Can you do a lat pulldown without a machine? Yes! Here’s how.

Having some kind of lat pulldown in your home gym is important in getting a complete workout. This article will tell you about an easy way to build a lat pulldown without a machine. This is especially important for people who are unable to do pull-ups with their full body weight. However, even people who are able to do multiple pull-ups with their full body weight can benefit from lat pull-downs.

I actually had a lat pulldown machine that came with my power cage. However, I could never get the weight guide racks to work properly. They always added so much friction that it kept me from having a good workout. Here is an example of the kind of machine I had.

Luckily, you can have your own Lat pull down set up at home without needing to buy expensive equipment.

This article contains examples of kits that includes everything I am going to tell you about in this article. It might be easier for you just to get the kit. If you want to be more DIY about it then skip this and read the rest of the article. It will explain each component in more detail and you could save money by buying things separately.

When using the system above, you may need to sit all the way on the floor to get a full range of motion on pulldowns.

Please continue here if you want to build it using individual components.

Hopefully you have some kind of pull-up bar available to you. If you have a squat rack, a doorway pull-up bar, a pull-up bar mounted to your ceiling, or anywhere else to put the pulley system I am about to tell you about, then this will be even easier for you.

if you already have somewhere to hang the pulley then you can skip the next section of this article. It just has to be something that is at least 8 to 10 feet high and something that can support at least 200 lb or whatever amount of weight you plan on using for lat pull-downs.

The first iteration of my pulley system cost me abour $15. All I needed was a pulley and some carabiners. I already had rope, something to use as a loading pin, and a place to mount it. Here is the exact pulley i first used.

Click here to buy it on Amazon –> National Hardware N280-552 V7633 Pulley in Galvanized

I still use one of those pulleys in my pulley system but I also got some other pulleys that I like a little better.

Click here to buy it on Amazon –> SPORT 90mm Universal Wearproof Abration Bearing Pulley Wheel For Gym Equipment Part

 Make sure you choose a pulley with negligible friction.

That is why I recommend the KYLIN pulley – it is nice and smooth. I know that getting a smooth pulley sounds like an obvious thing, but I only mention it because  pulleys with a lot of friction give you too much resistance as you pull the weight towards you and then much less resistance as you lower the weight again. That gives you uneven loading between the eccentric and concentric phases of the movement.

Both of the pulleys I recommended above are perfectly smooth. Just keep in mind that there is another important thing you will need to mount the pulley. Do you see the bracket that the garage door pulley comes with in the photo? Well, the KYLIN pulley, and a lot of other pulleys, do not come with that.

I actually had to machine my own bracket because I could not find one sold separately. Unless you can find a bracket sold separately, I recommend you just get the garage door pulley for now. Having used both pulleys, I can say that they are equally smooth.

If you need somewhere to mount the pulley, here are some suggestions. (If not, go ahead and skip to the next section.)

A doorway pull-up bar might be one of the easiest things to install. With a doorway pull-up bar you don’t need to worry about screwing into a ceiling joist.

Click here to buy it on Amazon –> Ultimate Body Press XL Doorway Pull Up Bar with Elevated Bar & Adjustable Width

A doorway pull-up bar (click here to read article) is usually rated for Somewhere between 150 and 200 lb at least. Make sure you do your research and read the reviews before purchasing.

if you want to use a ceiling mounted pull up bar instead, here is one suggestion to get you started on researching those.

Click here to buy it on Amazon –> Iron Core Athletics Joist Mount Pull Up Bar

An important thing to consider is that you want the pull-up bar to be mounted high enough that when you reach up for your pulldown attachment, you can get your lats to a full stretch. You don’t want the pulley to be hanging so low that it cuts off your range of motion.

Once you have somewhere to mount your pulley, then it is time to get the rest of the equipment.

You are going to need pulleys, rope, carabiners, some kind of loading pin, and perhaps some kinds of lat pulldown attachments. Like I said earlier, depending on what you already have, this could cost as a little as $10 to $20, or as much as $100, but it will still save you money over buying an actual machine – and it will work just as well.

What pulley is best?

You could get either of the pulleys I listed above, or you could do your own research and find another pulley that you like. It may help to get two or three pulleys. If you get two pulleys, then you can put 1 pulley directly above your loading pin and then have the other pulley a few feet across from it horizontally so that you can pull from underneath that pulley.

Kind of like how lat pulldown machines in the gym have a bit of a jib that you sit underneath.

When I first built my lat pull down without a machine, I just used one pulley. Now I use a little more of an advanced setup like I just described where the pulley hangs from one side of my power cage and then the other pulley hangs from the pull-up bar a few feet across from that. It is a little more comfortable that way.

How to attach the weights:

to attach the weights you will need something like this loading pin:

Click here to buy it on Amazon –> Weight Loading Pin and Heavy-Duty Carabiner for 1 inch & 2 inch Olympic Weight Plates – Grip Strenth Training & Upper Body Trainer

That is the same one that I use. Previous to that, I used an adjustable dumbbell and some chains. I prefer the loading pin because it is more convenient.

if you want to save money oh, you could get a one or two foot piece of chain that fits through the holes of your weight plates and then put the Carabiner on the bottom and so the weight plates won’t slide off add another carabiner to attach to your rope. The only reason a loading pin is better than that is that the chain falls down whereas a loading pin is easier to slide the weights on and off of.

Rope and Carabiners

I never bothered with Airline cable or special steel cable for my pulley system. I have always just used sailing halyard. It is an extremely strong rope. Here is a good example of a strong 3/8 in sailing halyard.

Click here to buy it on Amazon –> Sailboat Rigging Rope 3/8″ x 50′ Green/White Double Braided Polyester Dacron Sheet Halyard Line

then you just tie the rope to a carabiner on either end.

I think I will make a whole entire article about the best carabiners because there are so many out there and some are better quality than others.

I think I will also make a separate article detailing the differences between all the different lat pulldown bars you have to choose from (click here to read article).

It won’t be long before you are doing lat pull-downs without a machine.

With just a simple pulley and some other basic equipment, you can have access to a lot of additional exercises. Feel free to ask me any questions or leave any comments, especially if you need help clarifying exactly how to put the pieces together.

45 thoughts on “Can you do a lat pulldown without a machine? Yes! Here’s how.”

  1. Gym equipment is quite expensive and any help on DIY is most welcomed.

    I have a door way pull-up rail and I have not had the opportunity to use it well. The door pull-up is also very convenient as it does not take up much space.

    I like the idea of working out from the house due to my limited time.

    Thank you for taking your time to explain all this.

    • Thanks Carol. If you can do pull ups then you don’t need a lat pulldown as much. Pulldowns help when you are not able to do as many pullups yet. 

  2. Hellow Charles,
    Thanks for your post. This post is really awesome. I like all the tips that you have said. From your post, I have known many things. I think, this post will help them who wants to start gym. It’s needed for my cousin to gym and I wanted to forward it to him for buying pull down set. It badly needed for him.
    Thank you for sharing this great post

    • Hi Snigda and thank you. I’m glad you liked it. Not everyone could get a 300 dollar pulldown machine but 60 dollars or less is easier. 

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