Narrow Grip Pullups Exercise Guide — How to, Benefits, & Alternatives

narrow grip pull ups and chin ups
Image via website: A Lean Life

Narrow grip pull-ups activate the biceps more, taking the stress off the shoulders. 

The pull-up stands as a superb workout for enhancing upper body strength. Studies reveal its effectiveness in engaging various muscles across the back, chest, shoulders, core, and arms (1). Furthermore, narrow grip pull-ups offer a unique variation, distinctly activating muscles. This exercise guide will teach you the proper technique and benefits of narrow grip pullups. Additionally, explore other exercises like chin ups that target similar muscle groups while being gentle on the shoulders.

During pull-ups, many opt for a wide grip, focusing on the lats and traps. Yet, this approach is notorious for shoulder injuries due to the excessive stress it places on the shoulders. Additionally, wide grip pull-ups are intricate as they involve a mechanically disadvantageous posture.

Techniques & Muscles Worked

Narrow grip pullups work on your lats, traps, rhomboids, and biceps while engaging the abs, delts, and forearms. They recruit your biceps more than the wide grip variation. Narrow grip pullups are the variation to go to for more arm development.

While narrow grip pullups are easier than the wide grip option, it’s essential to do this bodyweight exercise in proper form. This will help you hit the right range of motion and maximize your gains. Below is a step-by-step guide you can follow. 

  1. Grab the pullup bar with an overhand grip at a distance less than shoulder-width. 
  2. Your body should hang down with extended arms and legs straight under you. This is your starting position.
  3. Engage your core, then squeeze your glutes and quads before exhaling.
  4. As you exhale, pull yourself up by driving your shoulder blades down and tucking in your elbows
  5. Pull yourself up till your chin passes the bar, and then pause.
  6. Inhale and slowly lower yourself to return to the starting position and complete the rep.
  7. Repeat for multiple reps. 


Narrow grip pullups are a great idea to increase your arm strength and muscle mass as they’re better for those who find the wide-grip variation uncomfortable at the shoulders (2). Below are more benefits of this exercise. 

Stronger Back

The narrow grip pullup engages your lats, rhomboids, traps, and erector spinae. Doing this routine strengthens these muscles and builds your back. A stronger back can help you prevent injuries during training. 

Greater Upper Body Strength

Your arms, forearms, shoulders, and upper body muscles all do some work during this routine. Over time, they’ll become stronger, allowing you to do even more pullups. The more you build these muscles, the greater your upper body strength.

More Shoulder-Friendly & Biceps Activation

Narrow grip pullups have a more shoulder-friendly position and activate the biceps more. This benefits those who cannot do the wide grip variation due to shoulder discomfort. It also reduces your risk of getting shoulder injuries if you use the proper form.

Improved Grip Strength

Due to the narrow grip on the bar, this exercise will improve your grip strength over time. It also focuses more on your forearm and arm muscles, improving grip. 

Better Posture

The narrow grip pullup works on multiple back muscles. It strengthens these muscles, which leads to a stronger back. A stronger back improves your posture and stops you from slouching. 

More Muscle Growth

Compared to the wide grip variation, narrow grip pullups have a more extended range of motion. That means when doing them, your muscles spend more time under tension. This study on the role of time under tension discovered that more time under tension leads to more muscle hypertrophy (3).

Carryover to Other Exercises

Narrow grip pullups work on your upper body, back, and arm strength. These play a key role when doing pull and pressing exercises. Routines like the deadlift, which also involves heavy lifting, will also see changes when you incorporate the narrow grip pullup to work on your upper body, back, and arm strength. 

Narrow Grip Pullups Alternatives

Consider adding the narrow grip pullup to your routine. You can also include these other alternatives for more variety. They focus on and build similar muscles.

Close Grip Lat Pulldowns

Close grip lat pulldowns also work on your back, arms, and shoulders. The greater range of motion due to the closer grip increases the recruitment of the muscles, leading to more growth. Close grip lat pulldowns allow you to lift more weight than the standard variation. 

Chin Ups

Chin ups also hit your arms, back, and shoulders. Chin ups recruit your arms more like narrow grip pullups. You can also use chin ups to increase your arm strength effectively. 

Inverted Rows

Inverted rows target the same muscles as pull-ups do. It works on your grip strength and is more beginner-friendly, just like the narrow grip pullup. Due to its less intense angle, you can use this routine as a progression for pull-ups. 


What are narrow grip pull-ups good for?

Narrow grip pull-ups are good for recruiting your arms and upper chest muscles more. They’re also better for those with shoulder injuries or less shoulder mobility.

Are wide or narrow pull-ups better?

For beginners, narrow pull-ups are the better option as they are easier. They also offer a longer range of motion. 

What muscles does the close grip pull-up work?

The close grip pull-up works on your back, arm, and shoulder muscles. It also recruits the muscles of your core for stability. For a more detailed breakdown, check the exercise guide above. 

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  1. Ronai, P., & Scibek, E. P. (2014). The pull-up. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 36(3), 88–90.
  2. Prinold, J. A., & Bull, A. M. (2016). Scapula kinematics of pull-up techniques: Avoiding impingement risk with training changes. Journal of science and medicine in sport, 19(8), 629–635.
  3. Mang, Z. A., Ducharme, J. B., Mermier, C., Kravitz, L., de Castro Magalhaes, F., & Amorim, F. (2022). Aerobic Adaptations to Resistance Training: The Role of Time under Tension. International journal of sports medicine, 43(10), 829–839.
Terry Ramos
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 ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and ISSA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He enjoys playing music, reading, and watching films when he's not writing or training.