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Thread: Putting emphasis on back during pull ups/chin ups

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    Senior Member snikez's Avatar
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    Putting emphasis on back during pull ups/chin ups

    I've searched for a topic like this but couldn't find one.

    Whenever I'm doing exercises that are supposed to be working the back like 1 arm dumbbell rows or pull ups, I only feel stress on my biceps and not my back. I've read that when doing pull ups, you're supposed to try to imagine your elbow is lifting you up but I'm not really understanding what that means. I know when doing these, you're also supposed to feel it in your biceps as well as your back but I only feel it in the biceps.

    Any strategies you guys know of that help you isolate the back area when doing these exercises?
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    You can't really isolate the back since they're compound movements, and you might have poor form if you don't feel it in your back at all.
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    TJW jed's Avatar
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    u and me are in the same boat, bro. i cant do much to hit my lats. what i just figured out is to squeeze at the top and flex ur lats, and imagine your lats are being worked. mind to muscle connection, says zenmonkey. when you can work up to 5 sets of 10 BW chins, then start doing weighted chins.
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    Getting un-streamlined Progress's Avatar
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    After warms up, or at least after my first or second set of weighted pull-ups, I make sure to give my lats a really good stretch. I grab a vertical bar (as in on a power rack) with my right hand and let my arm cross my chest. If you do it right, it should feel like your lats are ripping off your body. Repeat with left hand, of course.

    Also, you may just need to get your strength up. If you're doing it right or your form is correct (from a dead hang to chin over bar or chest to bar), you're working your back even if you don't feel it in your back. After your sets feel your lats, they should be good and warm.

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    Senior Member snikez's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Progress View Post
    After warms up, or at least after my first or second set of weighted pull-ups, I make sure to give my lats a really good stretch. I grab a vertical bar (as in on a power rack) with my right hand and let my arm cross my chest. If you do it right, it should feel like your lats are ripping off your body. Repeat with left hand, of course.

    Also, you may just need to get your strength up. If you're doing it right or your form is correct (from a dead hang to chin over bar or chest to bar), you're working your back even if you don't feel it in your back. After your sets feel your lats, they should be good and warm.
    So as long as my form is correct, I'll still be working lats even if I don't feel it in the back? And when you say "dead hang", do you mean I'm only hanging on with arms and the rest of my body is as low as it can be?

    Um how exactly do you stretch your lats? Do you just pull your shoulder blades together?
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    Senior Member Bruteman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by snikez View Post
    ... I've read that when doing pull ups, you're supposed to try to imagine your elbow is lifting you up but I'm not really understanding what that means. ...
    Instead of concentrating on pulling yourself up to the bar, concentrate on pulling your elbows down and back. Another(although a horrific thought, lol) way to describe it is to imagine your arms are cut off at the elbow. You have your buddy tie some rope around your elbow stumps and to the bar. How would you pull yourself up? You'd have to pull your upper arms down. Hope that helps you understand without giving you nightmares, lol.
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    Senior Member jtteg_x's Avatar
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    I got one for you for lat pull downs. I prefer to use straps to concentrate more on using the "elbow" momentum. Using an overhand hook grip, you pull the bar down by pretending that you are using both your arms to make half circles. The more you squeeze, the more forearm/bicep is going to be involved. Do when you're pulling that bar down to your chest, stick your chest out and flex your lats at the same time. I'd provide a video that explains this but my bookmarks were deleted. Google along the lines of "Milos Sarcev back". He was a bodybuilder that has few videos around the internet.

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    Quote Originally Posted by snikez View Post
    I've searched for a topic like this but couldn't find one.

    Whenever I'm doing exercises that are supposed to be working the back like 1 arm dumbbell rows or pull ups, I only feel stress on my biceps and not my back. I've read that when doing pull ups, you're supposed to try to imagine your elbow is lifting you up but I'm not really understanding what that means. I know when doing these, you're also supposed to feel it in your biceps as well as your back but I only feel it in the biceps.

    Any strategies you guys know of that help you isolate the back area when doing these exercises?
    Your biceps are the smaller, weaker muscles in a row or pull up. The lats are the largest muscles in the upper body. That means your biceps having to work harder than you lats.

    To more effectively work the lats, you need to take the biceps out of the equation. Cable Straight Arm Pulldows will help you focus more on the lats. http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/...mPulldown.html

    I like Progress' idea on stretching the lats between sets. John Parrillo, a bodybuiling coach, has made a good case as to how stretching between sets promotes muscle growth. What Progress and Parrillo state about stretching between sets makes sense.

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    Getting un-streamlined Progress's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by snikez View Post
    So as long as my form is correct, I'll still be working lats even if I don't feel it in the back? And when you say "dead hang", do you mean I'm only hanging on with arms and the rest of my body is as low as it can be?

    Um how exactly do you stretch your lats? Do you just pull your shoulder blades together?
    Here is a message from Built she wrote me when I was starting to train my back harder. Hope this helps:

    Quote Originally Posted by Built
    DB pullovers might be a good one to start with - really stretches out the muscles before working them with the chins. I've just started doing 'em this way, and I'm liking it.

    Don't go too heavy - just go for the stretch.

    Also, do an overhand vertical grip stretch for your lats between sets. If you do it right, you'll practically feel your lats tearing off the bone. Grip the side of a squat cage or something vertical, but OVERHAND, not underhand, and PULL toward that side (if it's your right hand, hold the post so your knuckles face LEFT, and pull so you feel the stretch in your RIGHT lats.)

    You'll know when you're getting it.

    I get in 4 hard stretches each side on back day, between sets.

    Also, pay more attention to the negatives for your chins, get up anyway you have to, but go slow on the way DOWN.

    And I'd suggest slightly longer sets for hypertrophy - 8-12 is a good range.

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    Keep doing the pullups/chinups even if you don't "feel" your back right now. Don't try and take your biceps out of your back training. They work in conjunction. Move heavy weights using your back and arms in conjunction. This will build big, strong arms AND lats.

    In terms of form, keep your shoulder blades stable / tight during the movement. Don't let your shoulders slop around. Grab the bar, squeeze your shoulder blades back and down, and HOLD them in that position during the entire set. At the top, try to touch your chest to the bar and KEEP your shouldres locked in place. They are much more difficult this way but by locking your shoulder blades, you can get a more direct pull with your lats. Plus it trains the muscles around your shouldre blades that give you stability in your lifts (e.g., bench, OHP, etc.).

  11. #11
    Squat Heavy, Squat Often Cards's Avatar
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    along with the others, when you're out side of the gym i would practice flexing your lats. I found when i first started and even up to a year after, it was still very hard to flex just the lats.once you're able to make this connection with the body it becomes easier to use the back muscle, actually feel it working, than if you had no idea how to flex it. This is what really helped me along with keeping at it.
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    now wait do you all use overhand or underhand grips more?
    with underhand i never feel the back being worked. but overhand i feel it alot more..
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    I've deen doing neutral grip pull ups a lot more, and they seem to really hit the lats hard the way we do them.

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    TJW jed's Avatar
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    whats neutral, reko? palms facing each other?
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    It's impossible to move the humerus closer to your body without contracting the lats. This is not something you need to think about.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jed View Post
    whats neutral, reko? palms facing each other?
    Yup.
    We do ours on a swiss bar that is just sitting in the top of our rack. We have to kind of lean back to avoid hitting our heads on the regular pull up bar/support bar so I don't know if that motion helps with using the lats or not, but I certainly feel swole after doing them.

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    Senior Member snikez's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Progress View Post
    Here is a message from Built she wrote me when I was starting to train my back harder. Hope this helps:
    Yeah I'll try the flexing technique. I'll probably look around on YouTube or google or something for an example of someone doing it. And like others have said, I might have an easier time working back muscles if I learn how to flex lats and other parts of the back.
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    Senior Member snikez's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kastro View Post
    It's impossible to move the humerus closer to your body without contracting the lats. This is not something you need to think about.
    Sorry but what do you mean it's impossible to move the humerus closer to body without contracting lats? Not really understanding this in terms of a pull up.
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    Senior Member deeder's Avatar
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    I use wrist straps for pullups and rows. This allows me to focus more on the back and less on gripping the bar.
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    Senior Member tom183's Avatar
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    now wait do you all use overhand or underhand grips more?
    I focus on overhand since theyre the hardest but I do underhand and alternate grip every now and then too.

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    Getting un-streamlined Progress's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by snikez View Post
    Sorry but what do you mean it's impossible to move the humerus closer to body without contracting lats? Not really understanding this in terms of a pull up.
    The humerus is your elbow. When doing a pull-up, you're effectively moving it closer to your body. He's saying that, regardless of whether you feel it in your lats, the lats are being activated and contracting during the concentric phase of the pull-up. So, you're working your lats even though you don't know it; which is what we're all trying to tell you.

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    Senior Member snikez's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Progress View Post
    The humerus is your elbow. When doing a pull-up, you're effectively moving it closer to your body. He's saying that, regardless of whether you feel it in your lats, the lats are being activated and contracting during the concentric phase of the pull-up. So, you're working your lats even though you don't know it; which is what we're all trying to tell you.
    Oh I didn't know what he meant =p. That's good to hear. Thanks for the help everyone.
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    Grammar Nazi BG5150's Avatar
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    I agree with the notion of concentrating on moving your elbows down or back. Works for me on both vertical and horizontal pulling.
    Last edited by BG5150; 12-28-2008 at 04:45 PM.
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    Ex-Manwhore KingWilder's Avatar
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    I REALLY like Rack Chins if I'm trying to emphasize my back/lats
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    I have always had a good back and no problem with the mind-muscle connection in that respect. Over the years I have worked with a lot of people that have the same problem you have. The thing that I notice almost universally is that they do not get a sufficient arch in their lower back to really force the lats to play a more prominent role. For instance, if you are doing a pulldown to the front you want to focus on really puffing out your chest as you get closer to your chest. This arch really helps to get a solid lat contraction.


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