Pull-ups in all variations are one of the best and most important exercises of all sports and training focuses.
Being able to pull your own body weight – and additional weight if necessary – is a skill that says a lot about relative strength – the strength in relation to your own body weight, shoulder health and muscular balance.
In order to make consistent progress in training, variation is an essential factor. Below are the three standard grip variations that we use in the YPSI for beginners and intermediate trainers.
There are a few other, more complex, pull-up variations that are beyond the scope of this article.
Close Neutral Grip Pull Up – Palms facing each other
Handle width is about 15 cm. Gripping too tight would restrict the range of motion too much, since the elbows could no longer be pulled all the way back.
The neutral hand position provides the strongest grip. Due to the hand position, the brachialis primarily works during elbow flexion.
This variant allows for the highest overall recruitment of muscle fibers and the use of the highest weight.
Pull-up with a shoulder-width, supinated grip – palms facing the body
Strong grip with high overall recruitment. Due to the supinated hand position, this variant is primarily biceps dominant.
Pull-up with a shoulder-width, pronated grip – the backs of the hands face the body
Due to the pronated hand position, there is less recruitment of the elbow flexors in this variant, but more recruitment of the latissimus. It is thus pulled less over the flexion/bending of the elbow and more over the extension/extension of the shoulder.
Integrate these three variants into your training in rotation for more progress in pull-ups and back development.
A wide grip with a pronated grip is of course also possible, but depending on the training status it is usually suboptimal, since this results in the lowest overall recruitment despite the highest percentage recruitment of the lats.
If you can't do a pull-up yet, here's how to do it...
I wish you success!
Image: Lee Desoiza Personal Trainer and owner of the Strength Factory in Gibraltar, doing chin-ups with a supine, shoulder-width grip at the YPSI Training Camp 2015.