms fully and don’t start the next rep until you feel the stretch ion your lats. You should feel this stretch just underneath your armpits.

For the concentric part of the movement, the way down, emphasize the contraction at the bottom. Squeeze your shoulder blades together hard and pause briefly.

Doing these two things will make the exercise harder and you may have to lower the weight. The upside is that your muscles will be doing more work, which should lead to more growth.

Final Thoughts

Including some V-bar pulldowns in you back training routine would be an extremely wise choice, in my opinion.

I think that you should work as many target muscles as possible during an exercise and that you should be able to feel those muscles working.

The V-bar pulldown certainly ticks both of those boxes.

If you want a more developed back that is both aesthetically pleasing and powerful, give the V-bar pulldown a try in your routine for a couple of months.

Kelly Joyner

Hi, I'm Kelly, I'm very glad you took a few minutes of your time to check out my blog. RegularityFitness is a blog about the best fitness exercises, weight loss methods, diet, muscle building. That will help you get a good shape and healthy.

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