Q: I have almost all of your e-books. I can’t begin to tell you how much muscle they’ve helped me build. I’d be lost without them, and I reread them often. My question is about back width, which is one of my weak points. In The Ultimate Mass Workout [the original X-Rep manual] you say that parallel-grip chins is the Ultimate Exercise for lats. But in many of your programs, like the POF-X workout in the X-Rep Update #1 e-book, you have wide-grip pulldowns as the big midrange move for lats. But what about chins? I’ve read that wide-grip chinups are the best lat exercises. Can you clarify, please?
A: For most trainees, parallel-grip chins will put the biceps in an advantageous position to maximize pulling power, but not so good as to make the biceps the prime mover. That’s why we say it’s the Ultimate Exercise for lats—if you’re only going to do one exercise for lats, that’s at the top of the list.
But if you’re doing a full 3-way Positions-of-Flexion workout for lats, you can afford to use wider, overgrip chins to activate different fibers with the arms pulling into the torso laterally. You get the forward-pull function with the stretch and contracted exercises…
For example, wide-grip chins force your upper arms to pull into your sides more laterally than from the front, as with parallel-grip chins. That will put different fibers at a leverage advantage. Then you move to pullovers, the stretch-position move, which has your upper arms pulling toward your torso. Last is stiff-arm pulldowns, the contracted-position exercise, which also has your upper arms pulling into your torso from the front.
If you did parallel-grip pulldowns as your big midrange move, you wouldn’t have any lateral-pulling exercises in your lat workout. So even though the wide-grip chin may be somewhat inferior to the parallel-grip version, in a POF program it provides unique fiber activation due to the lateral angle of pull.
What about wide-grip pulldowns instead of chins? Well, wide-grip chinups provide better semi-stretch-point overload down near the bottom of the stroke—you can’t rock back as you can on pulldowns; however, you cannot alter the angle of your torso on chins as you can on pulldowns. Angling your torso back as you pull down puts lower-lat fibers in an advantageous position…
Because of the different fiber-activation patterns, we usually suggest that those with lat-width problems do two sets of wide-grip chins, then one set of pulldowns with a slight backward lean. That should give you new lat development and flare for seam-stretching width.
Note: The 3D Muscle Building e-book is the Positions-of-Flexion manual, with POF workouts for every bodypart.
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
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