The pull-up is a tried-and-true exercise that’s popular with both newcomers and advanced athletes alike. But there’s more to this classic exercise than meets the eye. Whether it’s changing your grip width, your hand positions or your range of motion, switch it up and explore these eight pull-up variations. Our pull-up bars let you conveniently incorporate these pull-up variations anytime and anywhere, blasting every major muscle group in your upper body from your lats to your traps to your abs.
1. The Classic Chin-Up
To do a chin-up, grab the pull-up bar a shoulder’s width apart with your palms facing inward towards your face. This grip is also known as supinated grip or underhand grip. One easy way to remember this is that your palms are near your chin, hence the name!
From a hanging position, pull yourself upward until your chin clears the bar. Avoid swinging, kicking, swaying your body to get yourself over the bar or other pull-up mistakes. Pause at the top, then lower yourself down slowly to the starting position.
Unlike the pull-up, which we’ll discuss further down in this article, the chin-up focuses the effort on your biceps while also recruiting some of your chest. Because the chest’s pectoral muscles are so large, this means this exercise is often the easiest for beginners.
2. The Classic Pull-Up
The pull-up takes the same form as the chin-up, but instead of your palms facing inward, your palms face away from your body. This grip is also known as a pronated grip or overhand grip.
If you find the jump from chin-up to pull-up to dramatic, ease into the transition with negative pull-ups. This can help you to build up the strength needed to do a complete pull-up. Simply use a box or step stool to get into the top position of a pull-up. While keeping your core tight, lower yourself down into a hanging position.
Compared to the chin-up, the pull-up hits your lower trapezius and your lats better, making it less of a chest and arm workout and more of a back workout. See more information about the differences of pull-ups and chin-ups.
3. The Hammer Grip Pull-Up
Also known as a parallel grip, with this move you do a pull-up while your palms face each other. Many gyms don’t have the right pull-up bar style to accomodate this move, but the Pullup & Dip bar does. On the Pullup & Dip, use the two bars protruding from the front.
A hammer grip pull-up is harder than chin-up but easier than a pull-up. It’s ideal if you have weak shoulders or have injured your shoulders in the past. This neutral grip puts less strain on the shoulders and reduces the pressure on your wrists. Athletes also love the hammer grip because it emphasizes the biceps, making it perfect for arm day.
4. Narrow Grip and Wide Grip
Once you’ve mastered the basics, kick it up a notch. Whether you’re doing chin-ups or true pull-ups, change how far apart your arms are placed on the pull-up bar.
If you want to activate your chest muscles and build your pecs, move your hands closer together. The narrower your grip, the more you use your chest muscles. Fitness enthusiasts who like to do weighted pull-ups (where you attach weights to yourself with a belt) also tend to use narrow-grip hand positions because your chest is stronger and allows you to lift a heavier load.
If you want to work your back more, move your hands further apart. A wider grip moves the focus off of your pecs and burns more of your back muscles. Pros love this move. "Wide-grip pull-ups coax the upper lats to come out," Arnold Schwarzenegger once said.
5. Mixed Grip
With a mixed grip pull-up, one hand faces outward and one hand faces inward. This creative mix allows more of your different muscle groups to kick in, reducing fatigue and allowing you to add even more weight if you’re using a weight belt. If you do this variation, switch your hands every other set to avoid creating a muscle imbalance.
6. Around the World Pull-Up
This move is for advanced athletes. Start with a wide grip pull-up. Raise your body to the top of the bar like you typically would, but move your torso at an angle up towards your left hand. Once you’re at the top, stay there but move your body towards your right hand, then lower yourself back to the starting position. Repeat, but more in the opposite direction.
The muscle up is a challenging variation of the pull-up and adds in a tricep workout. Start in a wide grip pull-up and haul yourself up towards the bar. As you reach the top, pull your chest up over the bar and straighten your arms until your waist is level with the pull-up bar. Pause, then lower yourself back down.
8. Towel Up
At the end of your workout, add some towel ups. The purpose of towel ups is to strengthen your grip-strength. Hang a towel over your pull-up bar and hold onto the towel to complete a pull-up or chin-up. The instability of the towel works your core while having to hold onto the soft towel, as opposed to the steady bar, works out all the muscles and tendons in your hands and wrist.
Do you want to do more pull-ups?
Then we recommend you our FREE eBook with the top 23 tips for more pull-ups. DOWNLOAD NOW FOR FREE.