T Nation

Pullup lat involvement


I've been trying to incorporate pullups into my training for the last 3 weeks and have run into some difficulties. At first I couldn't do one rep. So I did all negative pullups and worked up to about 3 - 3.5 normal reps per set. The problem, I think, is that I don't start the motion with my lats. I am feeling the entire exercise in my biceps and traps. I was reading in another article to always try to start the motion from your elbows to ensure that the lats are the first muscles fired. When I try this, I don't move. Does anyone have any advise on how I can get my lats to fire in that position? I've done a search of past articles and the forum and I just can find an answer.


It is possible that your traps and biceps are not yet strong enough relative to your lats to make this an effective lat exercise.

Another possibility is that you scrunch up your traps as if you were doing shrugs while you are pulling. Try to always relax your shoulders and traps and feel the pull from your elbows. If you can't, then I suggest doing lat pulldowns for a while using similar methodology.


Thanks for the quick response. Another quick question. When the pullup motion begins, should my upper torso be straight up and down or should it be angled a bit. I'm trying to keep it straight up and down because I thought that it was cheating otherwise. I just read that by angling your back you get more lat involvement. Does that make sense?


I usually start straight up and down and lean back as I move upwards through the motion. "Cheating" is generally the result of bending at the waste and driving your knees upwards. This creates momentum and takes away from your working muscles. If your body is flat as a board throughout the motion, I don't think your "cheating" in the traditional sense of momentum use. You are however utilizing slightly different muscles. I believe CT said in one of his articles that leaning back utilizes more lats.


Angled back is fine. I'd be more concerned about getting my rep range up and then cleaning up the form a bit anyway. Just don't swing and kick and flop around like you're trying to swim up for air.

I start mine by tensing the lats and concentrate on moving the elbows. I try to go up as fast as possible and stop when my collarbone is above my hands (pull to the upper chest). I control the descent and as soon as I'm at a dead hang I go again. I'll kind of pick up my knees if it helps finish that last rep.

Deadlifts and pullups really really work if you want a good back.


Thanks everyone for your help. Sounds like I have several things to try. Can only get better from here!