Bodyweight Pull-Up Variations

Is there an exercise within your weekly weight training regime that you simply detest? Do you struggle to perform this particular exercise correctly without in some way cheating?

One particular exercise a significant proportion of the adult population simply cannot perform is the bodyweight pull-up. If you fall into this category, fear not, we’re set to break down the bodyweight pull-up variations available to you and how you can build up your strength in order to complete this particular exercise successfully.

The pull-up itself is a phenomenal exercise for developing both strength and size throughout the upper body. The specific muscles targeted ultimately depends on your grip positioning. An additional bonus in relation to the pull-up is that you need very little in terms of specialist equipment – all that is required is an overhead bar capable of supporting your bodyweight.

As with most exercises, there are multiple variations of the pull-up that you can perform. Two which are commonly utilised within a gym setting…

Wide, Overhand Grip Pull-Up

The first variation of the exercise involves using a wide, overhand grip.

If this particular grip is selected, the large upper back muscle known as the latissimus dorsi takes the majority of the stresses and strains brought about by the exercise. This muscle is responsible for creating the desirable ‘V’-shaped upper body.

Also recruited – but to a lesser extent – are the muscles located within the shoulder and arm region.

Video Demonstration

Execution
  1. To complete this exercise you will require an overhead bar.
  2. Grasp this overhead bar with wide, overhand grip.
  3. Pull your body up until your chin is above the bar.
  4. At the peak, lower your body until your arms and shoulders are fully extended.
  5. This is one repetition. Repeat as required until desirable numbers are achieved.
Narrow, Underhand Grip Pull-Up

The alternative to the wide, overhand grip is that of the narrow, underhand grip. Simply by altering your grip positioning, you are completely changing the dynamics and emphasis of the entire exercise.

In this alternative position, there is a much greater emphasis placed upon the biceps and forearms region, while the latissimus dorsi – which was so prevalent in the first exercise – becomes somewhat removed.

Video Demonstration

Execution
  1. To complete this exercise you will require an overhead bar.
  2. Grasp this overhead bar with narrow, underhand grip.
  3. Pull your body up until your elbows are to your side.
  4. At the peak, lower your body until your arms and shoulders are fully extended.
  5. This is one repetition. Repeat as required until desirable numbers are achieved.
Bodyweight Pull-Ups For Beginners

Regardless of the bodyweight pull-up variation selected, your core muscles will also be recruited throughout. They aim to lock the core and provide you and your physique with a level of stability. Ultimately, this will prevent any unwanted movements and lateral swaying while you execute the exercise.

One of the major issues with bodyweight pull-ups is that they can appear a little overwhelming and daunting to a large proportion of gym users. Can you successfully complete pull-ups maintaining a good technique throughout? If the answer is no, the next section will consider how you can build up to a full pull-up.

In order to successfully complete a bodyweight pull-up – whether it be a wide, overhand grip or narrow, underhand grip – you require adequate strength in the active target muscles. Any exercises that target the back and arm region (respectively) should allow you to develop the necessary strength to be able to do this.

In addition to these independent exercises, there are a couple of options that allow you to stick with the pull-up exercise but simply make it easier, until you possess the necessary strength levels to complete it independently:

Weight Assisted Pull-Up Machine

This piece of equipment is now commonly available in most gyms, so look around or ask a member of staff whether this equipment is available to you.

These machines allow you to perform the required pull-up techniques while only demanding a percentage of your actual bodyweight to be moved. The machine moves the remaining bodyweight for you.

Over a period of time this assistance can be gradually diminished until the requirement for the machine becomes redundant.

Find Yourself A Spotter

The second option relies on your ability to locate a gym buddy. The majority of individuals that struggle with bodyweight pull-ups will notice that a little assistance during the sticking phases of the exercise will go a long way.

Ultimately, this allows you to complete the desired upward phase of the exercise. The use of a spotter, positioned directly behind you and ready to offer support at your knees and/or torso when required, can act as a safety net until you develop the necessary strength to complete the action independently.

Final Word

Throughout this article, consideration has been given to two commonly utilised exercise variations: the wide, overhand grip and narrow, underhand grip pull-ups.

It was also noted that a significant proportion of the adult population struggle to complete a single repetition on each of these pull-up variations. For that reason we have chosen to include several methods by which to develop the necessary strength levels required to do so in the future.

Remember, everything in relation to the gym environment is a never ever journey; you will always be striving to do more in any given exercise. If at this stage of your heath and fitness journey you cannot complete a pull-up then don’t become disheartened, simply keep striving forwards until you reach the desired outcome.

Ultimately, the pull-up exercise is one that has the potential to deliver huge strength and size gains throughout the major muscles of the upper body. It is for that reason that each and every one of us should put the above into practice and start to reap the rewards on offer.