Every exercise serves a distinct purpose.
Although exercise improves your overall fitness and health in general, each exercise targets a different part of the body and helps strengthen the muscles of that region.
One of the most common exercises that is a sure-shot part of every fitness enthusiast’s workout regime is the pull-up.
The pull-up has numerous variations and one popular form is the neutral grip pull-up.
Many people argue that neutral grip pull-ups are more effective and helpful, but the question is – are they really?
The neutral grip pull-up isn’t a popular exercise for nothing, after all. This blog post is all about neutral grip pull-ups and how they are different (or better) than regular pull-ups!
What Are Neutral Grip Pull-Ups?
To begin with, let’s first see what neutral grip pull-ups are.
They are a multi-joint bodyweight exercise, which, unlike regular pull-ups, is performed in a way that your palms are facing each other.
They involve the use of a specialized pull-up bar that has parallel handles protruding from the main bar.
Neutral-grip pull-ups help strengthen the biceps, upper back, and core. The neutral grip pull-ups also build up endurance for more challenging reps and workouts.
They’re a good place to start as people find neutral grip pull ups easier and less painful than the regular pull-up exercise.
Do They Work Better Than Normal Pull-Ups?
The answer to the question of whether the neutral grip pull-ups work better than the normal pull-ups lies in the muscles that each of the two exercises works on and how each of the two exercises differs in technique.
When you perform pull-ups, there’s a small gap between your shoulder blades and the humerus, which is the bone of your upper arm.
Between these two bones lies the rotator cuff tendons. When you do a pull-up, the rotator cuff tendons are pressed between the shoulder blade and humerus, owing to the small gap.
It may not cause any trouble immediately, but it can lead to muscular injury in the long run.
However, when you perform a neutral grip pull-up, the gap between the shoulder blade and humerus is significantly improved, and the stress on the rotator cutoff tendons is significantly reduced, and the risk of shoulder impingement decreases a great deal.
If you adjust the distance between the parallel handles during the neutral grip pull-ups, you’ll be surprised to see how comfortable this type of pull-up exercise feels on your shoulders and back.
A neutral grip pull-up exercise is definitely better than regular pull-ups, especially in terms of comfort and risk of injury.
If you’re someone who had been injured in the past, neutral grip pull-ups are one of the finest and safest exercises for you!
What Muscles Does a Neutral Grip Pull-Up Work?
Neutral grip pull-ups, like any other form of pull-up exercise, target the latissimus dorsi and back muscles along with the brachioradialis and brachialis muscles that are involved in the bending of the elbows.
The neutral grip pull-ups involve the use of the pulling action of the muscles.
Hence, it works the most versatile pulling muscles of your body – the latissimus dorsi, making them the primary muscles involved in a neutral grip pull-up exercise.
The lat muscles aren’t the only muscles that the neutral grip pull-ups work. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that your lats don’t work independently to complete the pulling movements.
Instead, they use a complete network of back muscles to ensure that you can complete the movement smoothly and swiftly, without putting any undue stress or tension on your shoulder blades.
Along with your lats, the neutral grip pull-ups also work your rhomboids, trapezius, teres major, and levator scapulae muscles that are present in the shoulders and back.
Despite the fact that pectoral muscles are pushing muscles, they, too, get involved in the neutral grip pull-ups.
They’re worked in the anatomical movement of the shoulder extension that occurs when you swing your upper arm downwards, towards your body.
The neutral grip pull-ups are a highly efficient form of exercise for strengthening the back, core, and biceps, and that is only because it works a large group of muscles.
Apart from the ones mentioned above, this exercise also brings in work the brachioradialis and brachialis muscles, arms muscles crossing the elbows, which make way for a powerful arm position during the neutral grip pull-up.
Your biceps also work efficiently to pull your body upwards to the pull-up bar, with your triceps playing a role in stabilizing the shoulder joints.
What Are Some Neutral Grip Pull-Up Alternatives?
As simple as they may sound, the neutral grip pull-ups aren’t easy to do, especially for someone who’s still a beginner or is combating a previous injury.
If you consider yourself an amateur, you may be interested in knowing some effective alternatives to the neutral grip pull-up exercise.
We’ve listed down some of the most promising alternatives that will provide more or less the same benefits and work on a similar set of muscles.
The inverted rows work on all the pull muscles that are involved in the neutral grip pull-ups, including the muscles of your back, biceps, and the stabilizer muscles surrounding the muscles worked.
Your core will be put to work too. This exercise is suitable for everyone, as it’s totally up to you to make it as easy or hard as you want.
Inverted rows involve the use of a barbell. Simply hold on to the bar such that your hands are shoulder-width apart and you’re holding the bar in an overhand grip/ your body should be positioned on the ground in a straight line.
Extend your arms fully towards the barbell and away from your chest. Once you’ve locked yourself in this position, flex your elbows to raise your chest towards the bar by retracting your scapular.
Lower your body back to the floor after staying in a raised position for a few seconds.
Wide Grip Lat Pull Down
Wide grip lat pull downs are ideal for people who are just beginning and are looking for ways to strengthen their lats before exposing themselves to more challenging exercises, like the neutral grip pull-ups. It requires a lat pull down machine.
Hold the bar of the machine with your hands placed at shoulder-width. Extend through your chest and pull the shoulders back.
Pull the bar down enough to bring it to the level of your chest. Hold the position for a few seconds and then return to the starting position.
This is a very simple alternative to the neutral grip pull up exercise that works your lats and helps you build the strength you’ll need further down the road.
If you’re up for a major challenge, the elbow push-ups are what you should try.
This exercise works on your core, shoulders, and lats, pretty much the same muscles that neutral grip pull-ups work.
What you need to keep in mind is – elbow push-ups are not meant for beginners. Try them only if you consider yourself to be on an advanced level.
Bring yourself in the plank position and place your elbows on the ground such that they’re about an inch ahead of your shoulders.
Simply push your body up such that you’re up on your extended arms. Lower yourself back onto your elbows. Maintain your body in a straight line and keep your core tight throughout.
Pull-up negatives are just like pull-ups, only done in reverse! It’s the best option if you’re struggling with performing the neutral grip pull-ups on your own.
Simply place a bench adjacent to your pull-up bar. Stand over the bench such that you’re positioned at the top of the bar.
Grip the bar and maintain an overhand grip. Your hands should be placed shoulder-width apart.
Position your upper part of the chest at the level of the bar, draw your scapular back and keep your lats contracted and lower yourself down.
Stay in this position with your arms fully extended for a few seconds and then let go of the bars. It’s that simple!
The neutral grip pull-up exercise is a great exercise to strengthen your upper body.
The best thing about the neutral grip pull-ups is that they’re much gentler on your shoulders as compared to the regular pull-ups, but equally efficient.
Now that’s something, isn’t it?