Chin-ups are one of the most effective upper-body exercises.
Your arms, shoulders, chest, back, and core all play big roles in the movement so they can certainly help build an impressive upper body.
But there seems to be some confusion surrounding chin-ups as to whether they’re good for your lats.
While there’s no denying that your back muscles come into play during chin-ups, you might be wondering if they’ll be a suitable part of your lat-building workouts.
In this article, we give you all the information you need to answer the question of whether chin-ups are good for lats.
We look at some different variations of chin-ups to see if there are some better for lat development than others, and we also look at reasons why your lats could be sore after you perform chin-ups.
Do Chin-Ups Work Lats?
Your lats are one of the working muscles used in chin-ups.
Although chin-ups put more focus on the muscles on the front side of your body (biceps, chest, abs), your lats still do some work throughout the movement.
The narrow grip commonly used in chin-ups takes some work away from your lats as a wider grip encourages more lat engagement, however, your lats still have to activate to make the chin-up movement happen.
Although there are other exercises out there that will be better for lats, chin-ups are still a good lat developing exercise.
How To Activate Your Lats More In Chin-Ups
Although your lats may not activate as much during chin-ups as they do in other pull-up variations, there are some things you can try if you want to get as much lat activation as you possibly can.
The first thing you might want to try is to simply think about your lats engaging during chin-ups.
There have been quite a few studies into the “mind-muscle connection” in recent years, and some of these suggest that thinking about specific muscles activating during exercise can actually help encourage greater activation in those muscle groups.
While this may be more effective for some more than others, it could be a simple way of getting your lats to activate more during your chin-ups.
You could also adopt a wider grip on the bar.
While this can have an impact on your overall chin-up technique, having a wider grip on the bar tends to put more focus on your lats and makes them work harder during the exercise.
Why Do Some People Get Sore Lats After Chin-Ups?
Normal Post Exercise Muscle Discomfort
Your lats may not be the main focus of chin-ups, but that isn’t to say they don’t play a big part in the movement.
As your lats are one of the working muscles during chin-ups, it’s possible that you may feel some mild discomfort in that area after the exercise.
Any discomfort should be mild, but this can be easily confused with pain and soreness.
If you’re making errors in your chin-up technique, you could shift the focus from your biceps and core onto other parts of your body such as your lats.
This can happen due to you using a grip that is too wide for example. This seemingly small error can change the impact the exercise has on your body.
If your lats are feeling sore after chin-ups, it’s a good idea to double-check your technique before continuing with the exercise.
(Watch below to see 4 common mistakes you could be making with your chin-ups that are causing you sore lats!)
Although chin-ups are a relatively safe exercise to perform, sometimes injuries can happen.
If the soreness you feel in your lats after chin-ups goes beyond anything other than mild discomfort, it could be a sign of injury.
If you’re concerned that you have a lat injury, you should speak to a medical professional as soon as possible.
Are Chin-Ups or Pull-Ups Better For Lats?
As a general rule, pull-ups will be more effective at working your lats than chin-ups.
A key point seems to be in the different grip and hand positions used in both exercises.
The underhand narrow grip used in chin-ups does a great job at keeping the focus of the exercise mainly on the muscles on the front side of your body, in particular your biceps and abs.
While your lats certainly play a part in chin-ups, your biceps will be doing a huge amount of the work.
During pull-ups, you’ll normally use an overhand wide grip. This is a highly effective position to be in for most lat activation.
When you do a pull-up, your lats are doing most of the heavy lifting so they’re placed under a lot of stress which helps them get bigger and stronger.
While both chin-ups and pull-ups work your lats to varying degrees, pull-ups will work them a lot harder.
Do Chin-Ups Work Lower Lats?
Yes and no.
There are certain things you can do during exercise that can help activate your lower lats.
One of them is to use an underhand grip (like in chin-ups) as this tends to bring your lower lats into play a little bit more.
If you take chin-ups as a whole exercise though, they aren’t that great at targeting your lower lats.
Most of the focus is placed on the front side of your body so, although the grip used can be beneficial for lower lats, chin-ups aren’t great at developing this area of your body.
Are Assisted Chin-Ups Good For Lats?
Assisted chin-ups aren’t necessarily bad for your lats but they certainly won’t be activating too much during the movement.
During regular chin-ups, your lats activate less than other muscles such as your biceps.
If you perform assisted chin-ups, the working muscles have to activate a little less as your body weight is being supported during the movement making it less challenging.
If your lats are already only coming into play a little bit during regular chin-ups, they’ll activate even less during assisted chin-ups.
Are Weighted Chin-Ups Good For Lats?
Weighted chin-ups are one of the best ways to target your biceps – not your lats.
While your lats will always play a part in pretty much all chin-up variations, they aren’t the main focus of the exercise.
Your biceps will take most of the stress caused by weighted chin-ups with your lats working as a secondary muscle group.
Weighted chin-ups aren’t bad for your lats, but they aren’t necessarily good at developing them either.
- While chin-ups work your traps, pull-ups are more effective at building lats.
- If you have sore lats after chin-ups, it could be normal DOMS or it could be a sign of incorrect technique/injury.
Hope this helped!
I’ve been in the fitness and strength training industry for nearly a decade. In that time, I’ve gained 30 pounds of muscle, written hundreds of articles, and reviewed dozens of fitness supplements. As for my educational background, I’m a currently studying for my Active IQ Level 3 Diploma in Personal Training.