Close grip pull ups have always been a popular option among trainees. Some perform the exercise intentionally; others don’t know any better and find the variation more natural for their bone structure.
In any case, performing the exercise offers numerous benefits and allows training enthusiasts to build whole-body strength, balance, and athleticism.
Let’s dive into the exercise, see what benefits it offers, why you should do it, and how to go about it.
What Are Close Grip Pull Ups?
As their name suggests, close grip pull ups are similar to the classic exercise, with the primary difference being hand position. During a close grip pull up, your hands are approximately shoulder-width apart, and you can have your palms facing back or forward.
A considerable benefit of the close grip pull up is that you train multiple muscle groups, including the upper back, shoulders, biceps, forearms, and midsection. Specifically, pull ups focus on lat development, contributing to overall back width. (1)
Many people consider close grip pull ups less effective, but having your hands shoulder-width apart can be beneficial in keeping your shoulders out of the movement and allowing you to focus on the muscles that matter: the back and biceps.
How to Start Doing Close Grip Pull Ups
Pull ups are great, and most trainees are interested in learning how to do them. The question is, how do you start performing the movement if you can’t do a single repetition?
A great way to master the pull up is to begin with eccentrics. Meaning, you find a way to get to the top position (for example, jumping or stepping on a chair) and lower yourself for as long as you can. Start by lowering yourself for five to ten seconds. (2)
Once you build some strength, begin to lower yourself ¼, then ½, and finally – ¾, holding each position for five to ten seconds. Most people can do their first pull up by the time they can lower themselves for 45-50 seconds.
Doing the exercise frequently is also beneficial for developing your strength more quickly and getting comfortable with the technique. For example, you can practice slow negatives on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Safety Considerations For Close Grip Pull Ups
While a simple bodyweight exercise, the close grip pull up is demanding, and you should approach it with respect. The most important safety tip is warming up well before each workout. Prepare your wrists, elbows, shoulders, and upper back by doing dynamic stretching and arm swinging. You can also do some light cardio before the workout to get your blood flowing and warm up the synovial fluid that prevents friction in your joints. (3)
Aside from that, it’s essential to experiment with grip width and hand position to find what works best for you. The close grip pull up is a fantastic option because most people find it natural. In contrast, a wider grip can lead to shoulder discomfort for some people.
The third safety tip is to perform repetitions slowly and with complete control. Pull yourself up gradually and control yourself on the way down. Jerking motions might help you do extra repetitions, but doing so can place more stress on your joints and connective tissues, increasing the risk of an injury.
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- Leaf Group. (n.d.). Close grip pull-ups vs. wide grip. LIVESTRONG.COM.
- Fetters, K. A. (2021, November 2). This pullup variation will help you master the bar. Men’s Health. https://www.menshealth.com/fitness/a31230026/pullup-negative-reps/
- Betts, J. G., Young, K. A., Wise, J. A., Johnson, E., Poe, B., Kruse, D. H., Korol, O., Johnson, J. E., Womble, M., & DeSaix, P. (2013, March 6). Synovial joints. Anatomy and Physiology.f https://opentextbc.ca/anatomyandphysiologyopenstax/chapter/synovial-joints/