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4 Hammer Strength Lat Pull Alternatives To Work Your Lats Independently

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The Hammer Strength Lat Pulldown is a commercial gym machine that many trainers absolutely love. Unlike most lat pulldown machines, this one is plate loaded and has unilateral arms. That makes it great for working each side of the mid and upper back independently. 

But what if your gym doesn’t have Hammer Strength machines or if you work out at home? 

You can still get a unilateral training effect that mimics what you get on the Hammer Strength Lat Pulldown with the right exercises. 

For 35 years I’ve been a personal trainer in New Zealand. Hammer Strength machines are in short supply down here. But we’ve known about them from pictures in magazines since the late 90s.

I’ve become pretty good at finding Hammer Strength lat pull alternatives that really work.

In this article, I’ll lay out four genuine Hammer Strength Lat Pulldown alternatives that work your muscles the same way.

These are the actual exercises that I’ve been using with my clients in New Zealand for decades to mimic the Hammer Strength training effect.

What’s So Good About the Hammer Strength Lat Pulldown?

Hammer Strength machines have been around since the late 90s. They came in with a bang, turning the free weights vs machines debate on its head by bringing in a line of plate-loaded machines.

Hammer Strength machines allow you, therefore, to benefit from the benefits of machines and free weights – it doesn’t have to be an either-or choice anymore.

You can also adjust the workout with more precision – on a plate-loaded machine you can use fractional weight plates as well.

This means you don’t rely on the weight increments provided to you by the stack – you can adjust the weight by smaller numbers if you need to.

Here are a couple of specific benefits of Hammer Strength machines in general, and the Hammer Lat Pulldown in particular:

Iso-Lateral Technology

Hammer Strength’s iso-lateral technology is a patented mechanism that follows the natural arcs of the body with smooth diverging and converging motion. It also features single-arm motion that allows you to work each side of the body independently. 

Training one side at a time forces each side to carry its own load. This overcomes the common problem of a stronger side compensating for the weaker side and taking more of the load than it should.

So, using a Hammer Strength machine will promote balanced strength and muscle development. 

Improved Biomechanics

Hammer Strength equipment was designed after intensive collaboration with physicists, engineers, biomechanical researchers, pro athletes and chiropractors. The result is a line of machines that do a very good job of simulating the natural motion arcs of the body. 

Muscles Worked by the Hammer Strength Lat Pulldown

Hammer strength lat pull muscles used

The main muscle a lat pulldown works is:

  • Latissimus dorsi

But there are other secondary muscle groups too:

  • Trapezius
  • Rhomboids
  • Rear deltoids
  • Bicep muscle group
  • Forearms

Research suggests that biceps brachii activation is greater with a wider grip than a narrow grip. However, surprisingly lats activation isn’t much different.

What Makes a Genuine Hammer Strength Machine Lat Pull Alternative?

There are plenty of articles you can find online when searching for alternatives to the Hammer Strength Machine Lat Pulldown. Most of them, however, are not giving you an apples-for-apples replacement exercise.

They’ll simply throw together a bunch of latissimus dorsi exercises regardless of the plane of motion, whether it’s a pulling or a rowing exercise or if it is unilateral or bilateral. 

At Strong Home Gym, we think you deserve more than that. If you are going to invest your time reading an article like this, you should be rewarded with real, usable information – not just page filler!

That’s why the alternative lists you find at Strong Home Gym are usually shorter than on other websites. But you can be sure that every one of those exercises is a genuine replacement for the main exercise. 

When it came to selecting the Hammer strength Lat Pulldown replacement exercises I was guided by the following considerations:

  • It had to allow for unilateral movement.
  • It had to allow for the natural arcing movement of the lats as the arms sweep down.
  • It had to be a pulling rather than a rowing movement.

To be perfectly honest, it is impossible to precisely mimic the patented iso-lateral technology of a Hammer Strength machine. If you could, no one would use a Hammer machine!

So, using an actual Hammer Strength Lat Pulldown will also give you a more precise biomechanical movement. But the exercises below do the best job of mimicking that effect when you don’t have access to a Hammer machine. 

Equipment needed for these exercises

  • Cable Pulldown Machine
  • Weight bench
  • Resistance Band
  • Pull Up Bar (delve into our extensive guides on the best wall-mounted and free-standing bars if you’re in search of the perfect pull-up bar)

4 Hammer Strength Machine Lat Pull alternatives

These all replicate the same movement pattern…

Hammer strength lat pull alternative infographic

1. One Arm Cable Lat Pulldown

Equipment needed for exercise:

  • Cable pulldown machine

Force USA G15 Machine

Force USA G15 All-In-One Trainer
Read our best all in one home gym guide here

The Force USA G15 combines a Smith machine, a squat rack, and a pulley system in one compact machine.

The G15 pulley cables have a 2-to-1 and a 4-to-1 ratio allowing you to perform any movement on it. The cable length is longer than a 1-to-1 ratio and allows you to lift lighter weight, ideal for lat raises etc.

Add a leg press and lat pull-down attachment to make it become a true all-in-one home gym machine.

After comparing over 100 machines the G15 came out on top for quality, versatility, and nothing competes at this price point.

How to do exercise:

  1. Set the pulley on a cable machine to its highest setting and place a seat side on to the machine a few feet in front of it.
  2. Sit on the machine and grasp the pulley handle with your closest hand. Adjust the seat so that your arm is approximately at a 45 degree angle.
  3. Pull the handles down and in toward your hip, touching your hand to your hip.
  4. Reverse the action to return to the start position.
  5. Do the same number of reps on both sides. 

Exercise muscles worked:

  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Rear deltoids
  • Trapezius
  • Rhomboids

2. Band One Arm Pulldown

Equipment needed for exercise:

  • Resistance band

How to do exercise:

  1. Anchor a resistance band to the top of a door and then close the door.
  2. Kneel in front of the door facing it. You should be about three feet away from the door.
  3. Grab the band handle in your right hand and place your left hand on your knee for support.
  4. Readjust your position so that your arm is extended at a 45-degree angle. And slightly out to the side of your body 
  5. Pull the band down and into towards your hips. Strongly contract the lats in the bottom position.
  6. Reverse the action to stretch your last back out.
  7. Do the same number of reps on each side.

Exercise muscles worked:

  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Rear deltoids
  • Trapezius
  • Rhomboids

3. Unilateral Pull Up

Note: This pull up version has you holding the bar with both hands. However, the non-focus arm is there for support and to lessen the load on the working side. You can use something like a towel as the video above shows too. 

That is why I have included this as a unilateral exercise. 

Equipment needed for exercise:

  • Pull up bar

REP PR-4000 Power Rack

REP-PR-4000 Power Rack
Read our best squat rack guide here

Looking for an affordable yet high quality power rack?

Look no further!

After comparing over 100 types of squat racks the PR-4000 came out on top.

You can add any attachment to it (including cables, dip bars and plate holders). You can even add additional uprights to back to make it even more of a beast!

The 1 inch westside hole spacing means you can position the spotter arms to the ideal height when you bench press. So you can safely drop the bar and have a full range of motion when you lift.

And the 3×3″ 11 gauge steel make this the best value rack we could find.

How to do the unilateral pull up:

  1. Hang from a pull up bar in a dead hang position with your knees bent and feet crossed over.
  2. Shift your bodyweight to the right side as you pull your right arm up to the bar. Your body should rise on a slight angle with your right shoulder coming up higher than the left. Come up until you achieve a 90-degree elbow bend.
  3. Lower all the way back to a dead hang position.
  4. Do the same number of reps on both sides. 

Unilateral pull up muscles worked:

  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Rear deltoids
  • Trapezius
  • Rhomboids

4. Band One Arm Pull Up

Equipment needed for exercise:

  • Resistance band

How to do exercise:

  1. Loop a resistance band over a chin up bar so that it hangs down under the bar.
  2. Grab the bar and place your left foot into the resistance band. This will support a portion of your weight to make the one arm pull up easier.
  3. Take your left hand off the bar and hang it at your side.
  4. Pull up with your right arm to bring your elbow to a 90-degree bend. 
  5. Lower back to a dead hang.
  6. Do the same number of reps on both sides. 

Exercise muscles worked:

  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Rear deltoids
  • Trapezius
  • Rhomboids

Don’t have a pull up bar? Check out our 9 best pull up bar alternatives.

Hammer Strength Machine Lat Pulldown Alternatives: The Bottom Line

The Hammer Strength Machine Lat Pulldown is an excellent lat exercise. it does a better job than most of mimicking the natural movement arc of the back muscles while working each side individually.

So, if you have access to Hammer equipment, you should use it.

The four hammer strength lat pull alternative exercises that I’ve outlined here provide a good ‘second best’ to the Hammer machine. Focus on feeling the stretch and contraction in the lats as you do the exercises, pyramiding your reps from 15 down to a heavy six.

Want to know how to fit your lat exercises into a total program? Check out our complete beginner weightlifting program.

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Steve is a certified personal trainer, current home gym owner, former gym owner, and copywriter. He joined his first gym at age 15 and, five years later, he was managing his own studio. In 1987, he became the first personal fitness trainer in New Zealand.

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