The difference between close and wide grip Pull-Ups

The pull-up is a fairly challenging exercise in which you are forced to lift your own body weight. The way you reach up and grab the bar will determine what muscles are used and how difficult the exercise will be for you. We suggest that you pick the version depending on what muscles you are trying to hit.

pull-ups, chin-ups

When performing the close grip pull-ups, reach up and grab the bar with your hand’s shoulder –width apart with your arms facing forward. If you are going for the wide grip, grip the bar so that your hands are some distance away from your shoulder width. This will mainly influence the way your shoulders move during the exercise
When doing the close grip pull up, your shoulders will extend so that your upper arms move behind you.

In contrast, when using the wide grip, your shoulders will extend in a way so that your upper arms move in front of the sides of your torso. Both of these extensions will mostly use the latissimus dorsi, the largest back muscle. This will be the most used muscle in both versions of this exercise. However, while doing the close grip version, your biceps brachii and pectoralis major will inevitably contribute. Because your hands are set closer, your elbows will be bent much more than with the wide grip version, so because of this, your biceps will be helping you out a lot more. The pectoralis major is mainly used to aid shoulder extension.

If your hands are in a close grip position, your shoulders and elbows are in a much more advantageous position. Holding the bar closely so that your biceps and pectoralis major are able to help you out means that you will be able to do more reps of close grip pull-ups than a wide grip. During the wide grip version, your back muscles will be left to lift up much more of your body weight. This is the main reason why the close grip version is more recommended for beginners.

Another pull-up version is to use the close grip but to place your palms so that they are facing you. While the latissimus dorsi still does the heavy lifting, this version more heavily involves the biceps brachii. This variation is called the chin-up. This version of the chin-up is an effective way for everyone interested in being able to perform a wide-grip pull-up.
There is also a wide grip chin-up version, and much like the other chin-up version, it is fairly easier than the wide grip pull-up.


A System Administrator holding several Microsoft and Citrix certificates, proud father of two beautiful girls, Calisthenics addict, author and founder of this site.

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