Along with exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench presses and rows, pull-ups/chin-ups are considered one of the most core exercises. Everyone should be doing some form of pull-up or chin-up in their workout regime and if not, then their back, specifically their lats, will be sorely lacking. A weak back can lead to serious injury so no primary compound movement should be left out of your regime for too long.
However, if you’re just starting out in your weightlifting/training journey, you might be dismayed to find out that pull-ups are damned tough! Many people join a gym and are surprised and disheartened to find out that they can’t even do one single pull-up. This is extremely common and not something to feel down about. Definitely not something to put you off training altogether.
There are things you can do to increase your strength so you can do pull-ups, such as negative pull-ups where a friend helps you to do the lifting part of the motion and you use your own muscle to control your weight on the way down, but there are far easier and far simpler ways to increase that strength.
The most effective and efficient way is to just use a lat pull-down machine.
The Best Lat Pulldown Machine Reviewed
Lat pull-down machines simulate the motion/movement of pull-ups but instead of lifting your own weight up, you’re using a bar and cable contraption to pull the weight down to you. Usually with your legs/lower body secured on to the seat.
Many people skip pull-ups altogether because lat-pull downs are so effective. As long as you’re doing one or the other consistently, this is fine.
Body-Solid Pro Lat Machine
The lat in lat pulldown is referring to your lat muscles; the muscles in your back that are responsive for pulling things up and down. If you can’t visualise them, then just think of Bruce Lee flaring out his back muscles in some of his classic movies.
This machine features a long, lat bar that you use by, as you may have guessed, pulling it up or down. Due to the length of this bar, it doesn’t matter how big, small, tall or short you are. You can grip the bar in any width you like and in different grips such as supinated or overhand. Different grips and hand placement widths allow you to focus on specific parts of your lats and allow you to continue to exercise even if you have wrist/shoulder issues.
TDS Family Lat Row Cable Pull Down Machine
This lat pulldown machine, like most other machines on the market, are operated via cable. The cable is connected to weights at the bottom of the machine, the cable then runs up to the top of the machine where it attaches to the bar. You then pull the bar and thus the weights. These weights can either be flat blocks that sit at the bottom of the machine or plates that you attach to the side.
This machine uses plates, which is perfect if you already have plates lying around at home. It also allows you to be as precise as you like; you can add weights in as small increments as you like. This is one major advantage to using lat pulldowns rather than pull-up; you can control exactly just how much weight your lifting and adjust based on your individual needs.
Valor Fitness CB-12 Plate Loaded Lat Pulldown Machine
Whilst every machine on our list is both sturdy and stable, you won’t have any trouble with the machine toppling or falling for example, the CB-12 machine from Valor Fitness is by far the most robust. A strong and durable construction inspires extra confidence in the machine and can allow the trainee to train harder than the may do if they have fears that the machine may break or fall, etc.
The steel frame is made with 2” x 2” steel tubing to make the machine as tough as possible.
As well as lat pulldowns, you can adjust it so you can also do tricep pull-downs, seated rows, upright rows, arm curls and many different exercises. All in just one machine.
Powerline PLM180X Lat Machine
Powerline state that you can dramatically accelerate strength, endurance and size gains with this machine, and not just your lats either. The machine can be adjusted to target a variety of different muscles with a variety of different exercises. This lat pulldown machine basically functions as a home multi-gym, with the ability to hone and sculpt almost your entire upper body.
With lat pulldowns in particular, it features foam rollers that lock your place whilst you do the exercise. These foam rollers can be adjusted via pin into different settings to accommodate bodies/legs of different sizes and shapes comfortably.
The wide-grip bar features super-comfortable hand grips on the ends, though it can still be gripped comfortably anywhere along the bar without issue. Perfect for both those with long arms and those for shorter arms.
Akonza Lat Cable Machine
Like most of the other lat pulldown machines on the list, this machine from Akonza can actually work far more than just your lat/back muscles. This one piece of equipment can provide you with an entire rigorous workout if you know what you’re doing. If you do know what you’re doing, this could effectively be the only piece of kit you need to get your workout in.
Akonza have worked hard to make sure that their cable system works well and runs as smooth as it can possibly be. When it comes to lat pulldown machines, how smooth cable runs is arguably what makes or breaks it. If the cable is jerky and stutters when it’s pulled, then the machine is effectively worthless. Luckily for you, when selected pieces for this list, we made sure to only include machines that work well and run smooth.
Even if you can bang out 10s of pull-ups on command, lat pulldowns and lat pulldown machines are not to be looked down on or neglected. The ability to precisely dial in the weight you want is a huge advantage over typical pull-ups and chin-ups. With lat pulldowns, you can lift far more than your bodyweight without having to strap unwieldy weight plates round your waist.