Close grip pull ups are one of the basic pull up variations. The close grip allows supporting muscles in your arms to better help in the pulling movement. This makes close grip pull ups a great bodyweight exercise for beginners and anyone looking to complete a lot of repetitions.

Close Grip Pull Ups

Close Grip Pull Ups - keep those hands together

How to do close grip pull ups

  1. Grip the bar with your hands together and palms facing forward. Your thumbs should touch.
  2. Without swinging or kicking, pull up until your chin is above the bar. Keep your legs and lower body vertical the entire time.
  3. Slowly lower yourself down until your arms are completely extended. Pause at the bottom for a moment before starting the next repetition.

See close grip pull ups in action

Find more pull up exercises at Workout Dojo’s channel on YouTube.

Muscles used in close grip pull ups

As with most pulling motion, the latissimus dorsi (‘lats’) and trapezius (‘traps’) muscles of your back do most of the heavy lifting.  The narrow grip of this exercise puts your biceps and forearm muscles in a good position to support the pulling. By keeping your lower body straight and vertical, you are also engaging your core muscles for stabilization.

Substitutions for close grip pull ups

While close grip pull ups are one of the easier types of pull up, it is still a difficult exercise. If you are having trouble finishing a workout, your can use these substitutions:

  • Close grip negatives: Hold yourself in the “up” position for as long as you can before slowly come back down.
  • Partner assisted: Have a workout buddy give you a boost to help you get over the bar.
  • Chair assisted: Place a chair in front of you. With a foot, push off of the chair to help get you up to the bar.
  • Close grip body rows: Hang down from a waist-height bar with a close grip. Extend your legs out, and keep your feet on the ground. Pull yourself up and try to touch your chest to your hands.

Looking for a greater challenge?

If you want to increase the difficulty of the close grip pull up, there are several options:

  • Dead hang: Pause for a full second between each repetition. This eliminates any momentum you have, forcing your muscles to do all the work.
  • Make them “L” pull ups: Hold your legs out straight and  parallel to the ground as you pull. This L hold really forces your abdominal and other core muscles to work, making the exercise more difficult.
  • Chest to bar: Pull with a bit of explosive power. Try to touch your chest to the bar with each repetition.
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