“This vertical pulling movement can prepare the body for real- life, outside-the-gym scenarios,” says Angelo Grinceri, a New York City-based trainer and the author of Intrinsic Strength Training: A Breakthrough Program for Real-World Functional Strength and True Athletic Power (Dragon Door Publications, 2016). Think climbing a tree or pulling yourself over a fence, if you happen to be on the run from the cops. It matters in more common situations, too—think anytime you have to pull something off a high shelf or toward you. “It’ll also strengthen your grip and your shoulders,” Grinceri adds. While it’s true that, no matter what grip you take, your lats are going to be taking on a fair portion of the load, placing your hands inside shoulder width on the bar, palms facing you, activates the biceps brachii to a significant degree. If you prefer to hit the brachialis, you can switch to a neutral grip, with palms facing each other—you can do this on a pullup apparatus designed for hammer grips or put a close-grip hammer-style V-handle over a standard bar.
HOW TO DO IT
Grasp an overhead bar with an underhand grip, hands spaced just a few inches apart. Hang freely with your arms fully extended and ankles crossed behind you.
Pull your body upward by flexing your biceps—with an assist from your lats—until your chin crosses the level of the bar. Lower yourself back to the full “dead hang” position (elbows fully extended) under control, then begin the next rep.
“As you pull up, ‘lead’ with your elbows, driving them down and back,” Grinceri says. “Throughout each rep, slow down and control your body—don’t settle for partial or momentum-driven reps. As you advance, consider trying the L-sit, where you lift your legs up to a position parallel to the floor and keep them there throughout the set. It engages the core and makes the movement a little more challenging.”
Finish a set of regular chins with two to three negatives, where you jump into the top position— elbows bent, chin over the bar—and then lower yourself as slowly as you can. You can use a flat bench to step up and get into the top position, or have a partner cradle your feet to assist you upward. (By the way, beginners who can’t do a regular pullup can start with just negatives, along with static holds at the top of the rep, which helps develop the strength to progress to the full exercise.)