One Exercise For Guaranteed Wide Lats

One Exercise For Guaranteed Wide Lats

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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.)

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