Neutral Grip Pull Up Exercise Guide — How to, Benefits, & Alternatives

neutral grip pull up

A neutral grip eases tension on the wrist and shoulders during the pull up. 

Your grip position is crucial in bodybuilding, lifting, and overall fitness. A minor adjustment in grip can significantly alter the muscles engaged during the same exercise. For example, a pull up with an overhand grip primarily activates the lat muscles, whereas switching to an underhand grip shifts the focus to the biceps.

Among the numerous pull up variations, each targeting different upper body muscles, the neutral grip pull up stands out for its effectiveness and accessibility (1). This piece delves into the neutral grip pull up, shedding light on its advantages and the specific upper body muscles it engages. It includes a detailed, step-by-step guide on executing this exercise with proper form. We also present alternative exercises targeting similar muscle groups, ensuring variety in your routine to maximize your workout benefits.

Techniques & Muscles Worked

The neutral grip pull up is an upper body strengthening exercise that works your biceps, traps, rhomboids, and lats. It places a particular emphasis on the forearms because of the grip method. The posterior delts, glutes, pecs, obliques, and abs, act as stabilizers during this exercise.

The equipment used to perform this exercise is a parallel pull up bar. Using a neutral grip places ease on the wrists, shoulders, and elbows, which reduces strain. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to perform the neutral grip pull up correctly.

  1. Extend your arms and hop directly to the parallel pull up bar just above you with your palms facing each other (neutral grip). 
  2. Keep your head up, fold your knees to an almost 90-degree angle, and brace your core. This is your starting position.
  3. Exhale and begin this exercise by pulling your shoulders down, flexing your elbows, and pulling your chest up to the height of the bar.
  4. Pause for about a second, inhale, and slowly lower your body back to the starting position for one rep.
  5. While maintaining this proper form, repeat for as many reps as you desire.


The neutral grip pull up is an effective bodyweight compound exercise that builds upper body muscles while maintaining balance. Proper form is essential when performing this exercise, and it has several benefits.

Increased Upper Body Strength

This exercise works on the biceps and back muscles like the rhomboid and lats. Apart from strengthening these upper body muscles, it also emphasizes the forearms. Regularly doing the neutral grip pull up strengthens these muscles and increases your overall upper body strength.

Easy on the Shoulders, Elbows, & Wrists

The neutral grip pull up places less tension on the shoulders, wrists, and elbows. This enables you to train the upper body muscles even when you have a shoulder or wrist injury. Also, due to the reduced stress, athletes can perform more reps for greater muscle gains. 

Improves Grip Strength

The neutral grip employed in the exercise focuses on building stronger forearms and arm strength. This improves and strengthens your grip. A stronger grip will improve your form for exercises like rows and deadlifts.

Better Posture

The neutral grip pull up builds and strengthens your back muscles. These muscles help with posture, proper form, and support when lifting heavy weights. 

Core Muscle Activation

Core muscles, like the abs and obliques, act as stabilizing muscles during this exercise. These muscles help with balance and movement while preventing injuries from bad posture.

Increased Volume

The neutral grip pull up makes it easier for athletes to perform more reps than they would with other pull up variations. The lower strain on the wrists and shoulders allows for increases in training volume, which leads to greater muscle growth, strength, and muscular endurance.


The neutral grip pull up is an excellent compound exercise for building your arms and back while strengthening your core. However, to avoid hitting a plateau, it’s essential to integrate other exercises to get the most out of your upper body. Studies show athletes benefit from adding similar exercises to their routine to maximize muscle hypertrophy (2). Below is a list of alternative exercises athletes can try for similar upper-body muscle gains.

Bent-Over Row 

Bent-over rows work on your arms, lats, posterior delts, rhomboids, and traps. This exercise can be done with free weights like dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, or resistance bands. It’s an excellent way to train for muscle mass and strength in your back and arms.

Neutral Grip Lat Pulldown

The neutral grip lat pulldown and neutral grip pull up target similar muscles. However, you perform this exercise with a machine. This causes more growth in your back muscles, arms, and forearms as the machine stabilizes the load and allows you to lift heavier. 

Dumbbell Pullover

This weighted exercise targets the back, arms, traps, chest, and delts. Using a neutral grip could also increase your range of motion. Additionally, it focuses more on arm and grip strength, like the neutral grip pull up. The equipment used for this exercise is dumbbells.


What do neutral grip pull-ups work on?

The neutral grip pull up works on your biceps, traps, rhomboids, lats, and back. During this exercise, your posterior delts, glutes, pecs, obliques, and abs stabilize muscles. This routine also emphasizes your forearms. 

What is a neutral grip good for?

The neutral grip is good for increasing grip strength. It also makes pulling easier during exercises because it places less tension on the wrists, shoulders, and elbows. Using a neutral grip also increases your range of motion when lifting or pulling, which is good for muscle growth.

Do neutral grip pull ups build forearms?

Yes, neutral grip pull ups build forearm muscles. This grip allows you to pull more volume with more reps because it places more tension on the forearms. The heavier load also leads to more muscle growth. 

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  1. Snarr, R. L., Hallmark, A. V., Casey, J. C., & Esco, M. R. (2017). Electromyographical Comparison of a Traditional, Suspension Device, and Towel Pull-Up. Journal of human kinetics, 58, 5–13.
  2. Krzysztofik, M., Wilk, M., Wojdała, G., & Gołaś, A. (2019). Maximizing Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review of Advanced Resistance Training Techniques and Methods. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(24), 4897.
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.