Close Grip Pull Ups Exercise Guide: How to, Benefits, and Variations

close grip pull ups
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Here’s how to do the close grip pull ups and why you should do them! 

Pull ups are one of the most strenuous exercises — they require brute upper body strength and the ability to fight against gravity to pull your entire weight up. But, of course, since they’re tough to do, they’re undoubtedly one of the best back exercises you can do. And one variation will elicit more muscle growth in your bicepsclose grip pull ups

As the name suggests, this movement is a pull up variation that requires a narrower grip than a standard pull up. This grip altercation gives you benefits that other bodyweight movements don’t. This article will cover everything you need to know about this exercise, including how to do them, the benefits, and some alternative exercises. 

Close Grip Pull Ups Technique and Muscles Worked 

Close grip pull ups are performed with a pronated grip with your hands narrower than shoulder width apart while gripping an overhead bar. This movement targets your back and biceps, but this exercise engages more of your biceps and inner lats than the standard pull ups. 

How to Do

  1. Grasp a pull up bar with an overhand grip with your hands about 6-8 inches apart and hang from the bar without letting your feet touch the ground (cross one ankle over the other to help with stability). 
  2. Pull your body weight up until your chin crosses the bar. 
  3. Lower yourself back to the starting position. 
  4. Repeat. 

*Tip: Don’t let your body swing! You should keep your body as stable as possible to fully engage your biceps and inner lat muscles. 

Benefits 

close grip pull ups

This back exercise has similar benefits to conventional pull ups but differs slightly. 

Lats Activation

This exercise extensively engage your lats like pull ups, but the close grip works more of your inner lat muscles. 

Biceps Engagment

Pull ups target your biceps too, but the close grip variation activates more of your biceps to perform the pulling movement (1).

Core Activation

This movement significantly activate your rectus abdominus (ab muscles). In fact, a 2018 study found that the rectus abdominus is the muscle most activated during a pull up (2). 

Other Muscles Worked

By shortening your grip to a narrower grip on pull ups, you get many other muscle groups involved, including your chest, triceps, rhomboids, forearms, and traps

Close Grip Pull Ups Variations 

Here are some alternatives that you can try. 

Pull Ups

Of course, first and foremost, you can opt for regular pull ups. This will allow you to use a wider grip and engage more of your outer lat muscles. This enhances your V-taper (shoulder-to-waist ratio) and widens your frame. 

Wide Grip Pull Ups

You can take it a step further than pull ups and widen your grip even more to do wide grip pull ups. This will take tension off your biceps but will engage more of your lats, further enhancing your V-taper. 

Towel Pull Ups 

As the name implies, towel pull ups are performed with a towel — the towel forces you to use a narrower grip. So this movement engages the same muscles as the close grip pull ups, but because your hands are in a neutral position (palms facing each other), you’ll activate more of your biceps. In addition, the towel pull ups will challenge your stability more. 

V-Bar Pull Ups

The V-bar pull ups are another variation with a more narrow grip. It’s similar to the towel pull ups — you’ll be using a neutral grip — however, it gives you more control and stability to engage your lats and biceps better. 

Back Anatomy

Your back is a unique and complex part of the anatomy. It consists of many multidirectional upper body muscles that all work together to give you mobility, balance, and stability. These back muscles also support your spine, keeping its natural curvature. This ensures that all your body weight is distributed evenly and not concentrated in one place only. 

It also helps with flexible movements, such as bending over or twisting from side to side. Building and toning your back muscles through exercise gives you more strength to perform everyday tasks while keeping yourself injury-free quickly. Most pulling movements, such as pull ups, will target your back and work your biceps as a secondary muscle group. 

FAQs

What do close grip pull ups work? 

Close grip pull ups are a close grip pull up variation that targets your back and biceps. The narrower grip engages more of your biceps and inner lats. 

Are close grip pull ups harder? 

Close grip pull ups are more complex than pull ups. This is because the narrower grip won’t allow you to do as many reps, making pulling your bodyweight more challenging. 

Are wide grip pull ups better than close grip? 

Wide grip pull ups aren’t necessarily better than close grip pull ups; it depends on your goal. If you want a wider back, wide grip pull-ups are the better choice. However, if you want to target your biceps and inner back muscles more, close grip pull ups are recommended. 

Why are wide grip pull ups easier? 

Wide grip pull ups are easier than close grip pull ups because if your grip is too narrow, it’ll be harder to pull your bodyweight up. 

More Exercise Guides

If you enjoyed the instructions and benefits for close grip pull ups, check out some of our other exercise guide articles:

Final Word

Close grip pull ups are an excellent back exercise. They’re a pull up variation that requires a closer grip, which targets your biceps and inner lat muscles more. They also engage your core and other muscles, including rhomboids and traps. This movement comes with various alternative exercises, the closest being the towel and V-bar pull ups. Try this movement on your next workout and see how it feels! 

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References 

  1. Andersen, V., Fimland, M. S., Wiik, E., Skoglund, A., & Saeterbakken, A. H. (2014). Effects of grip width on muscle strength and activation in the lat pull-down. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 28(4), 1135–1142. https://doi.org/10.1097/JSC.0000000000000232
  2. Jennifer K H, Daniel A J, Todd C. A Comparison of Muscle Activation during the Pull-up and Three Alternative Pulling Exercises. J Phy Fit Treatment & Sports. 2018; 5(4): 555669. DOI: 10.19080/JPFMTS.2018.05.555669
As a personal trainer and writer, Terry loves changing lives through coaching and the written word. Terry has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer. He enjoys playing music, reading, and watching films when he's not writing or training.