T Nation

Rows vs Pull-Ups for the Lats

To answer the OP I find 3 exercises tend to hit the lats the best for me.

Weighted pullups. These are done with a different rep range each week. I find 7’s ,5’s, 3’s and then bodyweight 5 sets of 10 with AMRAP on the last set. I also change the grip once a month to avoid elbow and shoulder injury as I’m an older lifter.

Bentover Dumbell Row. Can use heavy weight and can also get a good squeeze at top and good stretch at bottom. This exercise works well for lats as you can keep arm in close to torso. If arm flares out as in a barbell row then it hits mid traps and rhomboids more which is fine but not ideal as a lat exercise.

Straight Arm Pulldowns. Best isolation exercise I have found to hit lats. Gives a great pump. Works well in combination with the above exercises.

[quote]spk wrote:
i’m 6’ 150# these last 45 years… if pullups make you wide, why aint i wide?? [/quote]

Hilarious!!

[quote]chillain wrote:

[quote]spk wrote:
i’m 6’ 150# these last 45 years… if pullups make you wide, why aint i wide?? [/quote]

Hilarious!!

[/quote]

I agree, I hope it’s not a prank.

I see more rows with more emphasis on middle-low traps/rhomboid but obviously still hit the lats,etc…
And pull ups, more on lats, teres major…

[quote]Gmoore17 wrote:
Depends so much more on what type, and even more so, how you perform the exercise.

Most people would say barbell rows are mostly a ‘back thickness’ exercise, but I find underhand smith BB rows, very strict form and squeezing it up into just under my bellybutton for a full count at the top, is the absolute best exercise I’ve found for my lats. Alternatively, wide grip cable rows, squeezing my shoulders back at the end, are great for my upper back.

Pullups/wide grip pulldowns I’ve never liked for my lats, feel it all rhomboids, but close, neutral grip, big stretch at the top, keeping elbows in front of me, squeezing it down but not necessarily bringing it all the way down to my chest, has been the best type of pulldown for my lats.[/quote]
I agree

neutral close grip or underhand pullups/pulldowns are great as well as bb (or any other type row for that matter) done in the way mattheas described. I think the key is moving your elbows through the same path they would go through when doing pullovers. Pulldowns/pullups would be the top half of that pullover ROM, while rows would be the bottom half. For hitting purely the lats, these types of movements are the best option for me, as I don’t have access to a nice pullover machine like the hammer strength version

[quote]browndisaster wrote:

[quote]Gmoore17 wrote:
Depends so much more on what type, and even more so, how you perform the exercise.

Most people would say barbell rows are mostly a ‘back thickness’ exercise, but I find underhand smith BB rows, very strict form and squeezing it up into just under my bellybutton for a full count at the top, is the absolute best exercise I’ve found for my lats. Alternatively, wide grip cable rows, squeezing my shoulders back at the end, are great for my upper back.

Pullups/wide grip pulldowns I’ve never liked for my lats, feel it all rhomboids, but close, neutral grip, big stretch at the top, keeping elbows in front of me, squeezing it down but not necessarily bringing it all the way down to my chest, has been the best type of pulldown for my lats.[/quote]
I agree

neutral close grip or underhand pullups/pulldowns are great as well as bb (or any other type row for that matter) done in the way mattheas described. I think the key is moving your elbows through the same path they would go through when doing pullovers. Pulldowns/pullups would be the top half of that pullover ROM, while rows would be the bottom half. For hitting purely the lats, these types of movements are the best option for me, as I don’t have access to a nice pullover machine like the hammer strength version
[/quote]

Since you brought up the pullover topic, do you think the laying down on the floor barbell pullover is a good lat builder?

Thanks

Neutral, close-grip pulldowns hit my lats very hard. I mostly feel rows in my mid-back - but maybe I’m just retarded lol.

explain please… i’m serious… sure i aint gonna get big cause i’m burning a ton of calories training/racing , but whay do i have no lats after doing years of this exercise ? i do them cause they make you strong for all the hrs of training you have to put in. i dont slouch over at mile 80 of a 100 mile race… but if this exercise os supose to make you wide whay do i look like a normal endurance athlete? genetics? too much riding? sould have a bit of width doing these for all these years… please explain., thanks

missed a few replies. thanks… i understand. i understand that no endurance athlete is gonna get big, but as many as i done i just thoughy a bit of a lat would be there. thanks for the replies.

[quote]spk wrote:
explain please… i’m serious… sure i aint gonna get big cause i’m burning a ton of calories training/racing , but whay do i have no lats after doing years of this exercise ? i do them cause they make you strong for all the hrs of training you have to put in. i dont slouch over at mile 80 of a 100 mile race… but if this exercise os supose to make you wide whay do i look like a normal endurance athlete? genetics? too much riding? sould have a bit of width doing these for all these years… please explain., thanks[/quote]

Not enough calories, not enough progression.

I noticed improvements once I started doing 1arm deadstops and 1 arm barbell rows.

[quote]spk wrote:
missed a few replies. thanks… i understand. i understand that no endurance athlete is gonna get big, but as many as i done i just thoughy a bit of a lat would be there. thanks for the replies.[/quote]

You weigh 150 lbs at 6 feet. I’m 4 inches shorter, and 50 lbs heavier. I’ve done over 200 pullups in less than an hour, soooo 200 in a week for someone 50 lbs lighter isn’t anything impressive, just saying. Also, if that were ALL I did for back width, my back wouldn’t be as developed and strong as it is. For most people, I believe dumbbell row and lat pulldown variations are better for back width than pullups or most barbell row variations.

[quote]spk wrote:
i’m 6’ 150# these last 45 years. was a runner 20+ years now a cyclist 20+ years. been doing at leats 200 pullups a week for more than 45 years. i look like a cyclist or a runner. thin… only time i see my lat is if i flex it and it sticks out an inch. if pullups make you wide, why aint i wide?? i know i burn a million calories training, but as hard and as many dips and pullups i do, you think you be able to see a bit of width on me. none at all. i look like lance. lean, but no width from pullups…heard a million times they make you have wide thick lats, but they dont make me that way…[/quote]

Unless you’re a track cyclist that does mainly short explosive events (such as the match sprint), my guess is that your cycling sessions are at least an hour in duration, and quite possibly longer such as centuries.

This sheer volume of cycling places you in a state of gluconeogenesis more often than you realize. And because the upper body does relatively little work on a bike ride, guess where your body is going to break down the lean tissue for the amino acids on those extended rides…?

And it would not surprise me if there is a lack of sufficient caloric intake for a hypertrophy.

You’re welcome to detail your typical pull up workout. My guess is you perform them with questionable loading parameters as well as technique. There is a difference between performing pullups for maximum number of reps (such as military or law enforcement exams) and performing them for maximum hypertrophy.

For the former, one must engage as many ancillary muscles as possible as well as utilize the stretch reflex at the bottom.

For the latter, it’s very helpful to slow the eccentric, do not bounce out of the bottom or lock out the elbows at the bottom (so the muscles stay under tension), and focus on a brief isometric squeeze at the top. Also, you want to apply progressive loading in the best rep range (generally speaking, this is about 8-12; obviously you may respond to a lower rep range or a slightly higher one).

Also, it’s very helpful to not round the thoracic spine as this takes a good portion of the stress off the lats. You want a slight to moderate T-spine extension (this also applies to lat pull downs).

For example (this is just one of many variations you can try), perform a pullup with controlled yet explosive concentric (for god’s sake, leave the kipping to the cross fit clowns), a hard 1-2 second isometric squeeze at the top, 3 second eccentric, 1 second pause near the bottom without locking the elbows (and definitely don’t bounce out of the bottom).

If you can perform 4 sets of 12 reps with just body weight (about a minute or two between each set), add additional weight where 8 clean reps are challenging but do-able for 4 sets. Once you own 4 sets of 12 at the new load, add additional weight.

Also experiment with various grips. I also recommend that you use webbing/handles that allow your wrists and elbows some movement and do not lock them into place. Your basic webbing from a hardware store or rock climbing shop and a couple of d-shaped handles will fit the bill.

Too wide of a grip can actually cause impingement issues at the shoulder. The reason I suspect that so many think the extra wide grip helps with upper lat width could very well be the teres major is stretched and therefore better recruited when the hand placement is wide. And well developed teres major can help with upper lat width.

The problem with this, again, is the price you will most likely pay in terms of impingement at the supraspinatus tendon. So, I recommend no more than an 2-3 inches wider than biacromial width on each side. If you must go any wider, you are much better off using a cable station with two separate cable attachments; this way, as your hands go higher and wider, there is less chance of irritating the supraspinatus tendon (because your hands are not locked onto a straight bar).

So develop the teres major in other ways and keep the hand spacing moderate - unless you are performing certain variations.

For example, in the photo of me at the park, that’s a variation in which I only descend about 2/3 because, at that hand spacing, going any lower would aggravate my supraspinatus tendon. I used that particular variation to work on isometric lockouts at the top as well as give my grip a different type of stimulus (because the width of the bar forces you to palm it).

As far as other back exercises, the uni-lateral cable row as well as the db row have stood the test of time for good reason.

Regarding the barbell row. Unless a person has a specific history of lumbar spine injury OR he is susceptible for lower back issues (you are a prime candidate to AVOID this because of the prolonged sitting you do on a bike), I believe this movement is a very good one.

I am a huge fan of unilateral movements and I have very little respect for anyone who is uneducated enough to live and die by the barbell alone. However, the barbell row, for those who do not have lumbar spine issues, is very worthy.

All this talk lately about should you or shouldn’t you do them has me shaking my head. Is common sense just that uncommon…?

Why not just apply the pre-exhaust method???

In other words, perform a pull down type of exercise (to activate the lats without fatiguing the arms), followed by a vertical pulling exercise (such as lat pull down, pull up, etc), and finish off with dead stop barbell rows. This can be a very effective sequence on those days you want maximize the benefits of the barbell row and minimize it’s risks.

The lower back will get very little work from the first two-three exercises, while the mid and upper back gets torched. By the time you move on the dead stop barbell rows, your lower back will be fresh enough to keep up and not be a weak link. And the dead stop (such as performed in a power rack) will ensure that, at the bottom of the movement (when your lower back is in the most vulnerable position), you will be able to exhale and inhale/belly breathe (thereby engage the diaphragm) contract the rest of the core and form a solid brace.

Do both? Finish with long pulls. This is where the pulley stack is at waist height. band at the waist so hips, shoulders and load are in line. pull the weight without standing up. When your elbows are 90 degrees, continue to pull while standing up. High reps, use wraps if you want and don’t use your biceps at all.

[quote]jp_dubya wrote:
Do both? Finish with long pulls. This is where the pulley stack is at waist height. band at the waist so hips, shoulders and load are in line. pull the weight without standing up. When your elbows are 90 degrees, continue to pull while standing up. High reps, use wraps if you want and don’t use your biceps at all. [/quote]

Have you figured out a way to Row something without using your biceps?

Just kidding, I know you’re trying to make a point.

Thanks.

The 200 pull-ups a day and not having wide lats kind of reminds of this article about a Marine shooting for 1 million push-ups in a year. You would think doing 2375 push-ups a day like this guy, would make your chest and tris huge…not the case.

http://gma.yahoo.com/marine-doing-million-push-ups-charity-183643163--abc-news-topstories.html

[quote]trap_builder wrote:

[quote]browndisaster wrote:

[quote]Gmoore17 wrote:
Depends so much more on what type, and even more so, how you perform the exercise.

Most people would say barbell rows are mostly a ‘back thickness’ exercise, but I find underhand smith BB rows, very strict form and squeezing it up into just under my bellybutton for a full count at the top, is the absolute best exercise I’ve found for my lats. Alternatively, wide grip cable rows, squeezing my shoulders back at the end, are great for my upper back.

Pullups/wide grip pulldowns I’ve never liked for my lats, feel it all rhomboids, but close, neutral grip, big stretch at the top, keeping elbows in front of me, squeezing it down but not necessarily bringing it all the way down to my chest, has been the best type of pulldown for my lats.[/quote]
I agree

neutral close grip or underhand pullups/pulldowns are great as well as bb (or any other type row for that matter) done in the way mattheas described. I think the key is moving your elbows through the same path they would go through when doing pullovers. Pulldowns/pullups would be the top half of that pullover ROM, while rows would be the bottom half. For hitting purely the lats, these types of movements are the best option for me, as I don’t have access to a nice pullover machine like the hammer strength version
[/quote]

Since you brought up the pullover topic, do you think the laying down on the floor barbell pullover is a good lat builder?

Thanks[/quote]
I’ve never tried it. I love machine pullovers but don’t have one at my gym. Whether you use cables, dbs, or a bar I guess would come down to whatever puts the least stress on the joints. I think pullovers from the floor would be subpar because of the limited stretch.

themightstu has a good video of a back workout:

my back width has really exploded since I stopped jerking the weight and started emphasizing the contraction through a “pullover” type ROM on pulldowns and rows

For the life of me, can never feel single arm DB rows at alllll. Love 90 deg BB rows but I have so much erector stress compound moments in my routine, need some alternatives.

I do “Gironda” style pullups where at the top your feet extend out a bit and your head looks at the ceiling. Its a good rowing moment at the top basically, but feels more mid-back for me than lat