Doing Pull-Ups (or Chin-Ups) works your lats so it’s a great way to build a bigger and wider back.
There are various ways to grip the bar when performing a pull-up or a chin-up.
- A pronated (overhand) grip where your palms point outwards so that they are facing away from you.
- A supinated (underhand) grip where your palms point inwards so that they are facing you. (Also known as chin-ups)
- Neutral Grip – A “semi-supinated” grip where your palms are facing each other.
There’s also the grip width:
- Wide grip where your hands grip the bar significantly wider than your shoulder width.
- Regular grip where your hands grip the bar only slightly wider than your shoulder width.
- Narrow grip where your hands grip the bar narrower than your shoulder width.
So, with all the combinations, you can do a pull-up (or a chin-up) in 9 different ways. That’s a lot of options.
Pull-ups are extremely challenging so you don’t want to waste your precious efforts with an inferior combination.
Which combination gets you the most bang for your buck?
A narrow, neutral grip pull-up is the correct answer.
Wide grip pull-ups are falsely believed to help build a wider back. It’s plain logic. It’s believed that the wider you grip the bar, the wider parts of your back muscles will be activated.
In my early career, I experimented with various types of grips, and I found that using a closer grip with the hands either parallel (facing each other) or fully supinated (underhand) actually provided the best contraction and most complete range of motion for the lats. Throughout my Mr. Olympia reign, I never did a single set of wide-grip chins or lat pulldowns.
A final reason to consider using a narrow grip beyond the issue of range of motion is the fact that it puts the biceps in a stronger position. Since the biceps are far smaller and weaker than the lats, putting them in a position where they are guaranteed to fail before the lats are properly stimulated, as in any wide-grip vertical pull, will cause you to shortchange your potential growth.
Dorian Yates also tweeted this:
Not one wide grip pull down was done in building this. You gotta pull narrow pic.twitter.com/wP6lBkTNhO
— Dorian Yates (@Dorian_Yates) September 12, 2014
So, we learned that wide grip pulls don’t work your lats in full motion so they are not effective to build wider lats. Moreover, wide grip pulls put more stress on your biceps. Biceps are smaller muscles so they will give up before your lats. When your biceps give up you will end the exercise without fully training your lats.
Yates’ prefers to grip the bar with hands either parallel (facing each other) or fully supinated (underhand).
Note that Dorian Yates is mainly talking about pulldowns here. It’s easier to do pull downs with a fully supinated grip when you hold the bar with a narrow grip.
But what about pull-ups?
In my experience, doing close grip pull-ups with a fully supinated (underhand) grip is extremely taxing on my wrists.
Doing close grip pull-ups with a neutral grip (with hands parallel, facing each other) is a lot more comfortable.
Here’s how I grip the bar when doing pull-ups:
Doing lots of pull-ups is an essential component of my strength training routine. I only do narrow, neutral grip pull-ups and my back is lacking neither strength nor width:
For a wider and stronger back, do narrow, neutral grip pull-ups.