Neutral Grip Pull-Ups
When it comes to pull-ups you'll generally see quite a few guys in the gym performing the wide grip pull-up as well as the close grip palms facing variation (technically a chin-up).
You don't see or hear a great deal about neutral grip pull-ups. Is this because neutral grip pull-ups aren't particularly affective?
Far from it.
There are a nunber of great exercises out there that provide so many benefits, yet very few people perform them these days.
The donkey calf raise is one and the neutral grip pull-up is another...
If you want to build a big beefy back I highly recommend incorporating a few sets of the neutral grip pull-up in your routine.
Targets: Back & Biceps
Required: Parallel Pull-Up Bar
Optional: Weight Belt
Benefits Of Neutral Grip Pull-Ups
Easy On The Deltoids
Speaking from my own experience when I've had shoulder pain or a rotator cuff impingement in the past I haven't been able to perform regular overhead grip pull-ups, it's placed far too much stress and strain on my shoulders, I have however been able to smash out set after set of netural grip pull-ups without an issue.
By utilizing a shoulder-width grip with your palms facing towards each other you'll take a large amount of load off your shoulders while still being able to smash your lats.
Builds Big Forearms
If you want to build both size and strength in your forearms forget the reverse barbell curl and other isolation oriented forearm exercises - hit some neutral grip pull-ups and watch your forearms blow up. Once you're able to smash out 10 bodyweight reps it's time to add either a weight belt or a vest and continuing to apply progressive overload.
A Good Variation For Pull-Up Progression
In terms of pull-up variations for building up your back the wide grip pull-up always has been and always will be king. That said, it's damn hard to go from an assisted pull-up (be it using an assisted pull-up machine or utilizing a resistance band) straight into reps of the bodyweight wide grip pull-up, that's where the neutral grip bodyweight pull-up comes in... most guys will find the neutral grip pull-up significantly easier to perform than the wide grip variation.
This makes the neutral grip pull-up a great variation to get you off the assisted variations while progressing to the wide grip pull-up.
How To Perform Neutral Grip Pull-Ups
With Arms fully extended and shoulder-width apart grasp your parallel pull-up bar handles (with palms facing towards each other) and assume a dead hang position.
Tilt your head to look slightly upward and maintain a small arch in your back, this will create the slight angle you'll maintain in your torso for the duration of the set.
Drive your arms down and back, pulling through your lats until your chin clears the bar.
If you're able to I recommend pulling until your chest is at the height of the handles.
Slowly lower yourself back down to the dead hang starting position.
Pause for 1 second to avoid bringing any momentum into the following repetition.
Repeat for the desired number of repetitions with this full range of motion.
Don't Make These Mistakes When Performing Neutral Grip Pull-Ups
With exercises such as the squat it's quite obvious when a mistake is being made - your knees coming over your toes, your depth not quite being up to scratch... easily identifiable by yourself and others.
Unfortunately when it comes to pull-ups, that's not the case.
You may be pulling yourself up and clearing your chin over the pull-up bar, however that doesn't necessarily mean you're performing the pull-up correctly, minor adjustments in range, hand placement, tilt, elbow positioning and more separate a poor form pull-up from a picture perfect pull-up.
Kipping & Using Momentum
Kipping and swinging pull-ups are absolutely pointless.
You may be clearing your chin over the pull-up bar and technically be 'performing the exercise' however, you'll never reap any of the benefits of the exercise as you're relying on momentum to move your body from a dead hang to your chin clearing the pull-up bar.
Both strength and size cannot be built when kipping and using momentum to rep out your pull-ups.
Strength and size are a result of progressive overload, and progressive overload is only possible via constantly increasing the tension placed on your muscles (by adding reps to your bodyweight pull-ups, adding a weight belt with additional resistance etc).
Not Contracting The Back Muscles
If you're pulling directly up you're pulling your body through your arms and you're not going to be able to contract your back muscles - rendering your pull-ups ineffective.
In order to ensure your squeezing your shoulder blades together your chest should be puffed forward and you should have a slight arch in your back - allowing you to pull back and down while squeezing your shoulder blades together.
Watch Ido Portal's demonstration video again above for a perfect example of this form being practised.
Utilizing A Partial ROM
A pull-up should start from a dead hang position. Your arms should be fully extended, no exceptions.
The pull-up ends when your shoulder blades are contracted and your chin clears the pull-up bar.
This is the absolute minimum range of motion you should be utilizing.
As your strength and mobility improves so should the height to which you're pulling yourself - aim to touch your upper chest on the pull-up bar.
Not only will you get more out of your pull-ups, but you're also ticking off one of the perquisite boxes to perform muscle-ups.