The posterior chain is the longest link of muscles within the human body. Try and take a minute and imagine how your calves, hamstrings, glutes, lower, mid and upper back all link into one another. This chain is capable of producing huge amounts of force and dispersing the workload, in order to make exercises more achievable. However, weak links and an inability to control certain muscle groups can have a massive impact on performance.

Pull Ups DaveOne of the main muscles involved are the Latissimus Dorsi, your “wings”! Whilst they play an important role in the posterior chain, they are also highly involved with multiple movements. They helps pull the arm towards the body (adduction), pull the arm backwards (shoulder extension) and internally rotate the shoulder. In addition to this, they assists with scapula movements, especially pulling the arms back down towards the body. This is arguably most evident when performing a pull up.


Pull Up, Chin Up, Aren’t They The Same?

Before we get into the main argument towards which is best and why, I think it’s important to go over some terminology to make this easier!

  • Supinated Grip – An underhand grip, a chin up uses a supinated grip
  • Pronated Grip – An overhand grip, used in a pull up.
  • Alternate Grip – One overhand, one underhand grip.

Essentially, all three accomplish the same thing; a vertical pull. Because you’re holding the bar, you are pulling the body vertically.


How They Affect The Muscles

Different grips will affect which muscles are most dominant in the movement and the overall contribution each makes.

Supinated / Underhand / Chin Up

If you go with a bro science description, “chin ups give you bigger biceps”. In fairness, this isn’t far wrong! A supinated grip increases muscle activation in the biceps and the pecs. So yes, if you are looking for bigger arms, go for chin ups.

Pronated / Overhand / Pull Up

Multiple studies have shown that using an overhand grip significantly increases recruitment of the Lats. In terms of practical application of spot, I’m afraid to say the lats play a much larger role than the biceps! So overhand is most likely your best bet!


Grip Width

Surprisingly, research suggests that going wider on your pull ups DOES NOT increase muscle activity in the Lats. Meaning going wide won’t actually help grow your wings!

It’s also important to note that a wide hand grips, along with behind the neck pull ups have been linked to shoulder impingement and injury. So be aware of your mobility and movement patterns before jumping in for your next set of super side pull ups.


Final Note

Overall, this has been a very brief guide to building your back! For a “manly” approach to training pull ups, try this article. Why not give the routine a go and see what how you feel? The next time you’re walking through Richmond Park and spot one of their outdoor gym ares, have a play around with your grip and see if you notice the difference.