6 Must-Have Pull-Up Variations for Killer Lats

Start doing more “Pull-Ups” if you want to experience some insane lat development!

There are so many machines and weighted exercises which target the lats, but it’s obvious many people ignore one of the greatest bodyweight exercises for the lats, and that is… the Pull-Up!

Pull-Ups hit nearly all muscles in the back and are amazing for developing strength and muscle growth. Now, having the physical strength to perform a pull-up is something most people neglect because of the popularity of using equipment to get the job done.

However, we sell ourselves short through not utilizing our own body weight (You can still add weights to any Pull-Up variation) to build functional strength… no equipment necessary! Now, let’s get something straight before we get deeper… pull-ups can be as challenging as you need them to be (Variations and added weight) but some people may need to work their way up to performing just one repetition.

Pull-Ups are fantastic when you do them correctly and they should absolutely be in your routine if you’re serious about seeing results. Your shoulders will look wider since you’ll develop that V-taper (Wide lats will create the illusion to make your shoulders look jacked) and that is just plain sexy!

These “6 Must-have Pull-Up variations” are phenomenal moves which will result in killer lat development…

Wide-Grip Pull-Up

If you want beastly back muscles and killer lats especially, then this is a good place to start. A wide grip allows for more emphasis to be placed on the lats during the movement because it simulates a wide grip pulldown; which is primarily used for lat development.

A wider grip has shown to activate the lats slightly more than shoulder width or narrow grip which is why using this type of grip is always recommended to include in your back workouts. (1)

However, all grip width variations provide similar muscle activation. So it’s good to change up your hand positioning just to be sure you’re covering all bases.

The wide-grip pull-up will greatly contribute to that sexy V-taper look, which seems to widen the appearance of the shoulders.

Performing the movement:

When performing the wide-grip pull-up, it’s ideal for you to get the chin to bar level for a good contraction of the lats, teres major/minor and Rhomboids. Don’t worry about how many you can perform as that is out of your control.

You can only get better as you practice and don’t put a limit on your repetitions because pull-ups should be a test of not only strength but endurance as well. Plus, if you can do too many at once (Most people wish they had that problem) you can just add a weight belt or a dumbbell between your feet.

Performing 3-4 sets is perfect for this movement.

Australian Pull-Up

The Australian Pull-Up is such a cool movement which is honestly a little underrated. You can use any grip width to perform the exercise and the great thing is you have some control when it comes to the difficulty of the exercise.

You can position your feet to assist you if necessary but you also have the option to only use the arms and back to perform the pulling movement. It might be a little awkward at first but just keep practicing. The Australian pull-up is great for anyone, especially those who cannot yet perform a proper, standard pull-up.

Performing the movement:

You’ll simply set up a Smith Machine to where you can pull yourself up from underneath. Have both legs extended out on the floor and then perform the repetitions.

Some people (More advanced) may find this movement to not be challenging enough, so in this case, it’s OK to skip it and move on to standard pull-up variations.

3-4 sets of these pull-ups are sufficient for getting a nice back and lat workout.

Shoulder Width Pull-Ups

This variation is probably the most widely used because it’s basically an overhand grip version of the Chin-Up (Same grip width). The difficulty in performing this movement comes from having to extend the arms as long as they will extend and then pulling your body weight up to the bar.

It’s very difficult to pull up using a full range of motion (Start with arms locked out at the bottom and pull up to the bar) since you’re using a lot of pure arm strength. But if you do them enough you’ll develop thickness in your back muscles while gaining some really respectable strength due to the nature of the difficulty when performing the movement.

A shoulder width grip is great for targeting the biceps as well as the lats and teres major/minor.

Performing the movement:

Many people cannot perform the pull-up using pure back and arm strength, so in this case, using a little momentum is completely fine. The important thing is that you just keep trying and improving.

All you’ll do for the movement is pull yourself up until your head is halfway level with the bar and repeat for at least 3-4 sets. Crank out as many as you possibly can, then add a weight belt if you find the movement too easy for you.


Everyone knows about the Chin-Up and that is because it has been the standard way to test upper body (Pulling) strength for decades (You’ve probably seen them in movies during some type of military training).

Heck, maybe you’ve had to do them at some point in your life but the bottom line is, they do work!

It’s important to know that the underhand grip when performing a chin-up will target the biceps, brachialis, and brachioradialis along with the rear delts, upper back muscles, and lats. It’s the perfect movement for getting an upper body workout!

Now, keep in mind that trying to do your best when performing a chin-up is all that matters. You can use your legs slightly for a little assistance but don’t get in the habit too often.

Performing the movement:

Try to pull your head above the bar but if you cannot, then don’t worry… just focus on pulling as high as you can. The deep stretch and contraction will build sufficient upper body strength and muscle mass which is an amazing benefit of the chin-up (Plus, it’s always nice to be able to pull yourself up in case you need to).

Try to get at least 3 sets in for optimal stimulation.

Neutral grip Pull-Up

This pull-up variation is absolutely incredible for developing the back, lats, biceps and surrounding muscles. It’s such a feel-good movement and the hammer-grip used during the movement will give you some pretty jacked biceps, brachialis and brachioradialis muscles.

Many people love this movement because it’s so natural and you’re not in an awkward position which sometimes can put a strain on the shoulder muscles.

Performing the movement:

You’ll perform the movement like a normal pull-up while making sure to pull at least the top half of your head above the bar. Just simply crank out as many as you can and if you feel burnt out, just keep going even if you cannot perform the full range of motion, as the neutral hand placement is great for strengthening your grip.

No need to worry about being perfect on this exercise as you’ll get better as you keep consistently doing them.

Perform at least 3-4 sets of the neutral grip pull-up.

Rope/Towel Pull-Up

If you want to really develop your grip strength then you must do these variations. Now you can either use just a rope, just a towel, or you can use a rope with a towel over it. It depends on what you have available but both rope and towel pull-ups are awesome variations to try.

You’ve heard of the rope climb (It’s scary just to think about) as it’s used in CrossFit and maybe even your gym class when you were in high school!

So, you know the climb is tough for probably most people who would attempt it. The rope or towel pull-up is best performed by people who are a little more advanced when it comes to body strength movements.

Performing the movement:

Make sure the rope/towel is even on both sides after throwing it over the bar. Then get a good comfortable grip and pull yourself up as high as possible.

Rep them out and repeat for 3-4 sets.

Utilize These Great Alternatives for Killer Gains!

It’s always good to perform pull-ups consistently so that you’re really developing that functional strength. This variation is great for grip and forearm strength/development.

These 6 variations are all great ways to develop some killer lats but the amazing benefits reach beyond just lat development. Your whole back will get jacked and your biceps will thank you for the workload you’ve assigned to them.

Now, don’t think as one of the 6 movements as better than the others. We all know there are certain exercises which serve a specific purpose best but variety is the key to progressive gains.

It’s important to remember to not get frustrated if these pull-up variations are difficult at first.

If you must use the pull-up assist machine then please do so. It will help you to develop the required muscles necessary for doing a bodyweight pull-up.

Also, a great way to get strong enough to do pull-ups is to do negatives on the pull-up bar. To do these, you’ll simply jump to the top position (Head above the bar) and slowly lower your body back down. Or you can step on something to get a body to the top of the bar before you slowly lower yourself back down.

These will develop the back and arm muscles

It’s important for you to know that the only way to get better at doing something is to just do it. With that being said, however, these variations are more suitable towards the lifters who can perform at least a few repetitions.

But the benefits are amazing and as a result… you’ll get size and strength gains you didn’t see coming!

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