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QA: Should I do pulldowns to the front or rear, and which grip is best?

ironmanmagazine.comQ: Should I do pulldowns to the front or rear, and which grip is best?

A: To the front. Regardless of the bar or grip you choose, avoid a wide grip, and don’t pull to the rear of your head. It’s an unnatural action that puts unnecessary stress on your neck, cervical vertebrae and shoulders. Pulling to the rear doesn’t improve the muscle- and strength-building values of the pulldown, but it does increase the risk of injury.

There are several bar and grip options for pulldowns. Use the one that has the most resistance over the fullest but still safe range of motion.

With a straight bar start with a shoulder-width supinated, or curl, grip, and fine-tune your hand spacing for wrist and elbow comfort. A hand spacing that’s a little closer than shoulder width may work best for the supinated grip.

For the parallel grip, a shoulder-width spacing is better than a close grip.

For the parallel and supinated grips use a hand spacing that keeps your forearms vertical—or close to vertical—during the exercise

The parallel grip usually comes with a smaller weight potential than the supinated grip. Comparing the same range of motion, you’ll need about 15 percent less weight with a parallel grip.

If you still find it uncomfortable to use a supinated grip, even after trying different hand spacings, and the bar for a shoulder-width parallel grip is unavailable, try a pronated grip using a straight bar. Take it two to three inches wider on each side than your shoulder-width grip so that your forearms are vertical at the contracted position.

—Stuart McRobert


Editor’s note: Stuart McRobert’s first byline in IRON MAN appeared in 1981. He’s the author of the new BRAWN series, Book 1: How to Build Up to 50 Pounds of Muscle the Natural Way, available from Home Gym Warehouse (800) 447-0008 or

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