T Nation

Lat Activation for Chin Ups


Hi CT, quick question.

I barely feel my lats or back when doing weighted chins, only in my biceps and particularly around the elbow joint. My weighted chin up is decent (1RM is ~115lb attached at 145lb bodyweight) and I do them from a dead hang with no leg momentum, so I'm not overloading them by kipping.

I assume the lats must be doing something since I doubt I could get that kind of weight up using just the biceps, and the lift is still progressing, so is it a case where my back is used to the load and so I only feel it in my biceps? If so, do I just keep doing what I'm doing and ignore it? My goal is to increase the weight on my chin up so I'd like to recruit as much of my back as possible rather than putting most of it on my biceps.

Are there any exercises or cues you could recommend to increase lat activation? I've been using the standard technique of "imagine your arms are hooks and pull elbows to back pockets" but is there something else that could help? I do not have access to machines so I can't isolate my lats with cables and such.

Thank you.


There is one drill, kinda hard to describe and I’m leaving to give a seminar soon so I wont have time to film the exercise. I’ll try to describe it as well as I can.

First use a pronated grip (pull up… back of your hand toward you) harder to rely on the biceps that way.

From the pull-up hang position the drill consists of lifting and rolling your chest up without bending the elbows. Imagine bringing your chest to the ceiling while rotating back. Hold the top position and unwind back down.

You can either do reps with 3 sec hold at the top focusing on your lats or only doing one repetition holding the top position for as long as you can.

Then do pull-ups from that position: reach the “rolled up” position, pause for a second then finish the pull-up from there.

And eventually do the same thing but as once fluid movement.


I think I understand what you mean. Thank you. I will try this tomorrow once my arms have recovered.