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Chins - How Good For Lats?

No, this isn’t another thread about whether pulldowns are as good as pullups…

I do full body workouts, so I really rely on max value compound movements. Consequently, I do very little direct arm training. For biceps, I have been relying on chins (pullups with underhand grip) and heavy rows.

My question is this. I know chins are great for bicep development (nice pump), but how good are they for lats? With the underhand grip, is enough emphasis still being placed on the lats, as compared with regular pullups? I know there is less lat involvement, but are chins still an effective lat builder in their own right?

Or, if I go with chins, should I throw in some rows (or something) to fully hit the lats.

This question mainly pertains to squat days. On deadlift days, I’m not concerned about not hitting my back hard enough :wink:

If you use a full range of motion (and this is one exercise that I DO encourage it on) then yes it is a good lat builder. However, I would not rely solely on chins to build your lats. It would be a good idea to throw in rows.

I would guess pullups are better for lats as opposed to chins.

Why choose though (unless you have a condition in which you can do one and not the other)? Do both variants, and throw in rows for good measure.

It depends how you do them. Likewise, dips on parallel bars can be tweaked to focus more on the tri’s or more on the pecs, depending on what you’re aiming for.

If you do your chins with a fairly close grip (shoulder width or closer) don’t arch your back much or stick your chest out much, and focus on using your bi’s and really squeezing them hard in the top position, then they target your bi’s a lot.

If, however, you use a shoulder width or slightly wider grip, focus hard on keeping your back arched and your chest stuck WAY out (especially as you near the top of the range of motion) and squeeze the lats hard at the top, trying to envision your hands merely as hooks and your arms merely as “connectors” and not “primary movers,” then you’ll target the lats much more. If you do them that way, they’re a great lat width builder – perhaps the best.

You need a balance of vertical/horizontal pull in your program for maximum development. Pull-ups or any variation should be a staple in every program, as well as the rowing movements(barbell rows, db rows, etc.)

[quote]Damici wrote:
It depends how you do them. Likewise, dips on parallel bars can be tweaked to focus more on the tri’s or more on the pecs, depending on what you’re aiming for.

If you do your chins with a fairly close grip (shoulder width or closer) don’t arch your back much or stick your chest out much, and focus on using your bi’s and really squeezing them hard in the top position, then they target your bi’s a lot.

If, however, you use a shoulder width or slightly wider grip, focus hard on keeping your back arched and your chest stuck WAY out (especially as you near the top of the range of motion) and squeeze the lats hard at the top, trying to envision your hands merely as hooks and your arms merely as “connectors” and not “primary movers,” then you’ll target the lats much more. If you do them that way, they’re a great lat width builder – perhaps the best.[/quote]

so your saying ‘squeezing’ your bi’s would really take the emphasis off the lats and place them on the bi’s?I don’t think so. A big back arch and a chest stuck out will not alter the emphasis between the lats,bi’s and forearms. Finally, I like the part you wrote about the style you described for pullups as being lat ‘width builder’. as opposed to pull ups being what else? for the most part, when the lats grow, they grow out wide. Besides width, back growth in this area of the back is attributed to other muscles undergoing hypertrophy ( ie. teres minor & major, plus the rhomboids).

To the other posters, the majority of the difference between pull-ups and chins has nothing to do with the lats, it’s basically a difference placed between the biceps and the muscles of the forearms.

Firstly, thanks for the replies. To answer the question “why not do both”, I guess I’m just being a lazy sod, and trying to hit 2 birds (biceps and lats) with one stone.

I do 2 full body workouts a week (combined with 2 or 3 other sessions - interval training, swimming, bodyweight routines).

I used to keep a 4 workout rotation (all full body), so that way I could keep all the various favourites in there (eg: pullups, stiff leg deads) as well as the staples (deadlifts, etc). That worked well when I would pick one exercise per workout for 10x3, and the rest 4x6 or 3x10.

Now I’ve decided to simplify and reduce the rotation to just 2 workouts, with everything 4x6. With fewer exercise variations over a fortnightly period, I’m just looking to see what holes there would be in the program.

Hence the preference for chins over pullups, as I don’t have to think about direct biceps work then.

[quote]cougarenegade wrote:
To the other posters, the majority of the difference between pull-ups and chins has nothing to do with the lats, it’s basically a difference placed between the biceps and the muscles of the forearms.
[/quote]

Thats interesting. When I do pullups for tabata(ish) training (along with clean and press), I really noticed failure in the forearms first.

So are you saying that the amount of lat activation is the same in both chins and pullups?

[quote]Damici wrote:
It depends how you do them.

use a shoulder width or slightly wider grip, focus hard on keeping your back arched and your chest stuck WAY out (especially as you near the top of the range of motion) and squeeze the lats hard at the top, trying to envision your hands merely as hooks and your arms merely as “connectors” and not “primary movers,” then you’ll target the lats much more. [/quote]

I agree. This is a very effective way to bomb the lats. The body angle as well as the ‘feel’ makes all the difference.

Try neutral grip chins. Have a training partner? Anyone thatcan help? If you can, have them poke your lats when doing the neutral grip chins. Helps recruitment. You don’t have to be as aggressive as a fascial rake, just have someone poke you in the lats and learn that these are the muscles to recruit.

Um, no, dipshit, re-read what I wrote.

The angle and positioning of your upper body throughout the movement has a significant effect on how much you involve the lats relative to the bi’s.

Any good strength/physique coach (including those on this site) will tell you, when doing almost any type of lat exercise (rowing of various kinds, pullups, pulldowns, etc.) that, in order to try to target/isolate the lats as opposed to using the bi’s too much, you must arch the back and stick the chest out.

This is not in dispute. Doing the opposite WILL use the bi’s more and the lats less.

Perhaps instead of “lat” width builders I should’ve more broadly referred to them as “back” width builders because yes, they build the lats, and the lats do indeed grow outward (“wide”). This is as opposed to other back excercises, like certain types of rows, which perhaps target the lats themselves a bit less and the other muscles of the upper and inner back a bit more, which builds a bit more “thickness” in the back than width.

Wow, in one post you proved yourself to be both wrong and a complete asshole. Nicely done.

[quote]cougarenegade wrote:
Damici wrote:
It depends how you do them. Likewise, dips on parallel bars can be tweaked to focus more on the tri’s or more on the pecs, depending on what you’re aiming for.

If you do your chins with a fairly close grip (shoulder width or closer) don’t arch your back much or stick your chest out much, and focus on using your bi’s and really squeezing them hard in the top position, then they target your bi’s a lot.

If, however, you use a shoulder width or slightly wider grip, focus hard on keeping your back arched and your chest stuck WAY out (especially as you near the top of the range of motion) and squeeze the lats hard at the top, trying to envision your hands merely as hooks and your arms merely as “connectors” and not “primary movers,” then you’ll target the lats much more. If you do them that way, they’re a great lat width builder – perhaps the best.

so your saying ‘squeezing’ your bi’s would really take the emphasis off the lats and place them on the bi’s?I don’t think so. A big back arch and a chest stuck out will not alter the emphasis between the lats,bi’s and forearms. Finally, I like the part you wrote about the style you described for pullups as being lat ‘width builder’. as opposed to pull ups being what else? for the most part, when the lats grow, they grow out wide. Besides width, back growth in this area of the back is attributed to other muscles undergoing hypertrophy ( ie. teres minor & major, plus the rhomboids).

To the other posters, the majority of the difference between pull-ups and chins has nothing to do with the lats, it’s basically a difference placed between the biceps and the muscles of the forearms.
[/quote]

Oh, and to illustrate what I was getting at with regard to excercises that are back “thickness” builders as opposed to “width” builders, go to “Cool Tips” on this site, click on “Archives” at the bottom and read C.T.'s Cool Tip from 6/5/06. It illustrates the point. :wink:

[quote]El_Animal wrote:
If you use a full range of motion (and this is one exercise that I DO encourage it on) then yes it is a good lat builder. However, I would not rely solely on chins to build your lats. It would be a good idea to throw in rows.[/quote]

good advice!
chinup + row are the best for lat development (IMHE)

[quote]Damici wrote:
Um, no, dipshit, re-read what I wrote.

Wow, in one post you proved yourself to be both wrong and a complete asshole. Nicely done.[/quote]

You get some sand in your vagina this morning or something? The guy was just giving his opinion.

Uh, me?? Re-read the guy’s post and notice the tone he’s using in the whole thing. It’s pretty clear that he’s the one who came out of nowhere with his own sand-in-vagina 'tude. I would never address someone like that out of the blue.

[quote]vermilion wrote:
Damici wrote:
Um, no, dipshit, re-read what I wrote.

Wow, in one post you proved yourself to be both wrong and a complete asshole. Nicely done.

You get some sand in your vagina this morning or something? The guy was just giving his opinion.
[/quote]

Does anybody here actually know what the lat does?Because it seem that you don’t with the answers that your giving.

The Lats primary function in which they are prime mover is extension of the flexed arm.Flexed arm(arm being the bit from your shoulder to your elbow)can be envisaged as the position that Dr Darden says to measure your arm for his arms challenge(striaght out in front of you and parallel to the ground).Flexion is the movement that brings your arm back in the frontal(?)plane so that your arm is by your side with the elbow flexed.

In pull ups the movement of the arm is adduction(it’s coming back to the midline of the body from an abducted position)in tis it is greatly helped by the Pecs and some other back muscles(most notably middle fibres of Trapezius(?) I think).

I personally think that Biceps activation is pretty similar in both exercises,with maybe a little more in the Chin,but that chins are a far superior activator of the Latissimus Dorsi.At least this is the impression I got from my anatomy texts all those years ago.

I could be wrong on this but I don’t think so.As to torso angle and arching the chest and the relative benefits for width and thickness, read up on what C.T. said it all sounds fairly reasonable.

Here’s the link to C.T.'s Cool Tip: http://www.T-Nation.com/readTopic.do?id=1095138

[quote]Harry Flashman wrote:
Does anybody here actually know what the lat does?Because it seem that you don’t with the answers that your giving.

The Lats primary function in which they are prime mover is extension of the flexed arm.Flexed arm(arm being the bit from your shoulder to your elbow)can be envisaged as the position that Dr Darden says to measure your arm for his arms challenge(striaght out in front of you and parallel to the ground).Flexion is the movement that brings your arm back in the frontal(?)plane so that your arm is by your side with the elbow flexed.

In pull ups the movement of the arm is adduction(it’s coming back to the midline of the body from an abducted position)in tis it is greatly helped by the Pecs and some other back muscles(most notably middle fibres of Trapezius(?) I think).

I personally think that Biceps activation is pretty similar in both exercises,with maybe a little more in the Chin,but that chins are a far superior activator of the Latissimus Dorsi.At least this is the impression I got from my anatomy texts all those years ago.

I could be wrong on this but I don’t think so.As to torso angle and arching the chest and the relative benefits for width and thickness, read up on what C.T. said it all sounds fairly reasonable.[/quote]

Ok, now I have a (what may be dumb) question regarding chins. Do you go with a wide grip or with a closer grip? Just wondering because at my gym the bar has those “bicycle” handles and for me, they are wider than shoulder width. But if I go to the local HS then there is an “old-style” bar to do chins.

What are the differences? Better/more activation of the lats with a wider grip?

[quote]Harry Flashman wrote:
some stuff that was a bit off
[/quote]

There’s no such thing as arm flexion or extension. These movements are discussed in relation to the joint, so you’d say shoulder flexion. When you’re talking about inversion/eversion, elevation/depression, internal/external rotation stuff, though, you can refer to the bone involved(at least most of the time).

-Dan

to work the lats in my experience you have to perfect your form. you dont want to really think about contracting the arms at all, and your path should be in the form of an ark. and on your way down in the negative, i never relax my arms all the way down. what you do is concentrate on stretching the lats, but at the same time stretch all the way out with the lats but keep the arms slight bent and tight. also i have 2 diferent paths i take, to make the lats wide do a really wide grip and keep the elbows out. to really hit the lats like in a pull of, keep the elbows in front about 45 degrees

[quote]TexMex007 wrote:
Ok, now I have a (what may be dumb) question regarding chins. Do you go with a wide grip or with a closer grip? Just wondering because at my gym the bar has those “bicycle” handles and for me, they are wider than shoulder width. But if I go to the local HS then there is an “old-style” bar to do chins.

What are the differences? Better/more activation of the lats with a wider grip? [/quote]

elbows out wide to really widen the lats, and elbows more forward to hit the thickness, its kind of like the rope pullovers in Thibaudeau’s back articles