The Back Manifesto: Vertical Edition

Resistance training can be one of the most beneficial activities you can do to improve you body composition. As you look in the mirror over the months that you train, your body will change in ways that you couldn’t imagine. But there’s one big problem that people run into during there during there training……NOT training the muscles you DON’T see in the mirror. Yes, that means the back. There is more to your upper body than those biceps and triceps you flex in the mirror. And hardcore back training isn’t just for guys either (which I’ll prove to you in a minute). Today I’ll show you couple of vertical pulling movements that I like to help develop the back, while the next installment will focus on horizontal pulling movements.


When it comes to vertical pulling movements, there is only one piece of equipment you really need in my book…a pull-up bar. Sure, you can do pulldowns, which obviously mimic the same movement, but when performing vertical pulling exercises, pull-up variations have a much better overall effect. Let’s take a look at two of my favorite variations and why I like each. The first variation is the chin-up. Chin-ups are done with the hands in a supinated position (palms facing you) and generally with a more narrow grip, I like shoulder width.



When performed correctly, chin-ups will develop the lats, rhomboids, and lower traps (and biceps, for you mirror muscle fans). This movement is generally easier on the shoulders, as long as the grips doesn’t get too wide. These are a good starting point when you are doing body weight pulling because they are easier to perform than pull-ups (our next variation). As you can see in the video, if you are unable to do a chin-up on your own, use bands to help decrease the amount of weight you are pulling. Start with a big band and progress to a small band until you can finally perform one chin-up without any assistance at all. Once you have chin-ups mastered, move on to pull-ups, which is my other favorite variation. Pull-ups are done with the hands in a pronated position (palms facing away from you) and generally with a wider grip, just outside the shoulders.



Pull-ups will also work the lats, and to a lesser extent, the rhomboids and lower traps. Just like your chin-ups, this variations can be performed with bands in the beginning for assistance……start big work small. The most important thing to remember when you start implementing these exercises is doing them correctly. These should NOT be done with any sort of kicking or swinging to help get yourself up. I admit, once I get fatigued and want to get a couple of forced reps in I will give a little kick…..but until you have the movements down, strict form is your only option. Retract your shoulder blades from the beginning and continue to retract them as you’re pulling up……think chest up or chest to the sky.


Pull-ups and chin-ups are two great exercises for overall back to develop. If you ask me, they should be a staple in anybody’s training routine, whether you’re a regular gym rat or an elite athlete (ESPECIALLY an elite athlete). Stay tuned for the Horizontal Edition where I’ll cover some rowing movements to help enhance the results from your chin-ups and pull-ups. Feel free to leave comments or send me an email at if you have any questions. I hope everyone has a great day!

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