T Nation

chins and pulldowns

Has anyone ever built a great back using primarily pulldowns as opposed to chins? I keep reading article after article bagging on pulldowns, but I rarely see anyone actually performing true chins at the gyms. I prefer to do higher reps (10-15) and can’t do more than 8 or so chins at a time. Is it possible to build a great back with just pulldowns, in addition to rows? Comments?

That’s a great question, I am the type of bodybuilder that believe’s you must work hard for what you want. How many times at the gym do you see guy’s “swinging” the weight back and forth, and they think there strong,but ask them to do ten pull-ups and I bet they could’nt make it pass five reps. I beleieve the key to growth is sticking to the fundamental excercises. Like Arnold,Zane,Franco did back in the day. Stick with the pull-ups,deadlifts,rows and I think it will pay off more then the machines will.Good luck. Train hard.

I was a fat fucker about 1 year ago. 1/01 I was 5’9 and 240 lbs. I’m currently 190lbs and stronger than ever. After I lost most of the weight, my main goals have been GPP type gains. I currrently can only do 5 chins. That number drops like a rock after a couple of sets. When I work my lats I do two sets of chins, then two sets of pull downs. I think the important thing is that it is easy to cheat with a machine. I use the pull down machine to do 8 CLEAN reps. Use slow movements, don’t jerk, and go ALL the way down. This is the method I’ve used all along. When I started I could only do one or two real pullups. This is my way. Hope it helps.

RH is right. I refused to do pullups/chinups and opted for machine pulldowns. I basically was wussing out and lazy. Of course I got nowhere and my back sucked. Then I finally broke down, started pullups and chinups, and my whole upper body exploded, not just my back. Stick to deads, cleans, pullups, even rows. Machines are for those who want to be lazy and stay weak.

Chins are great. I started a long time ago with sets of 2 and now can do sets of 20.

Keep at it.

You cannot dismiss chins! Samir Bannout ('83 Mr. Olympia) had a GREAT back. Good symmetry, thick and detailed. He performed his chins like this (and this is how we do it, too): he pulls himself up to his chest - now, if you know how to perform pulldowns correctly, you’ll know what I’m saying here: as you pull your chest up to the bar, you slightly arch your back - I look upward as I do this too. It’s alot tougher to do it this way rather than the straight up and down. But man, you’ll feel it in your lats. Seriously.

I believe that you can build muscle with whatever you have at your disposal as long as you put 110% into it. I have only done chins a handful of times in my five years of serious bodybuilding. If you focus, you can make the pulldowns very effective. I have put on 45 lbs. with a 2% drop in bf. (6-3, 225 presently at 38 yrs. old.) Could I have a better back if I did chins? Maybe, and when the pull downs aren’t working anymore, I’ll give them a try, as for now, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is working for me.

Stick with the chins. The reason you don’t see many people doing them in the gym is beause they are HARD to do.
After you have completed 7 or 8 reps, jump up and let yourself down SLOWLY for a couple more. Here is an arcitle from a past issue.

Nope, I feel chins/pull-ups are essential to a great back and the reason why most people don’t do them is because they are difficult (similar to why people don’t do squats, deads, olympic lifts, etc…see a trend?). So, to add vaiety and effort to these great exercises, try using a super set of wide grips, close grips and then reverse grips. Work these in and you will soon be able to add weight and increase back thickness and size. These are especially fun after doing deads.

No bloody pulldowns!! Chinups & pullups are good, but I think lots of stuff for the lower back & traps is more important. If someone’s going to add in pullups, keep the low back stuff too.

I agree with Patricia and HercUnchained…it’s all in the performance of the exercise. I worked up to doing 8 chins (supinated) with a 45 around my waist, but never really got a lot of back growth out of the movement until I changed my form. Strict pulldowns have put more meat on my back (seriously!) than weighted chins have ever done. That being said, chins done right, like Patricia recommends, can be as effective or even more effective.

you want to build a back, do regular deadlifts. do pulldowns only if you are so weak that you can’t do your own body weight. once you have reached a certain strength then switch to chins and then add weight with a belt. Don’t forget high rows. I like to do them with dumbells bringing the weight to my front deltoid. laters pk

Let me tell you its chinups all the way. they incorporate more stabilizer muscles. When I quit doing pulldowns a few years ago and switched over to pullups my back exploded. If you can not do many there are some tips. Respond to this if you want to here about them. By the way chinups are not done much cuz A. People are fuckin chicken and pathetic wimps B. People tend to follow muscle magazines and most of those i have read in the past (I no longer read them) other than t-mag. Anyways magazines usually promote pulldowns. Maybe they are finally coming around but I still am not seeing people perform them. Let me know if you want a routine.