Change up your workouts with these variations of the staple pullup exercise in order to see great growth and gains for your bodybuilding goals.
Pullups are an effective and timeless workout that challenge your upper body for sheer strength. While they can be awfully boring and repetitive, the benefits of pullups far exceed the monotony involved with doing them.
While its rival in the chin-up may be slightly easier, its important to not shy away from pull ups simply because its more difficult. With a variety to choose from for pull ups, pull ups can be fun and inventive in your pursuit to get big. As an exercise to really see great growth and gains in the upper body and back, pull ups are important to add into your routine for maximum benefits and ultimate functional performance.
Pull ups are a compound exercise putting them in the same family as the deadlift, squat, and bench press. A compound exercise is one that involves multi-joint movements and works several muscle groups at one time. It may be hard to get this as a compound exercise, for it looks as though you simply pull yourself off the ground by holding a bar, but the power required of your body far exceeds what it looks like.
Pull ups may not target your lower body, but a quality pull up bar will help your upper body achieve serious results in a short period of time. Every muscle gets worked, including the lats, biceps, pecs, deltoids, triceps, forearms, and traps for that all-in-one targeting session to keep you looking and feeling great with your muscles.
Benefits Of Pull Ups
The benefits of pull ups should be an instant cue to implement these into your workout if you do not do so already. Pull ups are great strength builders for the entire upper body workout they provide is sure to keep you feeling big. But the functional strength is also something beneficial for all.
Everyday movements like walking, pushing, pulling, and turning can improve and you will build a solid relationship between your nervous and muscular systems. By increasing your back and core strength, better posture will become apparent and as a result you will look leaner and longer.
Pull ups will provide that boost to improve your physique and get that V-shape upper body everyone strives towards. Plus, you look great in the gym when you can push out non-stop reps on the bar for any number of sets.
Importance Of Pullups & Their Variations
Doing your standard pull ups are obviously beneficial for your overall strength but the boredom may be enough to stop you from sticking with a solid pull ups routine. A boring routine can be tough to struggle through and when it comes to your workouts it is important to have fun.
This will keep you engaged and seeing great growth instead of suffering through the monotony of a training. Changing the grip and trying different variations is a great way to keep you mentally checked in with the exercise to keep having fun and striving towards those gains.
Since pull ups are such a versatile exercise for your arms, it can affect your body differently with a simple grip change. Versatility allows for easy changes to be made to form and technique for a wide variety of exercises with a pull up bar.
The benefit is that you not only work different muscles, but you can do these everyday because you aren’t working the same muscle every time. This also plays into the versatility of the exercise which allows many muscle to be worked at once. Adding in the legs, either by raising them or extending them, gets the core fired up and offers the chance for that six-pack to join your much-desired V-shape.
These variations are great to try for the added benefit of diversity and function. It is important to make and keep solid form so as to reduce the risk of injury to your arms as a result of the repeated strain of pull ups and the progression of difficulty to perform many pull ups (1).
The Commando pull ups are one to increase lateral instability, putting stress on your core to make up for it. Aside from boosting your core strength, it will also widen out your lats and give you those bat-like wings you want from a pull up bar and that position.
How to: Start sideways to the pull ups bar and grab it with one hand in front of the other. With a tight core, pull up towards the bar and shift your head to either side to not hit the bar. Lower back down and alternate sides with your head every other rep for optimal position to perform with great form using your biceps to also challenge your chest.
L-sit pull ups can be challenging and involves bringing your legs into the mix. It is an excellent variation for core strength, as well as hamstring and hip flexibility. It will provide greater time under tension to develop muscle growth which adds solid resistance to the training to get great growth from a pull up bar and that position for however many reps to get your arms and chest fired up depending on your level of your bodyweight workouts, whether high level or intermediate.
How to: Grab the bar at about shoulder-width apart with your hands and bring your legs up so they are parallel to the ground. While keeping your legs straight out and your core tight, pull up toward the bar. Lower back down and repeat for desired number of reps.
Wide-grip pull ups will help cover your whole back since the distance to the bar is shorter than a normal or close-grip pullup. Unlike the close-grip, the wide-grip will not use the chest and bicep as much, thus relying more on the back to give you that stellar and strong back from a wide grip pull. You can even do a behind the neck pull with a pull up bar for a number of exercises.
How to: Grab the bar making a Y-shape with your hands and arms from your torso. Each arm should be somewhere from 30 to 45 degrees from the body. Proceed like a regular pullup by pulling yourself up and gently lower back to the starting position.
Around-the-World is an advanced variation of classic pull ups, but one with extreme strength benefits. It focuses the stress on individual arms and boosts time under tension. Although difficult, it is a fun variation and you look good doing it. Although challenging, it will allow for serious growth and is one of a few advanced pull up variations. The around the world pull works to enhance grip strength and the upper back and other back muscles depending on the exercises you use and do despite the difficulty or weight.
How to: Grab the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart. Instead of pulling straight up, go in a counter-clockwise direction, pulling yourself partly to the right side and continuing with the bar in front of you. Repeat the same process, however, change to a clockwise direction and add or subtract difficulty or weight.
Weighted pull ups are a great challenge to add more weight than just your body. A heavier, lower-rep set activates different muscle fibers and increases your ability for greater strength and size, as well as grip strength from a pull up grip to enhance upper body strength as well. You can use a neutral grip or an overhand grip, as well as regular pull ups and a mixed grip as opposed to a regular pull up.
How to: You can use a weighted vest or take a weight belt with chains to hang plates on. If you don’t have these, put one foot through a kettlebell or hold a dumbbell between crisscrossed legs. With a tight core and your desired grip, complete a normal pullup and gently lower down and remove the weight.
- Close-grip Pull Ups
- Archer Pull Ups
- Muscle Up
- Towel Grip Pull Ups
- Mixed Grip Pull Ups
- Single Arm Pull Ups
- Behind the Neck
Pull ups are an essential exercise to have in your training regiment. Although they can be terribly boring, these variations should at least change things up and provide for a fun twist on this staple exercise. The benefits are great and improving functional strength as well as stability is just as important for in the gym as it is out of it.
By incorporating different variations, you allow your body to work different muscles without extra strain and you will surely have those big gains. Pull ups are key to a stellar physique so put these in your workouts and get those big gains and increased range of motion come to life.
*Images courtesy of Envato
- Prinold, Joe A.I.; Bull, Anthony M.J. (2016). “Scapula kinematics of pull-up techniques: Avoiding impingement risk with training changes”. (source)