7 Straight Arm Pulldown Alternative Exercises You Should Try

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Straight arm pulldown alternatives and, in general, straight arm exercises come in many different forms. The form you choose will depend on the muscles you want to work. 

A very rarely used variant of the pullover are the straight arm pull down on the cable. This fitness exercise can be carried out in the booth in front of a cable tow tower.

In addition to the stress on the sedge muscle (musculus serratus anterior), you train the large thoracic (pectoralis major muscle) and the broad dorsi (latulus dorsi muscles).

How straight arm pulldown is done

Attach a straight bar to the high block of the cable tow tower. Grasp the pole in the upper grip about shoulder width and stand with a little distance to the caulking step.

Stretch your arms almost completely and tilt your torso so far forward that the stretched arms are beside your head and arms, head and back form an imaginary line.

Your lower back will be held lightly in the hollow spine so that your spinal discs are completely relieved during this exercise. You tense the abdominal muscles.

Now you start the exercise by pushing down the pole on your outstretched arms while you exhale, until the bar is just in front of your thighs.

Then you breathe in and at the same time lead the pole slowly on the outstretched arms again and control upwards into the starting position. Always be careful not to alter the almost stretched condition of your arms.


  • Grasp the bracket handles of the two high pulleys with a pronation grip (palms facing down) and the arms slightly higher than the shoulders.
  • Bend forward about 15 degrees, with your back in its natural arched position.
  • In the initial position, the arms lie outside and at the sides, perpendicular to the body, with the elbows slightly bent and blocked at this angle.
  • Inhale and hold your breath as you starts pulling the handles down with your arms relatively straight.
  • As you approach the sides of the trunk, bring your arms slightly forward until you can barely touch or cross.
  • After keeping the lower position for a moment, start exhaling and bring your arms back to their initial position.
  • Keep the body stable throughout the exercise.

Technical Advice

  • Keeping the elbows slightly bent helps relieve the stress that they would have to endure if they were stretched out. In addition, by performing the movement with the arms straight, the triceps are activated at the expense of the pectorals.
  • Keep your torso in the same position throughout the movement. If you lean forward to facilitate the movement of the arms, reduce the load intended for the bibs.
  • Pull your arms towards your chest, keeping them as much as possible aligned with the pectorals. If you move them towards the head, you will move part of the load on the high pectorals and the front deltoids.
  • In general, bending further forward moves the load on the central and upper part of the bibs. On the other hand, an upright position favors the work of the lower part.
  • To improve trunk stability, which is extremely important in this exercise, inhale and hold your breath during the traction and crossing phase. This increases the intra-abdominal and thoracic pressure, which contributes to improving the stability of the spine. On the contrary, when you exhale during the effort, you will experience a decrease in strength and the impossibility of keeping your back straight, with consequent risk of trauma.
  • Since the abduction of the scapula involves the big dentate, do not contract the back muscles to keep the shoulders back, but let them bend forward when the arms are in front of the torso.

Training at home? In your Garage?

Using an Adjustable Utility Weight Bench can give you ability to execute exercises more accurately, optimizing your efforts for best results.  

Variant: Cable Pullover in upright position

A rare variant of cable pull pullovers are the pullout pullovers in the upright position. Because the amplitude of movement is smaller here, the main stress is on the latissimus.

The interesting thing about this variant of the coatings on the cable is that here the latissimus can be trained without substantial help of the biceps. This allows a latissimus workout even with an injury or soreness in the biceps.

Take hold of the pole attached to the high block in the upper grip and extend your arms almost completely. Stand upright and about hip-width in front of the cable tow tower.

Your lower back is in a slight hollow position, your abdominal muscles are tense and your gaze is straight forward.

Press the bar down on the almost straight arms towards the thighs and exhale while doing so.

Then you let the rod slowly and controlled back to the starting position at the level of your chest by pulling the cable.

Common mistakes

Of course, the free standing of the exercise on the cable leads inexperienced fitness athletes to make mistakes and execute the exercise with the help of other muscle groups.

Most commonly, the stretched arms are bent and helped with the triceps, but also the swinging with the upper body or by going to the knees while pushing down the bar are not uncommon. All these falsification movements distort your training effects, since they shift the focus from the main working muscle group.

So, it’s critical to pay attention to the cleanest possible technique, as described above, to achieve the maximum training progress.

The only thing that moves in this exercise is the arms over the rotation through the shoulder joints. The rest of the body, especially the outstretched arms, remains completely rigid and unmoved.

7 Straight Arm Pulldown Alternative Exercises

1. Lat machine far from the saddle:

Image result for Lat machine far from the saddle

This version of straight arm pulldown alternative can be done with the rope or with the bar.

The big advantage compared to the “classic” lat machine is that of maximizing the stretching of the backbone in an excellent way and letting all the work on it and not on the joint fall down, even with the arms outstretched.

In addition, the work of the biceps is very bland and the whole movement is borne by the latissimus dorsi, thus giving the much desired and pleasant V shape.

It can be done with many variations:

  • One arm at a time
  • With two arms
  • With the rope
  • With handles
  • Crouched, distant, the opposite from the high cord of the twin multiercoline

If you would like to achieve next level results on these exercises, the TRX suspension trainer is what is used by Pro Athletes and the US Military. Click on the image below to navigate and review the product details.

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 2. Commando Pull Ups (Referred to as Commando Traction too):

This is the variation to the classic chin up with work on the vertical plane. A great straight arm pulldown alternative.

How to do it?

Grab the bar with your hands clasped parallel to each other, with the bar running crosswise over your head. Make a traction by going with the head to the right (or left) and then in the next to the other side. Useful for having an exceptional stretch to the backbone. In the next round reverse the grip to maintain balanced muscle load.

Below video should help

3. Handlebar Rower, but done well:

What does it mean?

It means bringing the arm back by focusing the pull at the elbow. Literally the weight must go to the feet and not have a vertical trajectory.
If we wanted to describe the movement it would be in the shape of J. 

If it is performed in this way it allows a major room, both in extension and in collection and also allows a much smaller work on the scapular retractors allowing the back to work more.

4. Barbell Horizontal Pullover (with or without band):

Warning! This is an advanced exercise technique, but due to its mechanical setup, it can be executed with minimal risk of injury.

The barbell of a multi power about 120 cm in height, we lie down facing up and grab it with our hands. We will obtain a horizontal traction, an exercise whose intensity cannot be regulated due to our weight, being always the same. You can overload by changing the incline of the exercise and keeping the feet higher, so you will have more weight to pull up.

Basically, the approach to this exercise is to try to perform as many repetitions as possible and then increase the number over the weeks. Progressive overload is a must!

When you get a decent number of repetitions, you can also take the road to insert pauses “up” to make the exercise more intense (enormously more intense).

5. Straight Arm Dumbbell Pullover – The Skull Crusher!

Our favorite straight arm pulldown alternative! Take a dumbbell in each hand and let your arms hang down next to your body. The palms are pointing forward. Now bend the forearm and bring the dumbbell to the shoulders. Then lower your arms slowly. Exercise your biceps with this dumbbell exercise.

Alternative: You can perform the exercise with one dumbbell. Start with your right arm and then switch sides. Or using both arms on a HEAVY dumbell!!

p.s: “Skull Crusher”, because if the dumbbell slips through your hands while it moves over your head you will crush your skull! So be careful!!

6. Chin-up

Simple yet super effective for strengthening the upper back: the chin-up. For the execution of the pull-up is needed only something to hang on it, be it a chin-up bar, a beam or a branch of a tree.

Those who cannot pull up can learn it. It may be useful to strengthen first hands and wrists, as they hold at least almost the entire body weight and here the power development of this exercise begins.

7. Barbell Pull Over

This exercise is similar to number 4, the Barbell Horizontal Pull Over, but is executed while lying on a bench. This allows for much higher extension of the chest muscles, stretching your inner shoulders, making the exercise even more difficult. This one is not for the faint hearted! Your soul needs to be up for it!

So, same muscle groups are activated, but you take this to a whole new level because of the range of motion given by your elevated body high above the floor. Depending on how much you want to focus on your triceps or pecs, you can adjust how straight your elbows are kept throughout the movement.

Happy gains!! Because you WILL get them.

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