T Nation

How to Improve Neurological Efficiency on Chin-ups?

Hey Coach,

Would you mind sharing your thoughts on this subject?

During covid 19 I went all in on Beat the Apocalypse 1 & 2 and made great progress in both strength and movement optimization on the prescribed exercises.

However, the chinup has always been the one exercise I just cant seem to excel at. At first I thoughts my lats were just weak (I’m also having trouble keeping them engaged during deadlifts). But on rowing exercises there is no issue at all and I can row fairly heavy weights. I still only get mini lat pumps at most during all lat exercises.

I’m guessing the reason why I’m struggling at making progress in chinups is because I can’t properly recruit them in vertical pulling exercises. I always get this weird sensation that my brain just wants to use the biceps and leave the lats alone (I did get massive bicep growth from this program just by doing chinups).

I also fatigue really quickly on chinups but it feels more like neurological fatigue than physical fatigue. Like my brain just wants me to stop the movement and if I try to push through it becomes awkward.

Have you experienced this before with yourself or your clients? Any feedback would be appreciated if you can spare the time.

Thanks Coach

Go very very slow on your way down. You will not get many reps in but you will get very good at the regular chin up if you keep practicing it like this. Do this 2-3 times a week for a month.

1 Like

If the problem is not recruiting lats, in whatever back exercise you’re doing, you need to focus less on pulling yourself up, and less on retracting your shoulder blades, and more about driving your elbows down towards your hips.

Retract your shoulder blade on one side of your body, and then flex your lat. Reach across your chest with your non-flexing side and feel your lat. it’ll feel like mush. Now, focus on driving your elbow downwards, and you can even let your shoulder blade come forward a little bit, and reach across again - your lat should be properly flexed. Any time you want to engage your lats, you should be pulling your elbows to your hips.

Lots of people are just focusing on pulling their arms and retracting their scaps - that’s all upper back. Learning to properly engage the lats is a game changer.


Thank you for feedback. I did find that eccentrics were helpful in the beginning when I was not able to do chinups. I went from isometric holds to 30 sec eccentrics to reps of 10 second eccentrics until I could perform 4-6 chinups with a 4010 tempo.

However, I found that FOR ME eccentrics are not the best option to increase mind muscle connection. Isometrics have been a lot more helpful in that regard.

Thank you though!

You are so right on this. I always believed to properly engage the lats that I first needed to depress the scapulae and then retract them once you start pulling yourself up.

I’m gonna focus on the driving the elbows down towards the hips cue and see how that feels. Thanks brother!

I find that accentuated eccentrics work best with pressing movements and related muscles and isometrics work best for pulling and associated muscles.

1 Like

Yes the eccentric days skyrocketed my squat and pushup conditioning. I used to gass out on 20 strict pushups with a 1010 tempo at the start of BTA 1. Currently, I’m on week 4 of BTA 2 for the second time (I repeated the BTA programs because I was so content with the results) and I wanted to test how much my strength and endurance had gone up. I repped out 40 strict pushups with a 2010 tempo. To me that’s amazing.

The eccentric and isometric days have also really helped me to use my legs more in the squat. I always used to squat up by initiating the movement with my lower back. I’ve grown to love the omnicontraction system and the added variety in training methods which make training itself so much more fun, motivating and effective. I learned a lot and I thank you for that CT.

Regarding flappinit’s answer, is there something you might want to add that could be helpful at achieving proper lat recruitment on chin-ups?

1 Like

Maybe try dead stop chinups at different heights. Use rings or rotating handle bar. So the highest is maybe your tippy toes touch the ground (while full extension).

Mid could be starting from knees. Low sitting indian cross leged style etc.

Dead stop movements are really nice for this (same with pushups / dips)

Never heard of dead stops on chins before. Perhaps that’s a good thing. I’ll give it a go, thanks for your contribution!

1 Like

Here on CT Forum use the search icon and type mind muscle connection. You will find lots of entries with lots of comments

You can use prefatigue with exercises that target the lats but only not at all the biceps (pullover or straigth arm lat pulldown) and then going immediately for one exercise that fully allows you to target the lats but only with partial elbow flexion; you could do that with kneeling inclined torso rope lat pulldown (for me it is like a mix between a pullover and a regular pulldown). and imagine that you are not pulling with your hands but pushing back something with your elbows

Hey, you can even try after that doing again straight arms lat pulldown but with a liiighter weight and see if you can feel localized fatigue

Another option could be doing any lat exercise that can be madewith no total elbow flexion BUT one elastic band attached to the back part of the arm (lower third) so you can achieve bigger and bigger tension as you move towards the end of the concentric part of the movement.

Look for some video on YT about how to do low pulley row Jerry Telle (Tellekinetics) style. I remember that here on T-Nation he wrote an article about lat training but I can’t find it anymore. If I’m not wrong it was called Lats get cookin’

I would even try some exercises and using at the same time a sports muscle stimulator, but in that case you need someone who have used these kind of protocols since not all currents are the same: There is the TYPE of current (faradic, galvanic, exponential, alternate…), the TECHNIQUE of application (monopolar, bipolar), as well as the type of wave (Rectangular [symetric and asymetric], undulating). I guess that russians and the countries of the eastern block experimented a lot with it; but don’t believe me I am not sure. I guess that only CT could tell us something about it

Hope something of this can be of help

1 Like

Wow…thank you very much for taking the time to write this down. You are right, I probably could’ve found my answer just by looking into previous entries. With all the stuff going on in my life, I honestly forgot I had that option. So thank you for delivering!

This, along with the cue I got from @flappinit, really helped me feel my lats again. Not as much on chinups but definitely on other vertical pulling movements, especially with the bands. The dead stops suggested by @Sigil work as well. So thanks for that guys. I guess it’s just a matter of practicing and keep trying to build that connection until it finally transfers over to the chins. If not, I can always grow on other exercises and use chins for strength purposes or just to build huge biceps lol.

I just tried this out and it works! Although I think a little more resistance is needed to optimally stimulate the lats but that comes down to customizing.

Thank guys!

1 Like