If you want wider lats, have I got an exercise for you! This one will blow up your lats like no other type of pull-up I've found. The secret to this one lies in where you do the pull-up...
But I'm not very good at keeping secrets so here it is...
You do the pull-ups in the CORNER of the power rack!
I know it's hard to contain yourself at this point, but try to keep it together! Once I explain how to do pull-ups in the corner of the rack and why this corner pull-up works so good, you'll be itching to get to the gym and try it.
To really properly explain why it works so good, you first need to know how to do it so you can visualize how it works.
Now, to do this exercise, you're going to need a power rack. And that's pretty much it. Technically, you should also be able to do at least 6 to 8 reps of regular pull-ups in order to perform this exercise. But even if you can't do that, I'm also going to show you a way to spot yourself so you can perform this exercise and get just as much out of it as anybody else.
So even if you can't do full pull-ups, keep reading!
First, stand facing the corner of the rack. Now reach up with your left hand and grip the top cross-bar with a PALM-FACING-AWAY grip (a.k.a. reverse grip) about 18 inches from the corner. Now reach up with your right hand and grip the side top beam with the same grip at the same relative distance from the corner as your left hand. You want to be sure to keep your grip even on the beams. Definitely experiment with grip width to best match your armspan when performing this exercise.
Now you're ready to pull!
Bend your knees and get your feet off the ground. You'll immediately notice the tension in your lats in that bottom position. Perform a regular pull-up movement, bringing your body up as high as possible.
Here's the big trick...as you pull yourself up, try to consciously PUSH OUTWARDS against the cross-beams of the rack. This outwards pushing combined with the pulling up puts huge tension on the extreme outer fibers of the lats.
So pull yourself up as high as possible then lower yourself slowly and under complete control. The negative on this exercise is very intense and the stretch it puts on your lats is phenomenal!
As you get towards the bottom, let your arms go completely straight to maximize the stretch on the lats. Be sure to keep tension in the shoulders, though. Even though your arms are straight, you want your body to still be supported by muscle tension in the lats and not the tendons and ligaments of your shoulder joints.
Now pull back up again, remembering to push outwards against the cross-beams as you pull up.
Keep going until you can't do any more reps. It's a tough exercise and an eye-opener even for people who generally can do a lot of pull-ups!
So how do you do this exercise if you can't do a lot of (or any!) pull-ups? Self-spotting with your feet.
When you're in the rack, you can either set the safety rail or the racking pin (the hook that you rack the weight on) to about 2 feet or so off the ground. The exact height will depend on how tall your rack is and how tall you are. Basically, you're going to be using it as a step. As you do the pull-up, you're going to set your foot on that pin/rail and use your legs to help you get the reps.
It's important here to give yourself only as much help as you need to complete the rep you're doing, NOT so much that you're just standing up and down and going through the motions. You want to keep strong tension on the lats to get the most out of this exercise.
This technique is good not only for those who need help right off the bat but for doing forced reps when you CAN do full reps on your own. When you can't perform another full rep on your own, set your foot on the pin/rail and keep going!
You can also perform this exercise using a palms-facing-in grip, but I've found it to be less effective in terms of hitting the outer lats than the palms-facing-out version.
If wider lats are what you're looking for, this exercise will do the trick. It's a powerful variation of an old standard and will really fire your lats up fast! Test it out in your next back workout and be sure to let me know how SORE your lats are the next day...
Nick Nilsson is Vice-President of BetterU, Inc. and has been inventing new training techniques and exercises for 17+ years. Nick has written many training books including "Muscle Explosion! 28 Days To Maximum Mass" & "Metabolic Surge - Rapid Fat Loss" - http://www.fitness-ebooks.com. For pictures and video of this exercise, click here.