Last week we discussed the best exercise for the lower back. In continuing with the back, the next topic for best exercises will be back width, specifically the lats. In this case, the best exercise is going to be pull ups. Not only a great body weight strength exercise, pull ups also help to provide a great stretch and contraction of the lats to help develop back width. Before I knew the difference between pull ups and chin ups, I always used to use the names interchangeably. While they can be used interchangeably, there are some obvious differences worth mentioning. For the sake of making sense, we will refer to the back exercise as pull ups, while the arm exercise will be chin ups.
This image gives a visual of the main muscles used during a pull up. The most common difference between pull ups and chin ups is going to be the grip. Chin ups have an underhand grip, rather than the overhand grip pictured above. This puts more stress on the biceps as they contract more fully. Another difference is that with pull ups, your scapula is (or at least should be) retracted, and you’re leaning back slightly as you pull yourself up. Close grip pull ups can also be done, although these work more on the inner portion of the back where the lats and lower trapezius muscles meet.
For a visual representation of how to properly perform a pull up, please refer to the video below. This video was filmed and edited by the Buff Dudes, and I take no credit at all for the video.
If you are just starting out, you may not be able to complete even one pull up with good form. If that is the case, feel free to start with lat pulldowns or even assisted pull ups where you place a resistance band over the pull up bar and place the other end over your foot. Both of these variations are great methods to begin building strength in order to complete your first unassisted bodyweight pull up.