Pronated Vs. Supinated Pull-Ups

Senior man doing a chin-up

A pull-up is an intense back-building exercise. It is a bodyweight movement that uses vertical pulling to strengthen your arms and back. Changing a hand position in a pull-up offers variety to training, different muscle focus and a reduction in injuries. By frequently changing the way you perform pull-ups, you protect your shoulders from repetitive injuries. Your muscles will continue to respond to the changing stimulus with improvements in strength and tone. Performed safely and with proper form a pull-up will remain part of your workout routine for years to come.

Pronated Grip

Your palms face away from you during a pronated grip pull-up. Stand underneath an overhead bar and grasp the bar with your fingers over the top and your thumb around the bottom. The space between your hands is at a comfortable distance, slightly wider than shoulder distance apart. You also have the option of using a narrow grip which places more muscle concentration on your forearms. Hang from the bar or bend your knees and raise your feet behind you. Exhale, concentrate on pulling your elbows toward your sides and raise your body until your chin clears the top of the bar. Pause at the top of the movement. Inhale, slowly straighten your arms and lower to your starting position.

Supinated Grip

A pull-up with a supinated grip is often referred to as a chin-up. Stand underneath the bar and grasp the bar with your palms facing you. The distance between your hands is slightly narrower than shoulder-distance apart. Position your fingers over the top of the bar and your thumbs around the bottom. Hang from the bar or bend your knees to raise your feet off the floor. Exhale, bend your elbows and pull your elbows into your sides to raise your chin over the bar. Pause at the top. Inhale and straighten your arms to start position.


The largest muscle in you back, the latissimus dorsi, is responsible for the pull-up. The different hand positions change the muscle concentration. When your hands are in the pronated position, the muscles of your upper back, the rhomboids and trapezius, perform more of the movement. The supinated hand position also strengthens the muscles in your middle and upper back and includes a stronger focus on your biceps, the fronts of your upper arms. The closer together your hands are placed of either a supinated or pronated grip shift a greater concentration on the muscles in your arms.

Workout Tips

The pull-up is an intermediate to advanced exercise. If you are unable to perform a pull-up enlist the help of a spotter. Begin by hanging from the bar for 10 to 20 seconds for your first week. Then, ask a spotter to support your ankles when your feet are lifted behind you. Press into the spotters hands with your legs to assist your pull-up. Once you are able to perform 12 repetitions this way, remove one foot from your spotter's hand. Practice until you are able to perform 12 pull-ups. Then, have the spotter assist you by placing his hands around your waist and lifting only when you need help. Gradually increase to 12 pull-ups until you can complete one or two on your own. If you still need assistance, begin at the top of the pull-up, lower down and then perform the exercise. Allow for two days of rest in between your workouts. Aim to complete 10 to 12 repetitions.