Reach up. Grab the bar. Pull yourself up. Repeat. It doesn’t get much simpler than that if you’re looking for an exercise that offers tremendous payoff. Still, the pullup and its many variations remain among the most underused tactics for building a back rife with detail and deep-channeled muscularity.
Pullups are not easy—the mechanical advantage is poor even in when you are in good position. Cheating them, while a fair thing to do on the last rep or two of each set, will not improve your long-term strength or size. Since the lats are a large muscle group that needs to be hit from different angles, you need to use a full range of motion across a variety of exercises. Pullups also require the contribution of dozens of smaller, contributing muscles, which is good news—it means that consistent training will lead to rapid strength gains in the short term and more total muscle gains down the road.
The following six exercises, when performed with regularly (and correctly), will attack your entire group of pull muscles (including your biceps). Whether you can only do one or a few, if you continue to execute these movements with precision, you will find that a dozen pullups (or more) are well within your reach.