A pull-up is one of the best bodyweight exercises around. You train the entirety of your back with the assistance of your shoulders, forearms, biceps and, with certain grips, your chest.
The pull-up with a neutral grip puts the chest in a V-shape as you lift up and down. The trick is to find a bar with special angled grips or an assisted pull-up machine that has a neutral grip option.
The Neutral Grip Pull-Up
Unlike a standard pull-up, in which your hands are wider than your shoulders and you grasp the bar overhand, a neutral grip pull-up has you grab short handles that are perpendicular to your body with your palms facing each other. Hang from this grip, legs elevated, supported by a spotter or feet placed on the platform of the assisted push-up machine.
You then bend your elbows and use your upper body to pull your chin up to the height of your hands. Extend your elbows fully back down to complete one repetition.
Why Choose a Neutral Grip?
Changing your grip alters the emphasis of the muscles activated during the pull-up. All versions of the pull-up primarily work your latissimus dorsi, a large broad muscle that covers much of the back of your ribs. A standard, wide-grip pull-up also notably targets the lower trapezius muscles, which form a V-shape into the middle of your back.
The chest, however, gets very little activation during your standard pull-up. Only the pectoralis minor, a small muscle under your primary chest muscle, the pec major, assists.
Switch to a neutral grip, however, and your chest wall assists quite a bit. The large middle and lower region of the pec major — called the sternal head — becomes an active synergist, or helper, in the exercise. To maximize activation of the pecs, think about the right and left side of the pecs squeezing toward each other as you pull yourself up and over the bar.
Some people may also prefer the neutral grip as it's easier on the shoulder joint. The humorous, or upper arm bone, is slightly internally rotated in the shoulder socket when your hands are closer together and turned to face one another. This puts less torque on the joint.
A V-Shaped Physique
The pull-up, in all its varieties, contributes to the development of the coveted bodybuilder look of a V-shaped physique. This is when broad shoulders, a strong upper chest and broad back taper down to a smaller waist.
Development of the lats and traps is key in the cultivation of this V-shape, so you're doing the right thing by adding pull-ups to your regular lifting routine.