The pull-up is one of the simplest exercises that can be done virtually everywhere. All you need is a bar to grab on and pull up. Yet, at the same time, the pull-ups and it’s numerous variations are also one of the exercises that deliver the best results in back development, especially when it comes to your lats.
And if you really want to get your back in perfect shape, you cannot rely simply on pulldowns and machines.
Still, many beginners, and even advance gym goers, chose to shy away from this killer back routine. This is probably due to the fact that pull-ups can be really demanding.
However, in the world of muscle building, it’s the hardest work that delivers the best results. Broadening your pull-ups repertoire is absolutely essential if you want to develop your lats.
HITTING LATS FROM DIFFERENT ANGLES
Pull-ups might be the king of lats exercises, but at the same time they are very demanding for your muscles. At the same time, while cheating on their performance may help you in the beginning, and could be tolerated in the last couple of reps in the set, it won’t get you far on the long run.
As a large muscle group, the lats need to be targeted from different angles. That’s why you need to use many different exercises that add variety to the movements.
One of the greatest advantages of the pull-ups is that they also activate great many other muscles that contribute in the movement. In other words, you don’t only get to work on your lats, but you also rip the benefits of faster muscle growth.
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If your goal is building an awe inspiring back, try our list of 6 killer back exercises. Including them in your routine will make your lats fly.
Though at the beginning you might not be able to do more than few reps per set, with consistency, determination and precise execution, you’ll soon be able to reach the dozen mark.
This exercise focuses on the upper lats and teres major.
The wide-grip pull-up hits the whole length of the lats, but it’s mainly focused on the top third, making it perfect exercise for building your width.
Because you are using a wide grip, it’s range of motions is more limited compared to the other pulls. Due to the open angle of your arms, the biceps involvement in this exercise is rather minimal.
Perform this exercise by pulling as high as you can, taking your chest close to bar. At the top of the motion squeeze your shoulder blades together.
Ideally, you should aim for doing about 50 reps till muscle failure. Split them in as many sets as you need to reach that number, but it would be preferable to do them in as few as possible.
Once you’re able to do the 50-reps mark in less than five sets, you can start adding weight.
Pull-up (Shoulder Width)
This exercise focuses on the upper-middle lats, rhomboids, rear delts.
In addition to targeting the above mentioned muscles the shoulder width variation of the pull-up also activates the brachialis and brachioradialis.
Since your hands are placed closer to each other, you can execute a wider range of motion, and as a result the focus of the pull moves to your lower lats, with the upper lats still handling most of the weight.
For best results you should always try to lower yourself all the way to the starting position with arms fully extended.
Since this exercise calls for a greater involvement of your biceps, you need a strong grip to execute the movement. If your forearms are not up to the task, you can compensate by using straps that will help you complete the sets. Aim for 10 to 12 reps and at least 3 sets.
Once you find this easy, start adding weight. If, on the other hand, you find it hard to complete the sets, you can cheat the last 2-3 reps by using a kipping pull-up.
This exercise focuses on the upper lats, teres major, biceps brachii.
The kipping pull-up was at first introduced for training the athletes to use the body momentum in alpinism and gymnastics. With the recent popularity of CrossFit, the exercise became popular again.
However, you should have in mind that although the lats and upper back are highly involved in this exercise by initiating the movement, it can reflect badly both on your form and on your capability to handle strength exercises after performing it. This is due to the nature of the movement, which can trigger fatigue.
If you are aiming for building your size and strength, we recommend doing this exercise as a finisher at the end of traditional pull-up set. Once you feel the failure approaching, do 3 to 5 kipping pulls.
However if you’re inexperienced with this movement, make sure that you begin practicing them with the help of an experienced coach. The kipping pull-ups can place a great strain on the shoulder joint muscles, which can result in injury.
This exercise focuses on the lower lats, rhomboids, biceps brachii.
This variation activates the biceps more than any other pull-up because it uses a supinated (underhand) grip, and your elbows are kept closer to your body.
This allows a considerably longer range of motion. Due to its nature of movement the chin-up is a fantastic exercise for activating the full length of your lats.
Namely, the pull is initiated with the upper part of lats. As you climb up, the focus shifts downward, hitting the lower lats as they take you to the top position.
Additionally, considering that it also activates the rhomboids, traps and mid-back, this movement might be the best total-back exercise. And with the involvement of so many muscles, this variation is one of the easiest pull-ups.
You can’t have a complete back routine without including overhand and underhand pull-ups. To avoid dividing the focus between your biceps and your lats, try not to wrap your thumbs around the bar. This will force a greater involvement from your lats.
If you want to pay greater attention to your lower lats, then you should think about including this exercise in your routine. In order to rip the full benefits of the exercise you should keep your body vertical throughout the move.
Once you’ve reached the top position, squeeze together your shoulder blades. You can spice up this exercise and slightly shift the focus hitting your muscle from a different angle by using wider underhand grip.
This exercise focuses on the lower lats, rhomboids, traps, brachialis.
Similarly to the underhand grip, the range of motion in this variation is longer allowing you a full focus on the whole length of your lats, with the involvement of the traps and rhomboids. It also strongly activates your biceps.
Yet, with the contribution of so many muscles this variation is fairly easy to execute. However, you can spice it up and add difficulty if you use a wide-grip. This will reduce the range of motion, and take out the biceps from the equation, putting a greater focus on your rear deltoids.
We recommend alternating between narrow and wide grip when doing this exercise.
This exercise focuses on the rhomboids, traps, lower lats, wrist flexors, brachialis and brachioradialis.
By performing the pull-ups with towel attachments you get to work on your forearm strength, as you rely on your grip for executing the pull. You can execute this move both with wide, and narrow grip.
Use multiple towels arranged along the bar for the former, and a single towel for the latter. You can adjust the grip difficulty with the towel thickness. The thicker – the harder.
However, this might result in serious fatigue of your forearms, and will weaken your grip strength reducing your ability to lift hard. Consequently, you should consider doing them at the end of your back-day routine.
The primary focus of the towel pull-up is on your forearms. As a result, if your grip is not strong enough, your lats won’t be capable to complete the pull.
Because of that, this move is mainly reserved for more experienced gym goers. On the other hand, the towel pull up can improve your grip strength, improving your efficiency of the other pull-ups, so you might consider performing it even if you are a beginner.
Introduce it at the end of your back day routine, doing 2-3 sets till failure. Try increasing the number of reps with every next training.
To Strap Or Not To Strap?
The answer to this age old question is very simple, and it depends on your objectives and constitution. Namely, if you want to work on your forearm strength, avoid using straps.
However, if your forearms are not strong enough and hinder your back development, using them is not only prudent but wise as well. According to the studies, the straps can help you execute a couple of additional reps.
On the other hand, by using the straps you are not solving but only bypassing the problem. That’s why you might consider reaching for the straps after you’ve performed as many sets as you can without their help.