Discover 12 of the best pull-up variations for muscle growth and how to do them correctly.
The pull-up is a close kinetic chain exercise, this means that the hands are fixed on a surface and the body moves. This bodyweight exercise is popular in calisthenics and fitness training and focuses on strengthening your lats, delts, trapezius, rhomboids, erector spinae, biceps and core. In other words, one of the best upper-body exercises you can do without the use of any equipment.
Research shows that these types of exercises are superior to open kinetic chain exercises. This is because they elicit a greater amount of motor unit recruitment, aka more muscle fibres. This in turn leads to greater strength development and more muscle mass.
So what are the best pull-up variations for muscle growth? Max Posternak shared his thoughts on the matter.
Max Posternak is the founder of Gravity Transformation, a website focused on giving tips and training guidance for people looking to improve their fitness and get stronger. His YouTube channel has over 4.8 million subscribers.
Related: Why Don’t You Have Strict Pull-Ups Yet (And How to Get Them)
Best Pull-Up Variations for Muscle Growth
1. TRX L Sit-Up
This is an advanced way to do pull-ups that will target your core more than your back muscles by keeping your legs in a seated position.
2. Weighted Wide Grip Pull-Up
You can add weight to any pull-up movement, but according to Pasternak, if you want to get “maximum development of your back, lats and biceps, by far one of the best things you can do is progressively up your weight with wide grip pull-ups.”
Do these early on the workout routine and try to reach around 6-8 reps minimum for maximum muscle growth.
3. Hockey Grip Pull-Up
The hockey grip movement is another one on this list of best pull-up variations for muscle growth. For this one, you will be standing sideways, along and directly underneath the pull-up bar. Grab the bar with one hand in front of the other, like you are holding a baseball bat and pull your body up by tucking your head to one side of the bar. Repeat tilting the head to the other side.
4. Double D Handle
This is similar to the previous exercise, but this time you will be using a double D handle. Place the handle over the top of the bar and keep shifting your head on one side alternating on each rep. Another similar variation, but utilising a rope instead of a D handle.
5. Around the World Pull-Up
Incorporate effective isometric contractions doing this variation. Instead of pulling yourself straight up, pull up to one side, then while holding yourself up, slide to the other side of the bar and then lower yourself down.
6. Regular Chin-Up
This is a great variation if you want to get bigger arms. That is because this variation will target your biceps more than your back.
7. Hammer Pull-Up
To move the most amount of weight, the hammer pull-up is your best bet due to the easiness of most people utilising a neutral grip. Grab the bar at shoulder-width and pull yourself up.
This is great if your wrists or shoulders are bothering you when doing other grip variations.
8. Negative Pull-Up
This is great to do more pull-ups but are struggling to do more than a few or even one. Choose any grip you want and practice the slowing down of the movement to teach your body the basics of the movement and get acquainted with the position.
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9. Cannon Ball Pull-Up
This will increase your grip strength and forearms.
10. Plyometric Pull-Up
The plyometric pull-up is an explosive variation of the normal pull-up in which you try to launch yourself towards the ceiling as your chin tries to clear the bar with speed.
11. Inverted Rows
A great alternative for beginners to build basic back strength.
12. Single-Arm Pull-Up
There are different ways to do the single-arm pull-up. In the video of best pull-up variations for muscle growth from Posternak, he talks about the one utilising the other hand for assistance by grabbing your own wrist. This version is most applicable for most people as pulling yourself with just one hand and no assistance is incredibly difficult for even advanced athletes.
How to Learn the One-Arm Pull-Up in 30 Days
If you have more questions regarding the best pull-up variations for muscle growth, check out Max Posternak’s video below.
VIDEO – Best Pull-Up Variations for Muscle Growth
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- chest to bar pull up: Photo courtesy of CrossFit Inc.