Neutral Grip Pull-Ups – Most Important Muscles Worked and Benefits
Neutral grip pull-ups, chin-ups, and their close relative, pull-ups, are three of the best upper body exercises you can do. Unlike the lat pulldown, you don’t even need to go to the gym to do them.
Instead, all you need is somewhere suitable to hang from, such as a tree branch, a joist in your garage, or a doorway pull-up bar.
But what makes these exercises so beneficial, and what is the difference between chin-ups and pull-ups
Let’s discuss it!
Chin-ups vs. Pull-ups
While chin-ups and pull-ups share many characteristics, they are dissimilar enough that you should know the differences between them. Both exercises use the same pulling muscles, but the hand position is different, and that affects your pulling motion and arm action.
Chin-ups use a shoulder-width, supinated, or palms up hand position. The supinated grip puts your biceps in a mechanically advantageous position. Many exercisers find that this allows them to do more reps than for pull-ups. Because of your hand position, doing chin-ups results in extension of the shoulder joint, meaning your upper arm is pulled down and back close to the side of your body.
Pull-ups use a wider-than shoulder-width, pronated, or palms away grip. The pronated grip is not such an efficient position for pulling, and that makes this variation a little more challenging. The hardest version of this exercise is wide grip pull-ups, where the hands are placed well outside shoulder-width apart. Pull-ups involve shoulder adduction rather than shoulder extension. Shoulder adduction means the arms are drawn down and in toward the midline of the body from the side.
You can also do pull-ups using a parallel grip, a neutral grip pull up, where your palms face one another. For difficulty, this pull-up variation falls somewhere between overhand pull-ups and underhand chin-ups.
Neutral grip pull-ups are also easier on your elbows than underhand chin-ups. Because of this, for many exercisers, it’s the best of the three pull-up variations.
Neutral Grip Pull Up Muscles Worked
Ask a personal trainer what muscles chin-ups and pull-ups work, and they’ll probably tell you that they are both back and biceps exercises. The reality is that, while that’s true, there is a whole lot more going on when you do these exercises. The muscles involved in neutral grip pull-ups are:
Latissimus dorsi – these are the large muscles on either side of your spine. Well-developed latissimus dorsi look like a pair of wings. These muscles are known as the lats for short. Your latissimus dorsi muscles are responsible for shoulder extension and shoulder adduction. The teres major, a muscle that lies beneath the lats, assist the lats in the neutral grip pull up.
The lats are the prime mover agonist, and the teres major is a synergist.
Biceps brachii – more commonly known as the biceps, this is the muscle on the front of your upper arm. Its main job is elbow flexion or bending your arm. Chin-ups work your biceps a little more than pull-ups.
Brachioradialis – this muscle is primarily active during neutral grip pull-ups. The neutral or palms-facing grip puts this forearm/elbow muscle in a dominant position, which is why most people find this hand position easier than overhand pull-ups.
Lower trapezius – located below your scapulae or shoulder blades, the lower traps work to keep your shoulders down during pull-ups and chin-ups. Without this muscle, your shoulders would rise and hit you in the ears!
Middle trapezius and rhomboids – these muscles are across and between your scapulae. They are responsible for pulling your shoulder blades back and together. These muscles give your arms a more stable platform from which to work and also protects your shoulder joint from unnecessary wear and tear.
Rotator cuff – this is the collective name for the muscles that stabilize and control your shoulder joint. There are four muscles in the rotator cuff:
- the teres minor, and
Rectus abdominus – located on the front of your abdomen, your rectus abdominus, or abs for short helps keep your spine stable during pull-ups and chin-ups.
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How To Do Neutral Grip Pull-ups
To get the most from this or any other exercise, you must do it properly. Correct exercise performance will make your workout more effective and keep your risk of injury to a minimum. These six steps are the right way to do neutral grip pull-ups:
1. Reach up and grab the parallel handles firmly. Wrap your thumbs and fingers around the bar to make sure your grip is as secure as possible.
2. Hang with your arms straight, shoulders pulled down and back. Lift your chest and look up toward the bar.
3. Bend your legs and cross your ankles if you wish.
4. Without swinging or kicking, smoothly bend your arms and pull your chin up and over the bar. Keep your chest up throughout. Inhale as you ascend.
5. Extend your arms and lower yourself back down. Maintain control and do not just relax and drop. Exhale as you descend.
6. Pause for a second at the bottom of your rep and then go again.
Not strong enough to do neutral grip pull-ups yet? No problem! Here are a few strategies that will help you develop the strength necessary to do your first rep.
Attach a maximum load resistance band to your pull-up bar and then kneel or stand in the loop. The resistance band will give you a boost, effectively reducing your body weight, making pull-ups easier to do. Gradually use weaker resistance bands until you can do this exercise unaided.
You are stronger eccentrically than you are concentrically. In simple terms, this means you can lower more weight than you can lift. This marvel is because of the structure of your muscular system. Make the most of this phenomenon by doing negative pull-ups.
Using a step or box, climb up to the top of your pull-up rep. Take your legs away and lower yourself down slowly and smoothly, using just your arms. Climb back up and repeat. In time, your strength will increase, and you’ll be able to do full, from the bottom to top pull-ups.
For this method, simply place a box or chair behind you. Adopt your usual pull-up position, but put your feet on the chair or top of the box. Use your legs to help you pull yourself up. Use less leg assistance as you get stronger.
Neutral Grip Pull-Ups Benefits
Neutral grip pull-ups are not an easy exercise to master, although most people should be able to work up to doing them in time. It is worth persevering with this exercise because they are very beneficial.
1. Build a more muscular back
When it comes to building your lats, neutral grip pull-ups are tough to beat. They work your lats through a wide range of motion with lots of muscle tension, and that’s the perfect recipe for muscle growth.
2. Pump up your biceps
While most people think of pull-ups as a back exercise, they are an excellent biceps exercise too. Because the biceps is a smaller, weaker muscle than the lats, some say that pull-ups are an arm exercise first and an exercise for your back, second. Either way, if you want more muscular arms, pull-ups can help.
3. Strengthen your grip
Pull-ups involve lifting your bodyweight using just your arms. The pull up will test and develop your forearm and grip strength. A firm grip can be essential. In sports, it can be the difference between winning or losing to an opponent in wrestling or football. You also need grip strength to perform deadlifts. At home, it’ll make opening tight-lidded jars much more manageable. If nothing else, a more substantial grip will give you a firmer handshake.
4. Boost your deadlift performance
A proper form deadlift starts with strong lats. Your lats make sure the weight stays close to your center of gravity so you can lift heavier loads more efficiently. Keeping the barbell close to your center of gravity, against your shins as you deadlift, will keep you safe from back pain or injury.
5. Weight loss and improved body composition
Neutral grip pull-ups can help you lose weight and fat in several different ways.
- Burn more calories: the more muscles an exercise involves, the more calories you’ll burn doing it. Pull-ups use several substantial and lots of small muscles, which means you’ll burn a whole lot of calories whenever you do them.
- Boost your metabolism: pull-ups build muscle, and muscle tissue is metabolically active, which means it needs calories to sustain it. The more muscle you have on your body, the more calories you will burn per day. So, indirectly, getting better at pull-ups will lead to faster fat loss.
- Circuit training: bodyweight exercises like pull-ups and push-ups are perfect for circuit training because they involve minimal set-up time. You can move quickly from one activity to the next, which increases your calorie expenditure. Circuit training is one of the best workout methods for fat burning.
- Motivation: pull-ups get more comfortable as you start to lose weight. That can be both rewarding and motivating. Use pull-ups to remind you of just one of the benefits of weight loss – increased athleticism.
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The Best Neutral Grip Pull-up Bars
To do neutral grip pull-ups, you need a pull-up bar with parallel handles. Here are some of the best neutral grip pull-up bars for home use:
1. Power tower
This freestanding power tower is ideal for many bodyweight and free weight exercises, not least neutral grip pull-ups.
2.Ceiling-mounted pull-up bar
Screw this multi-grip pull-up bar to your ceiling for lots of pull-up and chin-up options, including neutral grip pull-ups.
3. Doorway pull-up bar
Easy to install and remove, doorway pull-up bars are ideal for home exercisers who don’t have space for a power tower or don’t want to put up a permanent pull-up bar. This product has parallel handles for neutral grip pull-ups.
4. Wall-mounted pull-up bar
if you have a garage gym, a wall-mounted pull-up bar will make a great, space-saving addition. This one offers several hand positions, including neutral.
5. Neutral grip pull-up handles – if you have a straight pull-up bar, you can use after-market handles to do neutral grip pull-ups. Just attach them to your bar to add variety to your pull-up workouts.
Neutral Grip Pull Up – Final thoughts
If you aren’t already doing neutral grip pull-ups, it’s time to start. It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or advanced exerciser; doing neutral grip pull-ups can help you reach new levels of fitness and strength. You can do this excellent exercise at home, making it very convenient if not completely excuse-free. Whatever your fitness goals are, pull-ups, and chin-ups for that matter, will help you reach them sooner.
You can use resistance bands for pull-ups and deadlifts as well.
See how you can do banded deadlifts at home, even without a barbell or weights in this post.
If you need to lose weight before you can start on pull-ups, use this free guide to lose 20 pounds in 3 months.
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