Difference Between Wide Grip & Close Grip Pullups

fitness lifestyle shot of a young adult woman in a workout outfit as she does pull ups

As a compound body-weight exercise, pull-ups work everything from the back to the shoulders to the biceps and triceps, making them a versatile addition to any strength-training regimen. Once you've mastered the standard pull-up, you can add grip variations to the mix. Changing up your grip does more than add variety to your routine – these variations hone the focus on the muscles worked.

Hand Position

Wide-grip pull-ups require you to grasp the bar overhand at slightly more than shoulders-width apart, so that your body essentially forms a “Y” shape as you hang from the bar. For a wide-grip, the outer curve of each shoulder should end up about 8 inches from each hand at the top of the movement. A close-grip pull-up requires you to bring your hands closer together -- for this type of pull-up, your hands should only be about 6 to 8 inches apart.

Muscle Targeted

Both wide-grip and close-grip pull-ups further emphasize the target muscle of standard pull-ups, the latissimus dorsi, also known as laterals or lats, which run from the side of the torso to the spine. The wider your hand position, the greater the emphasis on your outer lats. Wide-grip pull-ups take some strain off of the shoulders, a secondary muscle group engaged by pull-ups. Close-grip pull-ups put their focus specifically on the lower lats, the lower back region just above the buttocks.


Both of these grip variations require you to bring your chin above the bar and fully lower your body to encourage a complete range of motion. As these exercises both focus on the lats, you'll benefit from consciously engaging this muscle during the exercise; as you bring your body toward the bar, focus on pulling the center of your body up. Perform both variations with controlled and deliberate motion.

Other Variations

While both wide- and close-grip pull-ups typically require you to grasp the bar in a pronated grip, changing to a supinated, or underhand, grip – a variation also known as a chin-up – places more focus on the biceps. Looping towels around the bar and grasping the towels rather than the bar helps build grip strength. This variation, meant for experienced exercisers, works with wide- and close-grip pull-ups. Wide- and close-grip pull-ups both accommodate the addition of weight, via belts, vests or holding plates between your ankles, for additional challenge.