Upper Body Exercise and Lat Builder
The best upper body exercise is the pull-up and it is one of the best lat builders period. It works primarily the back with a strong emphasis on the lats, the shoulders and the chest. Secondary muscle groups that are worked include the biceps, triceps, forearms and abs. So as you can see, it is an amazing exercise that incorporates many muscle groups that work in tandem in order to perform the pull-up.
Also, there are many hand grips (hand placements) and angles to use to perform this exercise depending on the equipment and pull-up bar that you have available either at home or at the gym. There is the wide-grip, medium-grip or the close-grip (the hammer grip). Depending which grip you use and where you place your hands, you will work the above mentioned groups in slightly different ways, In effect, this exercise provides you with a lot of variety.
Since you are using your own body weight, and some people also add extra weights tied around their hips, this makes it a very tough exercise. Consequently, if you are doing this exercise properly, you will be tired. For this reason, not only is it a great muscle building and defining exercise, it also gives you an amazing cardio workout without you having to spend a lot of time on cardio machines.
I like to do this exercise in the spring to fall months when I want to increase and maximize my muscle definition and reduce the length of time that I spend in the gym. Who wants to spend a lot of time indoors when it is nice and sunny outside in the summer? By doing pull-ups, you can reduce the number of weight training exercises that you do as this exercise will work out many different muscle groups simultaneously.
I like to do about 6 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions of this exercise. In this way I am working my upper body and all upper body muscle groups in the maximum way possible. Plus, I am keeping my workout interesting. I will do 2 sets each of wide-grip, 2 of medium-grip and 2 of the close-grip. These various angles and ways of gripping the pull-up bar will work out the upper body in a myriad of different ways. The wider the grip, it will work out the lats the most including the lower fibers of the lat. The closer your grip becomes, the more it will hit the inner back muscles and upper fibers of the lats. But regardless of which hand grip that you use, the lats are still and will be the primary muscle group being worked. My recommendation, try each slowly to feel how each grip affects your pull-up and various muscle groups.
Also, pay attention to form and do the exercise slowly. Some people use their entire body to pull themselves up, making the exercise easier to do and thus not getting the maximum workout benefit. Also, slow down the pull-ups. Doing them fast is much easier than doing them slowly!
If you are a beginner, this is a very tough exercise. So to prevent injury, do them at your own pace. Try doing only 2-5 repetitions in order to build your muscle strength, get the feel for the exercise and over time, increase the number of repetitions. Or, try using the assisted pull-up machine until you feel strong enough to use regular pull-up bars.
In summary, why do pull-ups?
1. Incredible lat builder.
2 Works all the upper body muscles simultaneously.
3. Builds and strengthens muscles and muscle groups.
4. Builds amazing muscle definition.
5. Provides a great cardiovascular workout.
6. Maximum exercise benefit in least amount of time!
You can watch my videos on how to do the pull-up (video 1 and video 2) showing some of the variations that I like to use, but the following embedded video below (pullups vs chinups) I have to admit is much better than my videos. I filmed them in 2014 but since then I have modified and refined my pull-ups. Anyway, his video is an excellent video on pull-ups. He shows and explains in great detail the various muscle groups being worked and targeted when doing the pull-up.