Your website, and your blog does a lot for me, highly educational and motivational both. I do have a question actually:
What are your thoughts comparing weighted chins VS the barbell rows? Once I started hanging weights from my waist to do chinups it seemed like I started making some solid gains in the upper back, shoulders, etc. But I had not been doing the rows either, so are the two pretty similar as far as what muscles are hit?
thanks much, Phil
Bodybuilders would say that Weighted Pull-ups are more for back width while Barbell Rows are for back thickness/mass. Strength trainers will tell you that getting stronger at Barbell Rows is almost always going to boost your Bench Press and Deadlift. Pull-ups are closed chain and tend to help your Press more (exact opposite movement, use same grip width for even more carry-over).
I frankly don't like that mindset of "what's the best exercise, X or Y". You should just do Weighted Pull-ups, Barbell Rows and Deadlifts for maximal muscle and strength gains. Okay, StrongLifts 5x5 doesn't include Pull-ups because there's only so much you can do in 1 workout, but you could do 3x12 after Deadlifts.
Remember you can't do endless reps of body-weight Pull-ups forever or you're just working endurance. You need to add weight because muscle size is directly related to strength gains. This is why you started seeing more gains in your upper-back and shoulders after you began adding weight to your Pull-ups.
As an extra bonus, getting stronger at Weighted Pull-ups will make body-weight Pull-ups a lot easier. Not quite as much as Barbell Squats makes body-weight Squats easier, but still. So don't be afraid of switching to Weighted Pull-ups.