Chin, Chin, and Chin!
Don't waste time with countless different back motions. Even lat pull
downs-no matter how hard you work-won't build wide, strong lats the
way chin-ups do. Other motions should be done as an addition, with
chin-ups forming the basis of your back routine.
Take a moderate grip.
The wider the grip, the shorter the range of motion. In terms of getting
wider, the back doesn't respond well to short, choppy ranges of motion.
Also, a wide grip unnecessarily exposes the shoulder to injury. At
the other extreme, a grip that's too narrow unnecessarily overemphasizes
the arms, thus cutting down on the stimulation your back gets. Use
a grip just outside shoulder width, with palms facing away from you.
Although the use of wrist wraps is too commonplace in gyms, with chin-ups,
it's a different story, with a significant number of sets and/or repetitions;
your grip will likely fail you before you reach full fatigue in the
back. Wraps will help you keep going after lat fatigue, without your
grip being a limiting factor.
Stay directly under the bar.
Don't swing in or out from under the bar; doing that takes away from
the directness with which you tax the upper lats. For example, swinging
out away from the bar will kick in an excessive compound contribution
of muscles like those in the mid-lat area, rear deltoid, arms, abs
and even chest. Most over-exertion leads to a spastic panicked swing
in an effort to get up to the bar. It's best to look straight up at
the bar. With each rep, attempt to touch your chin to the bottom of
it. Don't try to get your chin over it-likely, you'll have to break
form to accomplish that. Instead, stay in form; gently touch your
chin to the bottom of the bar, ease back down and feel the burn.
Do a higher volume of sets.
Since you're handling your own bodyweight, you can't get the true
benefit of chin-ups by simply doing a few sets. You need to handle
some volume (more total sets). Your body is a fixed weight, so the
fatigue has to sneak up on you. In other words, don't shoot for failing
after the second set. If you can do at most twelve consecutive chin-ups
rather than doing two sets of ten, and invariably failing on the second
set, do four to six sets of six repetitions. You'll still be failing
by the final set, but a higher overall volume of total reps means
you're stimulating more growth.
You can't get the true benefit of chin-ups by simply doing a few
sets. You need to handle some volume.
Use a counterbalanced chin machine first, if necessary.
The Gravitron and other counterbalanced chin machines are excellent
for building chining strength. Often, men and women lack the significant
muscle mass or strength to execute a proper chin. Sometimes, people
are simply overweight, which limits the ability to execute a chin-up.
The counterbalanced machine saves the day. Just remember to work hard
on these machines; don't become complacent. The goal is still chin-ups
without the help of a counterbalance.
Work through a full range of motion.
Whatever back motion you choose, chins or otherwise, you must work
through a full range of motion or you won't build that wide V-taper.
That means reaching as far as possible on all your motions and fully
contracting at the top. Shorter movements, though density builders
to some extent, will not stimulate width.
Stretch between sets.
When you incorporate between-sets stretching into your routine you
will see an immediate response. However, don't overdo it. As a rule,
leave stretching between sets to later in your routine.
Don't shy away from high repetitions.
Like quads, at times the back tends to respond well to high reps.
The back is such a large muscle group that, like legs, it's a body
area that can absorb tremendous punishment. Even so, if you're going
to try this, don't do it too often because the back can still become
overtrained. If you stop getting that fierce back pump, and no matter
what you do you no longer get any back soreness, you're probably overtrained
and need to take time off.
Don't rely too much on a trainer belt.
You don't need a belt on chin-ups. Only a few motions necessitate
a belt; one is the barbell bent over row. It's an excellent adjunctive
movement that can add a lot of thickness and width to your back. However,
a belt tends to help support the lower back and keep the hips from
shifting. You'll hardly ever need to use a belt if your form is proper,
besides, using a belt too often really deconditions the lower back,
making it susceptible to injury.