Pull Ups
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Pull Up Grip Width and Muscles Activation – A Scientific Approach

Pull ups are one of the most outstanding exercises that increases strength and muscle mass. And, for years, numerous studies have been done to identify how the muscles react during pull up exercises. In fact, several reviews that discuss the most suitable technique for pull-up have been published. Some of these techniques include the correct pull-up grip width, which is best for muscle activation.  

Does Pull up Grip Width Matters?

Whether you are doing your pull-up using a pull up bar from home or at a gym knowing how pull-up grip widths influence your strength and muscle mass does matter.

Moreover, scientific investigations revealed that pull up grip width does affect the activity of selected muscles. However, according to the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research electromyographic (EMG) study, muscle activity is almost the same in the lats and arms flexors in both wide and narrow pull up grip widths.

Which Pull Up Grip Width is Stronger, a Wide or Narrow?

Although wide grips are common in pull up competitions, top performers still use both wide and narrow grip positions. But, results from studies in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, revealed that in the latissimus dorsi (lat) pull-down, some participants were just a little bit weaker using a wide grip compared to those who used a narrow grip.

This could mean that the strength of both grips does not really have a big difference.

In the same EMG study, mentioned above, muscle activity was compared using the same participants in the wide and narrow grip styles of the lat pulldown.

The study found out that if one grip width was easier than the other, there should be lower EMG values for the lats and arm flexors since they would contract less, but that was not the case.

In another study conducted by Sperandei et al. a standardised pull-up grip width was used to compare the wide grip lat pull-downs with the front and behind neck and higher latissimus dorsi (lat).

The study found out that posterior muscle activity was identified during the front lat pull-downs compared to behind the neck.

So, it is all about personal taste when trying to find the right pull up grip width for strength. It is best to experience both wide and narrow grip widths to find out what suits your body.

Is it Better to Use a Wide or Narrow Grip to Build Muscles?

When it comes to arm flexors, lat pull-downs that have a grip that is wider than shoulder-width is just as effective in promoting muscle growth, according to the Asian J. Sports Med. It is therefore expected that a narrow grip will result in similar arm growth.

For lats, there are no scientific studies that examine the growth of muscles from different pull-up widths. However, since the strength and muscle activity of both wide and narrow pull up grips is nearly equal, it is unlikely that there is a major difference between the two techniques.

It might become challenging though if an extremely wide grip is used that will reduce the motion of the lat grip. The recommendation is for you to use a pull-up grip width that is within a normal range.

Key Takeaways

Studies have shown that there is not much of a difference when it comes to pull-up grip width. But understanding the difference in pull up grip widths will help with the strengthening of your muscles.

While both pull up grip techniques may be close, it’s best to choose a grip width within a normal range.

Finally, it is all about personal taste and preference.

Adnan Munye

A certified personal trainer, Adnan specialises in weight loss, muscle building, body conditioning, core strengthening and injury rehabilitation. Adnan comes from a sporting background, where he has played football, badminton, rugby, and swimming all at various levels.

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