Man struggling doing pull ups with man doing pull ups easily

We all know that Pull Ups are one of the best upper body exercises out there. They are not only great to build a massive back and increase your strength, they are also impressive because not everyone is able to bust out a couple of reps with ease. If you follow these 3 tips you will be able to train pain free, make huge gains and improve your pull up performance and outcome massively.

What you will learn in this article:

Pull Ups Grip Width: Which is the best one?

2 men showing a Neutral grip pull up

Many people think that wide grip pull ups are optimal when it comes to latissimus activation. But the truth is that a very wide grip does not increase your latissimus activation at all.

The optimal width is a shoulder or a little more than a shoulder wide grip. Going beyond this width decreases the range of motion and  increases the stress on the shoulder capsules to a point – that high, repetitive loads may cause damage.

If you use a very narrow grip you are more likely to pull your elbows in front of your body and with that emphasize your forearms, brachialis, brachioradialis and biceps instead of back. Some slightly closer grips can still work quite well for back activation. But for that you should be able to move the elbows next to and if possible even behind your torso. 

Neck Pull Ups: Good or bad?

Man doing Neck Pull Ups and man with shoulder pain

When doing behind the neck pull ups you put your shoulder into an extreme external rotation and abduction. The interesting thing is that this position can be bad or good depending on the load! Pulling your own bodyweight into this position requires an exceptional amount of shoulder mobility and stability to do it savely. Without it you stress tendons, ligaments, bursae and the whole structure of the shoulder complex way too much. 

To benefit from the stability and mobility component we suggest neck pull ups on rings with your feet on the ground. Here are the benefits:

  • you can increase or decrease the load easily by supporting your own body weight more or less with your feet
  • you are able to keep your neck neutral
  • you can rotate the rings into a more shoulder and elbow friendly position

When it comes to building muscle you should know that behind the neck pull ups offer no particular benefit for your lats, rhomboids or traps. Regular pull ups produce greater muscle activity in the latissimus dorsi than the behind-the-neck version does. If you want to target the rhomboids, traps and rear delts in the first place you should stick to regular or rear delt rows

Grip: Protect your joints

Man doing Grip width in pull ups and telling what is Good to know

Probably you already know this about pull ups:

  • The underhand grip involves the biceps the most
  • The overhand grip has a strong focus on your brachioradialis 
  • And the neutral grip is a good all rounder

What you may not know is that, during your pull up workout, the grip can also have an impact on your shoulder and elbow health. The overhand grip – especially the wider one – can be uncomfortable for these joints. A more joint friendly position – at least for most people – is somewhere around a neutral grip. You can also easily test the most comfortable joint position for yourself by trying them on rings.

This gets even more important when we take a look at advanced pull up variations like, typewriter or archer pull ups. It not only feels way better to turn the rings to the most joint friendly position, it’s also the best way to minimize short and long term injury potential without having any downsides. 

Want to practice these exercises and start a calisthenic workout? If you want to find out more about comprehensive trainings that fit your physique and goals, check out our workout programs. If this is your first time approaching the world of calisthenics, don´t worry! We also have a calisthenics workout plan for beginners.

Watch this video to learn more

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