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Which Pull Up Grip Should You Use?

Pull Ups are a big exercise, a foundation stone for genuine upper body strength, particulary relative strength.

I'll never tire of the delight on peoples faces as they knock off the various milestones, from getting their first pull up to knocking out multiple reps, to adding load.

But the question often comes up as to which grip should you use?

Which is easier?

Which is harder?

Which is proper?

Which is manlier?

The answer is simple.

Do the one you can do, and don't be afraid to mix up between the grips.

So what are the grips?

1: The Underhand or Supinated "Chin Up" Grip

2: The Overhand or Pronated "Pull Up" Grip

3: The Neutral or Parallel Grip

Which is better or worse?

Who really cares?

Underhand is where most start, it's subjectively easier for most folk. This is largely down to the amount the biceps can get involved.

The Overhand is generally the hardest for beginners, with the very rare exception. The bicep has almost no leverage here, so it's all about the back.

And the parallel grip is the strongest according to EMG studies.

So we start people where they feel strongest, for most that's the underhand, and only because most have never done the parallel when they begin.

Now, the grip isn't the most important factor. Watch any experienced lifter who is strong on pull ups, they will likely use all kinds of grips. You see, once you get strong you will benefit from mixing it up. When one grip fatigues, swap to the next then the next. If one feels better, then it is better.

Ultimately no one cares, so do what's best for you.

Before I go, the pull up is not an arm exercise, although your arms will undoubtedly grow after doing them.

So whatever grip you choose, focus on scapula position and pulling the elbows down rather than simply trying to get over the bar. I cover the whole process in this video:

Pull ups are a great exercise, just don't overthink them.


Dave Hedges

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