Grip variations in pull ups is a usual topic of conversation when people are just starting out with CFSL.  I thought it might be nice to review the different grips, width of grip, and why we do or don’t use them.

First, let’s start with the way your hands are on the bar, the actual grip you have on the bar.   Both hands, palms facing away from your face is a standard pull up grip.   This grip has the most carry over to other exercises at CFSL, so we encourage everyone to master this grip.  Both hands, palms facing toward your face is what most people call a chin up.  It is typically easier for most people to get over the bar using this grip because it utilizes your biceps more.  This doesn’t have much carry over to other exercises, but it is another way to train your pull and upper back.  We use this grip more in strength class.  A lot of people find this really uncomfortable on their wrists, so we just recommend going to neutral grip to avoid injury.   Neutral grip requires a bar that sticks out so that your palms can face each other inward.  This are also a great way to train your pull and upper back in another position.  Mostly, we use neutral grip pull ups for returning to pull ups after a shoulder injury.  The shoulder is in a less vulnerable position with the neutral grip.  You are welcome to ask for these bars if you are experiencing pain in a pull up grip, just be aware all pull ups are strict on these bars.   Alternating grip is when one hand is forward and one hand is facing you, we never do this grip because of the havoc it wreaks on the shoulder with the palm facing forward.

Next, let’s go into how your fingers are on the bar.

img_2414img_2413To wrap the thumb or not to wrap, that is the question. Wrapping the thumb increases grip strength/endurance, increases tension through arm which helps shoulder stability, increases safety.  So, the answer is to wrap the thumb.  For a lot of us, this isn’t comfortable on the thumb.  It can be learned, though. Gently train your hands to wrap around the bar and hook onto your fingers.  You can do this by working on just hanging from the bar or gentle kips with this grip.  Gradually work up to tolerating the position.


img_2412img_2411Now that you’ve wrapped your thumb around the bar, let’s position your wrists.  The first picture the wrist is straight down and the second picture the wrist is slightly bent.  The second picture gives you more strength/control on the bar and will help with positioning at the top.  This is particularly true with chest to bar pull ups.



Lastly, width of the grip.  I don’t have any pretty pictures, but the bottom line is your hand should only be slightly outside your shoulder width.  If you put your arms straight up, this would be slightly outside of your shoulders.  Any wider and you are putting your shoulders into a more vulnerable position.   I KNOW it feels easier or more comfortable, but I assure you it isn’t in your best long term health interests.

Let me know if you found this informative.


1 Comment

Matej · June 11, 2020 at 11:20 am

A nice article! Thank you. Very well written

Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published.