One Exercise For Guaranteed Wide Lats

Master the Rack Chin-Up

This back-building exercise looks easy. But do it right and it’s not only challenging, it’ll also target your lats better than anything else.

I know what you’re thinking: rack chin-ups are easier than regular chin-ups. Well, not really. This exercise variation offers some unique advantages.

Better For Lats Than Chin-Ups?

Although they’re similar to standard chin-ups since both exercises are vertical pulling motions predominantly targeting the lats, rack chins are a better option if you want to grow your lats and develop a wider back.

This is largely due to the differences in spinal and pelvic positioning. With rack chin-ups, there’s a degree of spinal flexion and posterior pelvic tilt. This works to load your lats through a greater stretch in the bottom portion of the movement.

Compare this to chin-ups, pull-ups, and even most pulldown variations where you have a greater degree of spinal extension. Loading your muscles at greater lengths is important for muscle growth. We could argue that rack chin-ups are a superior hypertrophy exercise compared to chin-ups hanging straight down.

Using an underhand grip further adds to this. Since your lats act as an internal shoulder rotator, using an underhand grip and getting more external rotation at the shoulder joint at the bottom will stretch your lats further.

Are Rack Chin-Ups “Easier” Than Chin-Ups?

Yes and no. Rack chin-ups result in you lifting less of your body weight because your feet are on a bench. But most lifters will find them to be about as difficult as regular chin-ups. Only those who do rack chin-ups using the incorrect technique will find them easier. So, take them slowly, focus on feeling your back working, and get that full stretch at the bottom.

For muscle-building, the rack chin-up allows for a greater mind-muscle connection. It’s easier to focus on the feel during both the concentric (lifting) and eccentric (lowering) phases.

Think of it like this:

  • Regular chin-ups are an excellent performance-focused exercise that encourage lifting more weight over time, but often at the expense of the targeted feel of the exercise.
  • Rack chin-ups are less about performance and more about being a tool for bodybuilding.

Ways to Do Them

The video shows rack chins performed in a Smith machine. You can also use a bar in a regular rack (cue the gym police). The exercise also works using a suspension trainer or Olympic rings. Both work great and allow more freedom of movement around your shoulders. Could be a better option for those with cranky elbows.

Ways to Make Them Harder

The most comfortable way to add load? Use a weighted vest. An EZ-bar or sandbag across your hips can work great too. I’ve had some success placing Olympic-sized plates across my thighs. It’s a bit shaky, so take it slow.

Certain intensity techniques work really well here, too:

  • Drop Sets: Start with two heavy chains across your hips, then just one chain, then bodyweight-only to finish.
  • Extended Sets: If you can do 12 reps, start with 8-10 reps, stop and take a couple of deep breaths (around 10 seconds), and then go again for another 4-6.
  • Cluster Sets: Have a goal of 15 reps in mind, but perform this as 3 x 5 with 10-30 seconds of rest between each micro-set. The result? You’re getting more reps than a straight set with the same weight. (More info on cluster training here.)

Make any workout work better:


I bet alternating vertical and horizontal versions of this exercise would be killer

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I sometimes do the horizontal version as a finisher from suspended handles. I start with my body roughly 15-20* below horizontal and finish about 15-20* above horizontal, or whatever full ROM is.

As Gareth states, I go slow and focus on contracting the lats and upper back. I’ve always been pretty strong at pull-ups / chin-ups, but man 12-15 body-weight reps of these seem to destroy me every time.

I’m going to start adding the vertical motion to my routine as well, I think these are a great idea, especially for those that find it hard to hit a target rep range with pull-ups / chins. I’d surmise that these also likely offer better transfer to full body-weight pull-ups / chins than using band assistance. Really useful for those of us who train at home and don’t have access to the high-dollar, big footprint, assistance machines.

You can actually try it as somewhat of a mechanical drop-set.

The vertical motion is a real game-changer from that more horizontal row you’re used to. As with that, focus on form and tension. It’s A LOT harder than it looks. If you need to add load then I covered some options in the article. Enjoy!

I tried this a few weeks ago for the first time. Now I’m as handsome as Gareth and have a funny accent.

No, seriously, he’s right about this being easier and yet harder. Yes, you’re using less of your bodyweight, but the targeted strict movement lights up your lats and biceps fast. I was getting 8-10 reps when I figured I’d be getting 15 or 20.


Should the elbows move in the Z plane or the Y plane? Or do both, different days or phases, or kinda in the thing called I think the scapular plane


Just another claim that in no way shape or form is ANYWHERE near the truth by this “elite coach”. Show me ANYONE who competes seriously who does this as their main width exercise, this guy keeps on making claims about a great number of things, and who is he, who does he train to claim this?

Like bicep peaks has anything but genetics to do with anything unless using oil…but not him, no…he has a way to undo ALL that:
Biceps Workout: The 5-10-20 Protocol - Bigger Stronger Leaner - Community - T Nation (

I am the asshat getting tired of nonsensical claims in some articles, back in the day you would have had the old schoolers really going after this. Want some variation, a pump, something different…great, go for it, but don’t say it’s something it isn’t. Back in the day things were actually tested scientifically in articles on what was “the best”. (Anyone else remember those? Actually measuring the result…yeah, some eventual PHD who did it for years, wrote here for years, if I remember right)

Unless you’re training guys with HUGE backs, or sporting one yourself, why even post such rhetoric, you’re inviting someone like myself to come in and bring this back to reality.

Write training articles without the hype and unsubstantiated drivel.

Good luck.


I appreciate that you’re reading my articles. I’m open to discussing anything I’ve covered here or in the past.

But, let’s try to not take shots that are personal, or try to knock a coaches credibility. “Who is he”…“Who has he trained” - Please feel free to google me, my qualifications, my books and academic papers, and who I’ve trained (hint: my clients are on the front cover of top fitness magazines, on bodybuilding stages, and not to mention one of the best female backs on the Olympia stage for the past two years). I’m not sure what more you want for credibility but please feel free to suggest it.

Or, let’s come at it from a different angle. No, I’m not a mass monster with a huge back (which would apparently show greater credibility to you). That’s never been a personal goal of mine. But, the guy who originally came up with these, popularized these, and used these with other mass monsters, IS jacked and with a massive back.

Again, don’t know what more you’re looking for here. But please feel free to suggest topics you’d like covered in future articles :slight_smile:


I did a variation of these routinely when I was at my biggest and I dare say I had quite a big wide back in my day.


I appreciate articles without hype, as I said, but again, SHOW ME who/what/when/where:

I’ll be waiting on this forever.

Care to show me where you pulled this idea of changing someone’s bicep peak from?


I have NEVER, till your article, seen anyone imply this is the best back width exercise, through old school magazines or anything I’ve seen online, and I’ve been lifting/following this sport since 1972, and competing in powerlifting/bodybuilding from 1981 to 2007. (Still respectable @ 6’1" 250 lbs <10% bf, 61 YO)

The guy you think came up with these originally, didn’t…happened MANY decades before, and I would say did NOT use this as their main width builder, but hey, name the name, and we’ll find out easily enough. (You have access to old York material? Go look there, if my memory serves right. Like a great many ideas/exercises, they’ve been renamed/recycled)

I have read your articles, I do appreciate the effort, I know who you are, who you’ve trained, etc.
I have called out this sites in-house trainer (CT) for making claims that are unrealistic (muscle gain) before, so I’m just saying lay off the unproven claims. Folks can overstep themselves at times, write something they’re thinking/feeling without actually going in-depth enough, happens to everyone who does it long enough. (Like your biceps peak deal, and not looking at the history of back exercises far back enough, I get it, who wants to go back that far)

Keep writing and training, I wish you nothing but the best.

I certainly remember you, and the impact you had when first posting, nobody wanted to believe you were real, lol (the whole video of you weighing yourself). I read all your posts, workouts, as I thought you had quite a future possibly in bodybuilding, what bodybuilding missed, the legal profession gained I guess. (I hope I did remember right?)

I have no problem with using this exercise in the least, but to say that this is the best back width exercise for putting on actual mass? I do not see that, and I’ve never seen anyone else say it, write it, anything. I see no reference to this exercise in any of your workout posts going back, did I miss something?

Hope you are well.

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How many clicks do you think an article titled “Try this nuanced Pull-Up variation for mild back gains” would get?

I understand what you’re getting at, but I don’t really agree with faulting the author for using the same click-tactics used by every single other author out there.

I took the quotations at the beginning of this article to effectively mean ‘take whatever this says with a grain of salt’, not a hard fact… Were it a provable fact, I think it would appear less important if it were to have quotations. The quotes, in my opinion, show that this is someone voicing their opinion - admittedly, it is a bit of a cheap trick that’s likely playing off a Google Search algorithm. This is a business that needs to generate clicks for revenue. Some embellishment is going to be needed now and then. As far as embellishing goes - I think this is a pretty tame example of it, compared to many others you’d see out there (typically on competing platforms or youtube).

I would very much like to see a picture of this.

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Going through an extreme bit of insomnia right now, so I’m not exactly feeling/operating@100%, older I get, the more bouts of this happens. You are probably 100% right, something I had not considered.

Not my best recent photo, but what I have on my phone that’s easy.


Looking great man, well done.
I’d be interested to discuss weekly dosage for upkeeping this (perhaps at a different time) if you’re willing to.


Basic TRT these days, 150 test (.5 3 x wk), 1 mg arimadex same 3x, 250 IU HCG same 3x, 2IU GH 5 on/2 off, basically the same for 15 yrs, except a short time of thinking to compete again, which wife/kids shut down, lol.

Derailed enough, take care.


@asmonius Wait, you’re pissed about the article’s teaser statement, which Gareth didn’t even write? Lordy, you’ve reach peak crotchy-old-fart.

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I resemble that remark.

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I’ve tried this move—discovered it during the pandemic when I couldn’t get to a pulldown machine—and can attest to its greatness. Very focused, intense move—and I have no problem with pull-ups. Something about the angle, and the capacity for a deep stretch make it super effective—all the more so with a vest. Thanks Gareth, love your stuff.

Yes! You have it correct.

I appreciate the kind words. I stepped away from bodybuilding as I could tell my health was starting to take a hit and if I wanted to go further that hit would become more severe. I wanted children and to see them grow up, so I changed paths. Bodybuilding will always be a love of mine and something I am passionate about keeping up with from a distance.

I definitely would not say it is the best exercise for a wide back. I think it has its place in refining and helping width, but you can’t replace heavy rows, deads, etc. that I attribute to most of my back size. Now, I will say this exercise is better for your body long term :smiley: considering I have had a multi level fusion in my lower back at the age of 35 - wore the discs smooth out, completely gone bewtween L5/S1 and L5/L4.

Everything always has a price sadly.

I am doing extremely well - better than I deserve. A beautiful loving wife, 2 healthy young children, and blessed financially. Hope you are well also!