Pull ups are the bare basic bodyweight exercise. You grab a bar and pull yourself upwards towards the bar. It’s stupid simple and it’s a great way of building upper body strength. Once you get over the basic mechanics of the exercise, there’s a lot of variations you can try out to hit your muscles from different angles.
Judging by the number of variations and combinations you can do with the pull ups, you could argue that it’s the only upper body exercise you will ever need.
Pull Up Variations
1. Regular Grip Pull Ups
Regular pull ups are the ones you do with your arms shoulder width apart. They hit your lats, triceps, chest, core and biceps. They are the “basic bitch” of pull ups, boring but efficient.
2. Close Grip Pull Ups
Now we are getting somewhere, these pull ups are great for hitting the triceps. Place your arms next to each other as close as you can and start pulling. Add this to your triceps workout as a finishing move.
3. Wide Grip Pull Ups
The king of the cobra head back workouts, wide grip pull ups. They require a bit more strength since it puts the stress on the lats and the back rather than the arms. But look at it this way, once you start pumping double digit wide grip pull ups you will be a certified badass!
4. Dead Hang Pull Ups
This variation requires a bit of a grip strength and endurance. It’s basically a time under the tension thing, because after each rep you “rest” for a second from a hanging position before you perform the next rep.
They are great for upping your overall pull up game because you are strengthening the basic things required to be good at doing pull ups-grip, shoulders and arms.
5. Kipping Pull Ups/Butterfly Pull Ups
Eh… the infamous “CrossFit” pull up. Kipping is when you use momentum to bang out the last few reps of pull ups, well CrossFit made an entire exercise around those last few reps. The logic behind this abomination is that you are doing pull ups in a “chest to bar” manner in the fastest way possible.
After years of horrific CrossFit evolution, the kipping pull up became the monstrosity you see in the video above, known as the “butterfly pull up”. Let’s put it this way, if you are looking for a quick and easy way to destroy your shoulders, then start doing those cattle prod-ups until you tear every tendon in your shoulder socket.
6. Commando Pull Ups
Mastering the commando pull up does not require detailed knowledge of the 1985 Arnold Schwarzenegger action classic of the same name, but that doesn’t mean it’s not valuable knowledge. Commando pull ups are great for your shoulders, traps and core. Your hands are placed in a sort of muay thai clinch position facing each other as you pull yourself to the sides.
As you begin doing the exercise your body will naturally start to turn to the more dominant side, this is where your core strength comes in. You will have to keep your body in a neutral position while mid air, which requires a fairly strong core. If you want big and strong traps, incorporate the commando pull ups into your workout routine.
7. One Arm Pull Ups
There’s two ways to go about doing this, the easy way and the hard way. Let’s start with the easy variation, you will place your hand in a chin up position and grab a hold of your forearm with your other arm. In this variation you are still using both hands. One is grabbing the bar and the other is “climbing” your entire body upwards to the bar.
In the hard variation you have a pull up grip and the other hand is resting by your side. It requires some serious overall body and grip strength. You can work yourself up to this with resistance bands and weighted pull ups.
8. Pull Up Hangs
If you are absolute beginner that knows nothing about pull ups, chin ups and all that fancy lingo, do this. Grab a bar with a strong grip and hang there as long as you can. You will gradually build up your strength to doing pull ups. You can also add to this shoulder blade contraction as a form of a “pseudo” pull up, just to get a hang of the mechanics of the exercise.
9. Clapping Pull Ups
Once you master doing regular pull ups, this one of those fun variations you can try to mix things up. Pull yourself up as fast as possible and when you’re about to reach the top, release the bar do a quick clap and grab the bar again as you descend and begin to do another pull up.
It’s pretty damn intense and one that you can add other crazy sh*t to do. One clap not enough? Do a 360 degree spin, then a clap. Yes, while on the bar.
10. L-Sit Pull Ups
This again requires some serious core strength, but once you are able to do break out an entire set of these bad boys you will be a certified bad ass with a concrete stomach. Grab the bar with a regular or wide grip and raise your legs to a 90 degree angle. Now do a pull up. It’s very difficult but so is everything else in life…so, yeah.
11. Negative Pull Ups
If you are tired of doing regular pull ups, this will give you a good kick in the ass. Negative pull ups put the emphasis on the lowering part of the pull up as much as the pulling part. Your lowering part should twice as long as you’re pulling part of the exercise. This will give your muscles some extra tension that will translate into more gains.