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Are pull ups enough for building lats

Are Pull Ups Enough for Lats? How I Grew My Lats in 60 Days

What does your back day look like? 

Do you do pull ups, lat pull-downs, lay prayers, lat pull-overs, and all the other fancy back exercises we see every day? 

A burning question I had when I wanted to grow my back width (which is the lats) was, “Do I have to do all these variations?” 

Do I have to do 5 different workout variations just to hit one muscle? 

Due to “fitness culture” and everyone trying to make viral fitness videos, workouts have become complicated. 

It seems like if you aren’t spamming 5 different variations for each body part, then it won’t grow. 

I’ve taken a different approach. 

I like “simple.” Simple works. 

So, based on my experience and some research, I’ll be breaking down if doing pull-ups alone will fully develop your lats and if there’s a better approach. 

We’ll consider the advantages, downsides, and other factors to provide a conclusive answer. 

Key Takeaway: Pull-ups are effective for those with existing strength, but beginners may struggle to achieve sufficient reps for optimal lat development. Additionally, while pull-ups target the upper lats, other exercises are needed to fully develop the entire muscle group, particularly the lower lats.

Read on for a detailed breakdown and check out how I built my lats in 60 days. 

Let’s understand what the lats are and how they function. 

Man doing pull ups

What is the function of the latissimus dorsi (Lats) muscle? 

The lats are large muscles on your back that look like wings. 

Big lats give you that Batman-shaped physique. 

They start from your lower back and extend to your upper arm. When well-developed, they give your back a wide and powerful appearance. 

The lats are primarily responsible for pulling movements, such as pulling your upper arms down towards your body or pulling heavy objects towards you. 

Strengthening the lats is essential for various upper-body exercises like pull-ups, rows, and deadlifts. 

Overall, strong lats not only make you look aesthetic but also support functional movements and overall upper body strength.

What are the advantages of doing just pull-ups for lats? 

If you’re considering doing only pull-ups to build your lats, you may want to know some advantages that come with it. 

1. It isn’t complex

If you’re a newbie in the gym, park, or wherever you choose to do your workouts, choosing between the many workouts for building your lats may be overwhelming.

When in doubt, just practice pull-ups. 

2. Requires minimal equipment

Pull-ups require very little equipment—just a stable overhead bar—making them ideal for home workouts or when gym equipment is limited.

3. They engage your core

Unlike most other lat exercises, pull-ups require proper core stabilization to maintain good form throughout the movement.

This engagement strengthens the core muscles while improving overall body stability and control.

4. Improves your grip strength

Hanging from and gripping the bar during pull-ups strengthens the muscles of the hands, wrists, and forearms, leading to improved grip strength. 

Downsides of doing just pull-ups for lats

Everything has its downsides. I love the pull-ups but I can’t deny that they don’t have any shortcomings, especially if you want to focus solely on them. 

1. It isn’t beginner friendly

If you’re a total beginner, then chances are you may not even be able to do a single pull-up. I’m talking about wide-grip pull ups specifically. 

So, it can be difficult to start and progress long enough to see results. 

2. Limited range of motion

Pull-ups primarily work the upper part of the lats, with less emphasis on the lower part. 

This limited range of motion may cause uneven lat development, especially if pull-ups are the only lat-focused exercise in your routine.

3. Grip Fatigue

You need strong grip strength to hold onto the bar throughout the pull-up movement. 

If you can’t hold the bar long enough, then you won’t be able to do high reps, and if you can’t do high reps, then you can’t build solid lats. 

How I built visible lats in 60 days

I want to give you a detailed story on how I built my lats. 

Now, I’m not saying I built complete, fully developed lats in 60 days. I am saying that for the first time ever, my lats started to pop out when I hit the 60-day mark. 

I started practicing pull-ups at the gym in late December 2023. However, I wasn’t new to the gym. 

I had been working out on and off for some time but I never trained my back. 

I noticed that my physique looked incomplete; it looked like something was missing. It didn’t look as aesthetic as I wanted it to. 

And then I realized my back was to blame. I didn’t have a wide back to give me that V-taper; my lats were pretty much non-existent. 

So I resumed at the gym in December and I went to work. 

I would go to the gym 4 days a week and practicing pull-ups would always come first, even when it wasn’t back day. 

My first day, I could only do 1 good wide-grip pull-up and 1 struggle pull-up.

So, I would do 4 sets of that, some jumping pull-ups, and 4 sets of lat pull-downs to build pull-up strength. 

After about a month, I started doing 5 good reps of pull-ups. And after 2 months, I hit 8 reps. That’s when I started seeing my lats widen. 

Here was my routine for the first month: 

DayExerciseSets x Reps
MondayPull-ups4 sets to failure
Jumping pull-ups3 sets to failure
Lat Pull-downs4 x 10-12
WednesdayPull-ups4 sets to failure
Jumping pull-ups3 sets to failure
Lat Pull-downs4 x 10-12
FridayPull-ups4 sets to failure
Jumping pull-ups3 sets to failure
Lat Pull-downs4 x 10-12
SaturdayPull-ups4 sets to failure
Jumping pull-ups3 sets to failure
Lat Pull-downs4 x 10-12

After around 6 weeks, I had built enough pull-up and grip strength, so I started doing just pull-ups.

My takeaway 

Pull-ups are great when you already have the pull-up strength. 

If you’re just starting, doing only pull ups won’t be an effective way to build your lats because it’s a numbers game. 

Less reps, less development. 

You won’t be able to do high repetitions so you need a more beginner friendly movement like lat pulldowns to keep you going. 

This will help you build the needed strength to increase your pull up numbers 

Additionally, I noticed that while pull-ups are an effective exercise for targeting the lats, they don’t fully develop the entire muscle group on their own.

Pull-ups primarily engage the upper portion of the lats. 

That’s a problem because the lats are a large muscle group with fibers that run along the back down to your upper back.

So, because I was mostly doing pull ups, I got a “half lat.” This is when your lats only develop to the middle of your back. 

So to answer the question, “Are pull ups enough for lats?” 

No, they aren’t. 

Not if you want to build fully developed lat muscles. 

To build your lower lats, you need to add exercises like the incline single arm lat pull-down or the single sided straight arm push down. 

Here’s a video by Athlean-X on how to get wider lower lats: 

I hope you found this helpful! The end.

Faysal Tahir
Faysal Tahir
Articles: 74

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