Wide-Grip Pull-Ups

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Wide-Grip Pull-Up Bodybuilding Exercise

Wide-grip pull-up is a compound bodybuilding exercise considered by many experts as the king of back exercise. It has been proven over decades to be an exercise that is great for adding mass to the back. This is definitely the best possible exercise for developing the width of the back. That is because the pull-ups primarily use shoulder adduction and therefore tend to work the outer lats, generating width across the back. Bodybuilders of all levels make them the mainstay of their back routines. They give the individual that great V-shape.

One of the most effective strength builders for the back, this challenging exercise is ideal in training for sports that involve gripping and grappling. Beginners will have a very hard time with the pull-ups, because it is just your entire body weight being moved by your arms and back, and you probably aren’t strong enough to really perform well at pull-ups yet. Being able to do just a few is usually seen as a sign of above-average strength. When starting up, begin with the assisted version to build strength and promote muscular development (perform other much easier exercises that build all the necessary muscle groups that are used during pull-up).

Perfect Wide-Grip Pull-Up Technique

STARTING POSITION (SETUP): Grasp a pull-up bar with a grip slightly wider than shoulder width, with your hands facing away from you (overhand grip). Begin by hanging straight down to the floor with your arms extended. Let your legs hang straight or you can bent them at the knees with your feet crossed at the ankle.

Wide-Grip Pull-Ups

Wide-Grip Pull-Ups

MOVEMENT (ACTION): Use your back muscles and bend your elbows to pull the upper part of your chest up to the level of the bar (your chin is over the bar) and at the same time arch your torso slightly backwards. In other words, you have to pull yourself up by squeezing your shoulder blades together and contracting your lats until your chin passes the bar. Slowly lower yourself to the start position without allowing your body to sway.

What Muscles Do Pull-Ups Work?

This is an excellent (although very demanding) exercise that targets the overall back muscles (latissimus dorsi in particular), as well as the biceps, a part of the triceps, and the forearms.

  • MAIN MUSCLES: latissimus dorsi, biceps (short head), teres major
  • SECONDARY MUSCLES: pectoralis major (lower and outside), triceps (long head), teres minor, rhomboids, brachioradialis, biceps (long head), deltoid (front and rear)
  • ANTAGONISTS: deltoid, pectoralis major (upper), triceps
Wide Grip Pull-Up Exercise

Wide Grip Pull-Up Exercise

Pull-Up Variations and Substitutes (Alternative Exercises)

Wide-grip pull-ups are the most common and help the V-taper the most, however you should experiment with other grips to stress your muscles in different ways.

  • Wide-grip pull-ups. Grab the bar overhand with your hands outside shoulder width.
  • Neutral grip pull-ups. If your gym has parallel-grip chinning handles, grab those and execute a pull-up. If it doesn’t, take a triangle handle from the rowing or pulldown station and put it over the chinning bar.
  • Behind the head pull-ups. Do this exercise behind the head. As you lift yourself up, lean forward slightly so that the back of your neck touches the bar at the top.
  • Weighted pull-ups. When you can complete the required repetitions in a set using your body weight, you need to add weight to make the exercise more challenging. Otherwise, the pull-up becomes like the push-up: at a certain point, you shift from building strength to building endurance. If you need to use more weight than take a chin-dip belt (which looks like a regular weight belt but has a chain in front to which you attach weight plates or a dumbbell), or hold a dumbbell between your feet.
  • Chins-ups. Grab the bar with an underhand grip that’s shoulder width or just a bit narrower, then hang and pull as for a pull-up.
  • Wide-grip lat pull-down
  • Machine lat pull-down
  • Assisted pull-ups
  • Vertical traction machine

Advanced Tip

  • Advanced athletes who are able to do many repetitions can hang a weight from a belt, but it is more advisable to do the exercise slower and increase the number of repetitions because too heavy a load could injure the joints, triceps, or even the spine.
  • To better develop your back muscles we advise you to place your hands well outside your shoulders, putting your biceps in a still-weaker position and further increasing the demand on your lats as you pull yourself up.
  • Common mistakes: doing the exercise too fast, incomplete movement, swinging the body, bending the torso and bringing the elbows forward to get help from the chest muscles, bending the knees to gain momentum, too wide a grip and extending the arms fully at the end of the downward movement.
  • Don’t bounce or jerk. Keep your knees pointing toward the floor throughout the movement.

The Difference Between Pull-Ups and Chin-Ups

When we say pull-up we mean an exercise in which your palms are turned away from the body, in an overhand grip; and when we say chin-up, we mean your palms are turned toward your body, in an underhand grip. The chin-up is much easier for most bodybuilders since it puts the biceps into a stronger position. Also, because of the difference in arm position, the lower-lat and lower-trap muscles work harder in the chin-up, while the rear (posterior) delts, middle traps, and upper lats work harder in the pull-up.

Closing Thoughts

Everyone agrees that pulling your body weight over a bar from a dead hang is a great way to develop upper-body strength and muscle mass. It is also a good way to broaden the middle back (although results will always depend on your individual physical characteristics). Every muscle from your fingers to your gluteals must get involved. The only problem with the pull-up (chin-up) is that so few guys can do it right.

The rise of the lat pulldown as the most popular vertical-pull exercise may imply that even dedicated exercisers have given up on the pull-up and chin-up since they have other, easier ways to develop their lat muscles. But the lat pulldown is not the equivalent of the pull-up or chin-up. It locks your lower body into place so all you have to do is pull with the muscles of your shoulder girdle. On a pull-up or chin-up, your abdominals have to contract to keep your body moving along an efficient path and so on.

Pull-ups are very difficult for many people, particularly those who are heavy. In fact, you may not be able to do a single pull-up at first. If so, skip this exercise and try some other great middle back exercises until you build your strength with other exercises, and then try it again.

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