24 Different Types of Pull-ups You SHOULD And SHOULD NOT Do!
For all the types of pull ups out there, you only need 3 to build muscle and strength!
Some pull up variations are essential, some are fun, some are utterly useless and an absolute waste of your time!
In this article, we’ll discuss the:
- Different types of pull ups that are essential to building muscle and strength
- Types of pull-ups that are absolutely useless
- Pull-up variations that I personally use to build muscular size and strength
Essential Pull-Up Variations In Order Of Difficulty
The pull-up variations listed below are in order of their difficulty. If you cannot do your first pull-up, simply follow the exercises listed below step by step.
Australian pull-ups are the ground zero of your pull-up journey.
If you cannot perform a single pull-up this is the exercise for you.
They are done with your feet on the floor and your hands on a horizontal bar or gymnastics rings.
I highly recommend doing most of your pull-ups on gymnastics rings as rings facilitate a more natural movement of the body and wrists.
Australian pull-ups work similar muscle groups to pull-ups but are much easier to do.
This is because most of your bodyweight is supported by your feet.
The more vertical you are during this movement, the easier the exercise becomes.
The more horizontal you are during this movement, the harder it becomes.
It is possible to elevate your feet and make the exercise even harder to perform.
This advanced variation can and must be used for those of you doing bodyweight calisthenics.
Scapula pull-ups must be used in tandem with Australian pull-up if you are able to carry the weight of your body with your hands.
Scapula pull-ups don’t actually require you to do a full pull up, but they help build the lower traps.
In fact, scapula pull-ups can also be used as a warm-up to your pulling movements.
Doing scapula pull-ups with weight will bulletproof your shoulders.
They are done while hanging on a bar or rings and bringing your shoulders away from your ears.
Scapula pull-ups are important because they are the initial movement required to perform a proper pull-up.
Scapula pull-ups also allow you to get used to holding your bodyweight on the bar, a minimum requirement if you want to do full pull-ups.
As you get better with these, add reps or a light weight to a dipping belt.
Assisted pull-ups use an external support to perform a full pull-up.
These are done by placing your feet on a chair, on the ground or on resistance bands, in order to lift yourself up to the rings/bar.
Assisted pull-ups are different from Australian pull-ups in that it is a supported vertical pulling movement.
While Australian pull-ups are a horizontal pulling movement.
Assisted pull-ups are not my preferred way to achieving your first pull-up.
This is because it is hard for newbies to tell how much assistance they are using to get themselves up to the bar.
Of course if you are using bands then you know the load of the band, but bands provide the most assistance at the easiest portion of the pull-up while offering least assistance at the top.
Thus, using bands means you still have to provide more assistance than you need to get your chin to the top!
I prefer using negative pull-ups instead of assisted pull-ups as there is no way to cheat the movement.
So feel free to skip this step if you like (in fact I recommend that you skip this step and move onto negative pull-ups instead).
Pull-up negatives are extremely effective at building pull-up strength if you cannot do a pull-up.
Negative pull-ups allow you to build strength in the negative or lowering phase of the pull-up.
This is great because we are stronger during the negative portion of any exercise.
In fact as I’m writing this I’m thinking about experimenting with weighted negative pull-ups with a weight that I cannot pull myself up with!
Once you’re able to do about 10 pull-up negatives under good control, you’ll be more than ready to perform your first pull-up.
Another tip I like to give is to use an underhand grip and perform chin-up negatives instead.
This is because chin-ups are easier to do than pull-ups and also build your biceps better.
Chin-up negatives are the faster way to doing your first “pull-up”.
Chin-ups (Regular, narrow and wide)
I’ve said this in all my posts chin-ups are my favorite exercise.
Chin-ups are better than pull-ups, especially when you are doing them with weights.
Several studies have shown that chin-ups are better than bicep curls for the biceps, and ab wheel roll-outs for the abs!
Yes, chin-ups do build your abs too!
Chin-ups are also as good as pull-ups at building the lats.
Chin-ups are done with your hands facing toward you, keeping your palms in this position activates the biceps more than pull-ups.
This, saves you a lot of time from having to do bicep exercises afterward.
There are different types of chin-ups – close grip, narrow grip, wide grip.
Grip placement really doesn’t make too much of a difference, although I wouldn’t take a grip wider than shoulder width apart.
Just pick a grip width that suits you and go with it, you can’t go wrong with chin ups.
Pull-ups are next on the menu, they are done with your palms facing away from you and shoulder width apart.
Pull-ups involve less bicep activation and are thus harder to do than chin-ups.
There are different types of pull-up variations – close/narrow grip, wide grip and as well as arched back pull-ups.
Grip variations are self explanatory, while the sternal pull-up requires you to lift your chest up to the bar instead of just getting your chin over it.
A lot of people believe that a wide grip pull-up activates the lats a lot more than a regular grip pull-up, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
The wider grip shortens the range of motion that the lats travel through, thus making it an inferior lat builder.
Narrow grip pull-ups on the other hand take the lats through a longer range of motion while working the forearms as well.
But for almost everyone, the regular grip will work the best.
There is absolutely no need to use any fancy variations of this exercise because the basic version works best!
Weighted pull-ups can be done weighted as well, but I highly recommend doing weighted chin-ups instead.
Typewriter pull-ups on rings
Once you’ve “got the hang” of pull-ups (or chin-ups like I recommend), you can start training for the one arm pull-up.
For this you will need to start with some unilateral training (one hand work).
While the typewriter pull-up is technically not a unilateral movement, it does have the ability to place more stress on one limb over the other.
Typewriter pull-ups are better done on rings instead of a pull-up bar.
I much refer the chin-up version of this movement instead.
To perform typewriter pull-ups, pull your chest up to the rings and then straightened on arm out to the side at a time.
This will place more stress on one arm over the other and vice-versa.
Thus begins your one arm pull-up training. Typewriter pull-ups are a precursor to archer pull-ups.
Just like the typewriter pull-up, you will benefit more from the chin-up (palms facing you) version of this exercise instead.
Doing archer chin ups will get you closer to getting your one arm chin up than pull-ups ever will.
This is because the next transition to the one arm pull-up is the one arm chin up!
Archer chins are also better done on gymnastics rings.
The rings move according to your individual arm length at the top, thus making archer pull-ups more comfortable than when doing them on the bar.
Archer pull-ups are the first true unilateral version of the pull-up you can perform.
To do them, pull your chest up closer toward one hand, while keeping your other hand outstretched to the side.
This is an advanced variation of the pull-up and will lead to strong single arm pulling strength!
One arm pull-up
The rare one arm pull-up is a good ending point to strive for when doing bodyweight pull-ups.
If you are chasing this goal, you have either have to or already put in a lot of work into your pull ups.
One arm pull-ups are a tough unilateral pulling movement to perform and take a while to master.
But, the one arm chin-up will come a lot faster than the one arm pull-up.
That is why it is important to keep chin-up training your primary exercise when it comes to your pulling movements.
Doing a one arm pull/chin-up is pretty much self-explanatory, but beyond the scope of this article.
Just know that once you reach this level of calisthenics prowess, you will already have high levels of muscular and strength development.
Neutral grip pull-ups
Neutral grip pull-ups are an excellent pull-up variation that can be used to break up your chinning and pulling.
The neutral grip chin-up is a highly functional movement.
Try and notice how you lift things up in real life.
A heavy hammer for instance is always picked up with a neutral grip.
So this exercise carries over well to real world activities.
The neutral grip pull-up builds the brachialis and brachioradialis muscles of the arm.
Building the brachialis makes the lower part of your bicep pop, which looks great when you wear a t-shirt.
The brachioradialis on the other hand makes the forearms look bigger.
Look around you for people with big forearms. You’ll see that anyone who uses a hammer, axe or wrench has massive forearms.
This is because of the way these tools build not just the forearm, but make the lower portion of the biceps look big too!
Neutral grip pull-ups are my second favorite pull-up variation after chin-ups.
This is because neutral grip pull-ups will do more for your strength and physique than regular pull-ups will.
Get strong at them, you won’t regret it.
Weighted chins are my go-to back, biceps and abs exercise.
Weighted chins build tremendous real world strength, from your grip, to moving your entire body vertically though space.
Getting strong at weighted chins will carry over to your deadlifts as well!
I prefer the weighted chins over weighted pull-ups and I also use weighted neutral grip pull-ups every now and then!
French pull-ups are a decent pull-up variation for those doing bodyweight calisthenics.
I do not recommend doing them with weighted calisthenics.
French pull-ups require you to perform a pull up and hold the pull-up at 3 different positions – the top, the middle and just above the bottom.
These static holds between reps add time under tension to your pull-ups, thus adding progressive overload to bodyweight calisthenics.
But, f I were trying to master bodyweight calisthenics, I would chase down the one arm pull-up instead.
False grip pull-ups
False grip pull ups work the grip and forearms.
They are useful if you want to learn to do the muscle up or ring muscle ups.
They are one of the basic ring grips to learn more advanced ring exercises.
I don’t use them, because for my purpose of building muscle and strength, the regular grip is more than sufficient.
The false grip pull-up isn’t some extra ordinary pull-up variation, it simply is a useful skill to learn if you want to transition to muscle-ups or ring muscle-ups.
The false grip pull-up is done differently on the bars as opposed to the rings.
They both involve you curling your wrist with closed fists.
The difference between a bar false grip pull-up is that your closed fists aren’t holding onto anything at all.
You’re placing your forearm on the bar with clenched fists.
This is highly uncomfortable and I don’t recommend doing this version of the false grip pull-up.
Instead, use rings for your false grip pull-ups.
They’re more specific to the skill you want to perform (rings muscle-ups).
But you can also do bar pull-ups while holding onto the bar as you would the rings. This is the better way to do this exercise, if you plan on doing it at all.
Front lever pull-ups
Front lever pull-ups are something that gets neglected a lot by the bodyweight calisthenics community.
Yes, they are hard to do but they are an excellent back and biceps and abs building exercise.
Unfortunately they cannot be scaled to build the back and biceps without adding weight at some point, but I have seen some athletes perform single arm front lever pull-ups.
But, this isn’t a very effective way of doing the exercise, so just add weight when you can.
But when you add weight, make sure your feet are on the ground – essentially performing a weighted Australian pull-up.
Pull-Up Variations That SUCK
Just like the best pull-up variations listed above, there is a long list of pull-ups variations that absolutely SUCK.
I wouldn’t be caught doing the following pull-up variations with a yard pole, and neither should you!
Enemy number one of the pull-up is the kipping pull-up.
There is simply no way to justify the need for this movement.
The internet is filled with memes of people flailing in the air like live worms on a fish hook!
Do not do these for whatever reason you can come up with!
Using your body’s momentum to get yourself up to the bar during a pull-up is cheating yourself by not doing the movement.
The main thing you get from doing kipping pull-ups, is getting better at doing more kipping pull-ups. Just Stop!
No ifs, ands, or buts.
Half rep pull-ups/chin-ups
Half rep pull-ups aren’t really a type of pull-up, but they do exist.
They go hand in hand with pull-ups like kipping pull ups and have no place when building muscle and strength.
Doing half reps on any movement, let alone pull-ups will lead to sub optimal results.
When doing pull-ups or chin-ups make sure that your elbow is fully straightened out at the bottom of the repetition.
Half reps are done when your elbows remain bent at the bottom of the movement.
Half reps can also be done by not getting your chin above the bar.
While getting your chin above the bar is considered a full repetition by most people, the best way to judge a pull up is if you lock your elbows out at the bottom and touch your hands to your chest at the top.
Behind The Neck Pull-Ups
Behind the neck pull-ups target the back musculature a lot more than regular pull-ups, but the cost is not worth the effort.
A lot of people have destroyed their shoulders doing behind the neck pull-ups.
I discourage anyone from doing this version of the pull-ups as it is mostly unnecessary since the inverted weighted rows and chin-ups that I suggest you do will cover all your bases.
Commando pull-up (Mixed grip)
Mixed grip pull ups can be done is different ways. The commando pull-up for instance is done with both hands facing each other, one in front of the other on the bar.
Mixed grip pull-ups can also be done with one hand facing toward you and the other hand facing away from you.
Using a mixed grip is an unnecessary novel way of doing pull-ups and have no potential benefits over their base counterparts.
If you do one set with you hands placed a certain way, you have to do another set to balance out the uneven stress placed on your body.
These are another time wasting exercise created to cure your workout boredom.
L-sit pull-ups are meant to work the abs while doing pull-ups.
But, regular pull-ups already work the abs.
Sure if you want to place even more unnecessary tension on the abs go ahead and do these.
Mostly, they’re just a waste of time.
They’re done by lifting your legs straight out in front of you, making an L-shape with your body, while hanging on the rings/bar.
Do your regular pull-ups instead, and add a targeted ab exercise like hanging leg raises or ring ab roll-outs instead!
Around the world pull-up (Circle pull-up)
Around the world pull-ups are like archer pull-ups and typewriter pull-ups in one exercise.
They’re harder than both the typewriter and archer pull-up and not specific enough to goal of achieving the one arm pull-up.
Typewriter pull-ups get you used to performing unilateral movements by building strength at the top of the movement.
Typewriter pull-ups prepare you for the next step in your one arm pull-up progression – Archer pull-ups.
Archer pull-ups allow you to build enough unilateral pulling strength to do negative one arm pull-ups.
If you are either able to do typewriter or archer pull-ups, do them instead of around the world pull-ups. They will get you to doing your one arm pull-ups faster!
X pull-ups are done on parallel bars with your hands crossing over each other in the form of an X.
This means that one hand is in front of the other, thus creating asymmetrical forces in the working muscles.
Exercises that asymmetrically load the muscles can lead to imbalances in the long run and must be done twice, so that the load is distributed evenly.
X pull-ups also have a reduced range of motion and are nothing but a showboating exercise.
You’re better off doing regular hammer grip pull-ups mentioned above.
Skip these, they will do you more harm than good.
Towel pull-ups are actually a really good exercise to build your grip strength.
But, the pull-up part of the exercise, just doesn’t need to exist.
Towel dead hangs are a much better option that will build similar grip strength while also being really good for the shoulders.
If you’re done with heavy pull-up training and you have more left in the tank, do more pull-ups! Don’t meddle around with other exercises where the grip gives out before your targeted muscles do!
You can work on your shoulder health and grip work at the same time by simply hanging on the bar!
Muscle-ups are one of my favorite topics to talk about in calisthenics.
Muscle-ups are hailed as one of the best bodyweight calisthenics exercises but this isn’t true.
If you take a close look at the muscle up, you’ll notice that it is a combination of two exercise – the pull-up and the straight bar dip!
The muscle up patches these two exercises together in an inferior way, especially when done with a swing or “kip”.
Let’s face it, most muscle ups are done with a slight swing, especially when weight is added.
You cannot load the pull-up version of the muscle up easily, thus making it inferior to the weighted pull-up or chin-up.
At the top of the muscle up, the straight bar dip is inferior to the parallel bar dip because it incorporates a reduced range of motion and it cannot be loaded heavily.
As I’ve explained above, cutting your range of motion with half reps, reduces the amount of strength and muscle you can build per rep.
If you really want to get big and strong, get big at weighted pull-ups and dips separately!
Explosive pull ups – Chest to bar/Waist to bar/Plyometric/Clap/Wide to Narrow/Over-Under pull-ups
Explosive pull-ups are an excellent way to build muscle and strength.
All my pull-ups are done as explosively as possible.
But none of my pull-ups include letting go of the bar with my hands, clapping or any of the other acrobatic stunts.
Even a heavy weighted chin-up can be done as explosively as possible, it may move slowly, but the intention to move the weight as fast as possible must always be present.
I have always recommended that all of your reps be done as explosive as possible, but there is no need to let go of the bar during explosive pull-ups. Unless you want to fall and risk being injured. There is a huge difference between training and showing off.
Pull-Up Variations I Personally Use To Build Size And Strength
The only exercise I’ve used to target my back, biceps and abs is the pull-up, more specifically the chin-up.
The chin-up is an excellent upper body strength and size builder, but so are most basic versions of this exercise.
For “variation” I use the following 3 pull-up exercises, neither you nor I need any more:
- Weighted Chin-Ups
- Weighted Neutral Grip Chin-Ups
- Weighted Pull-Ups
If you aren’t doing weighted calisthenics, then you will need the pull-up variations listed above to achieve your one arm pull-up.
From there you can vary grips (pull-up and chin-up grip) to do your pull-ups.
You don’t need to mess with hundreds of different pull-up variations, especially as a beginner.
Get strong at the right ones and you will see fantastic gains in size and strength.
The pull-up variations listed above, cover the broad spectrum of pull-ups in existence.
Some pull-up variations make sense, they exist to carry you to the next stage of your calisthenics training. Other forms of pull-ups are just flashy styles that are nothing more than a good party trick.
If you have all the time in the world to train, then by all means go ahead and try them all, you’ve got nothing better to do after all.
But if you’re serious about training for the specific goal of putting on muscle and strength then only certain types of pull-ups make sense.