Pull-ups are a widely used exercise in the gym to develop back muscles. There are many people who do this exercise but don’t really understand the muscles involved in pull-ups depending on the grip and how you do it.
For this reason, in this article, we will talk about the muscles involved in pull-ups, how many types of grips there are, and the best tips on how to pull up correctly.
How to do pull-ups
We are going to give you the basic steps to learn how to pull up properly:
- Starting position: Stand under the bar and grab it firmly with your palms forward, slightly wider than your shoulders. Keep your arms fully extended.
- Adjust your grip: You can choose a wide or narrow grip, depending on your preference and the muscles you want to target. A wide grip engages the back muscles more, while a narrow grip engages the arm muscles more.
- Start of movement: Begin the movement by bending your elbows and lifting your body up, keeping your torso straight. Avoid swinging or using acceleration to get up. Focus on using muscle strength to get up.
- Pull up to your chin over the bar: Continue lifting until your chin is over the bar. Keep your elbows close to your body and keep your back straight. Don’t let your shoulders slouch forward.
- Descend under control: Slowly descend to the starting position, all the while maintaining control. Avoid dropping or releasing the barbell abruptly. This lowering phase is just as important as the lifting phase as it helps you build your muscles to their maximum length.
Muscles Involved in Pull-ups
While the most benefit is in the muscles responsible for pulling (the lats and biceps), you should also pay attention to the other muscles involved.
- Latissimus dorsi: The latissimus dorsi is one of the muscles most involved in pull-ups. Perform a traction movement, pulling up the upper half of the arm and lifting the body above the crossbar.
- Teres Major, Minor, and Infraspinatus: The latissimus dorsi cannot function on its own. To do this, you will need the help of the large round, small round, and infraspinatus muscles.
- Biceps: The biceps is another muscle involved in this exercise. He is responsible for the implementation of traction, and work with the back. The forearms are also involved.
- Trapezius: The trapezius muscles also play an important role in this exercise as they are responsible for supporting your body weight as you move up and down.
- Deltoweight: The deltoid muscles are more activated with an overhand grip. The percentage of activation depends on the type of grip used when pulling up.
- Pecs: The pecs are also slightly activated during pull-ups because it helps the lats when lifting.
Other: Pull-ups also engage core stabilizer muscles, such as the abdominals or erectors of the spine.
In pull-ups, there are 3 types of grip that will have a different activating effects on the muscles:
- Prone Grip: These types of pull-ups are performed with the palms facing out. Pull-ups involve the muscles of the back, especially the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and infraspinatus.
- Back grip: Here you have to turn your palms towards you. The back muscles work here, but they also engage the biceps, erectors of the spine, external obliques, and pectoralis major.
- Neutral grip: performed with the palms facing inward. Neutral pull-ups work in the same way as overhand and underhand grips but involve more of the pectoralis major.
Study of the muscles involved in pull-ups
Contrary to what many people think, a study published in 2017 that aimed to measure differences in muscle activation between pull-ups depending on the grip used (lying, supine, neutral) found that the four grips that activate our muscles lead to results. Although there are small differences, they are not significant.
Peak and mean activation of the muscles of the brachioradialis, biceps, middle deltoids, pectoralis major, lower trapezius, latissimus dorsi, and infraspinatus was the same across all pull-up grips. For more information Global Pediaa.
The single biggest difference is the trapezius medius, which is most activated on overhand pull-ups, while it is the least activated on neutral grip pull-ups.
So, apart from the mid-trapezoid where there are important differences, especially between the prone grip (the one that activates it the most) and the neutral grip (the one that activates it the least), in different pull-ups, the maximum and average muscle activation in the shoulder- hand-forearm it was similar when changing body movements upward, regardless of the orientation of the hands.
Thus, the typical assumption and common belief among fitness professionals that there are many differences in muscle activation depending on the grip strength we use when pulling up is refuted.
Tips for pulling up properly
Control your descent and go down well: One of the most common pull-up mistakes is to go down a bit, creating a kind of “trap” to do more reps. If you want to do a full rep, it’s best to go down until your elbows are fully extended. If you control your descent, you will also reduce the risk of injury and achieve better results.
Leave your ego at home and avoid the urge: When you’re doing pull-ups, it’s best to keep your ego away from the gym. Do the most rigorous rep possible, tensing mostly the aforementioned muscles, and avoiding leg swings or abs. Even if you do fewer reps, you will still do it well, leading to better results in the long run.
Do not shrug: If your shoulders or trapezius muscles hurt while doing this exercise, you are shrugging them too hard.
I hope that with this information you can learn more about the muscles involved in pull-ups and what differences exist depending on the grip used.