Kavadlo brothers: acclaimed fitness trainers and authors of the new book, Get Strong


Q. Overhand pull-ups hurt my wrists, elbows, and shoulders. Palms facing each other feel fine. Is it OK to just do those, or do I have to stick with the overhand grip?

A. Depending on the individual skeletal subtleties of each person’s joints, different grips can be more or less favorable for different people.

It’s not rare for supinated (underhand) or pronated (overhand) grips to impinge the joints in certain exercises.

Here are descriptions of various grips that you can experiment with in your pull-up training:


1. Classic overhand pull-up

Palms facing away from the body is the gold standard.

Keeping your abs braced and drive your elbows down as you pull yourself up in order to fully engage your lats and other back muscles.


2. Underhand chin-up

This tends to be the least difficult variation for beginners, as it places more emphasis on the arms.

The overhand variation relies mainly on the underdeveloped muscles of the upper back.


the kavadlo brothers doing calisthenics on a bus stop in Newcastle Upon Tyne


3. Mixed grip pull-up

With one palm underhand and the other overhand, this hones stability as you try to keep your torso facing forward.

It’s also useful for those who may be transitioning from chin-ups to pull-ups.


4. Commando pull-up

Grasp the bar with your hands facing one another in a narrow, palms-facing grip.

Your body will be in line with the bar. Pull yourself to the side on the way up in order to avoid hitting your head.


5. Gymnastic rings pull-up

These allow for rotation of your arms through the motion.

Some find starting in a pronated position at the bottom of a rep and rotating into a supinated one at the top gives them the best of both worlds.


Make it a workout

Week 1: Try doing a maximum repetition set on each of these moves. Repeat that workout twice a week.

Week 2: Complete 1 set of 5 reps on each move. Repeat twice each week.

Week 3: Complete 2 sets of 4 reps on each move. Repeat twice each week.

Week 4: Complete 2-3 sets of 6 reps on each move. Repeat twice each week.

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