Neutral Grip Pull Up For A Strong Upper Back

A neutral grip pull up is a great skill for developing the strength and size of your upper back and biceps. It will also help you improve your shoulder extension.

This is the most common version of a pull up usually called standard, regular, or simply just pull up.

It has a narrower grip than a wide pull up and a wider grip than a close grip pull up. A neutral grip is just a fraction wider than shoulder width.

This skill is part of a muscle up progression. It’s not the easiest exercise. You are pulling up your entire weight against gravity.

When I started I struggled. Just hanging from the bar was too hard for me. I had stabilization surgery on both of my shoulders. I lacked both the strength and flexibility needed to do a pull up.

At that point in time, pull up seemed like an impossible dream to me. But, regardless of how difficult and impossible it seemed, this exercise motivated me to start my fitness journey.

Luckily, muscle up progression starts with easier moves that helped me improve my strength and shoulder mobility one step at a time. So I was able to do my first pull up after a few months of training.

What is a neutral grip pull up

Neutral Grip Pull Up

Neutral grip pull up is a part of muscle up progression. It will help you improve the strength of your upper back and biceps.

This move is used as a part of a pull or upper body workout. Pull workout will mostly work on your upper back, biceps, and rear delts. Upper body workout will also target your front and side delts, triceps, and chest. So, you see how this skill fits those workouts perfectly.

As already said it has a medium wide grip when compared to wide and narrow grip variants.

You will grab a pull up bar just a bit wider than shoulder width and hang freely from the bar. To start the move, you will pull your entire body weight up. The goal will be to get your chin above the bar at the highest point. You will also have to be able to slowly and with control lower your body down.

So, pulling up to get your chin over the bar and then lowering slowly back down to a starting position is what this move will look like.

Main benefits

The main benefit of this skill is developing your upper back muscles. It will add size to your lats. This will help you build an impressive V shape of your upper body.

Besides that, this exercise will improve your shoulder extension. Shoulder extension is important when working on hand balancing skills like various handstand variants.

Neutral grip pull up is a compound exercise. This means it helps you build several muscle groups at the same time. Besides having a strong upper back, you will have to have strong arms and core muscles to be able to do it.

The strength and mobility you gain with this skill will help you progress faster with other pull and push exercises.

In normal everyday activity, you don’t have the opportunity to do similar moves. This will make your upper back and posterior shoulder muscles lose their strength and function. So, this skill is ideal to target those underused muscle groups. This in turn helps you build a well rounded muscular body and avoid muscular imbalances.

Neutral grip pull up muscles worked

Neutral grip pull ups will primarily work various upper back muscles. Those muscles are not the only ones involved in this move though.

Neutral grip pull up muscles worked:


  • Lats
  • Traps
  • Rhomboids


  • Biceps
  • Forearms
  • Teres major
  • Rear delts
  • Infraspinatus
  • Abs

How to do a neutral grip pull up


Grab a pull up bar with both of your hands. Your hands should be a bit wider than shoulder width. Your palms should be placed on the bar facing away from you.

You should be hanging freely from the bar with your toes pointed down. Ideally, your feet should not touch the ground.

Upward movement:

To start moving up, start pulling your body up towards the bar by bending your arms in elbows. Keep on pulling until your chin is over the bar. Be careful that you don’t extend your neck up to reach over the bar with your chin.

To keep your head straight, try to look at one point in the distance in front of you.

Downward movement:

To start moving down, extend your arms by straightening your elbows. Keep on extending your arms until they are completely straight.

You should reach a starting position – hanging freely from the bar.

Repeat the same moves for reps.

Common mistakes

Mistake 1 – Swinging without control


The first mistake is letting your body swing without control. It will cause your energy to be wasted on swinging instead of pulling up. So, you will be able to do fewer reps. This happens if you don’t have enough tension in your core.


To correct this mistake, point your toes towards the floor. Make sure to tighten your abs and keep your abs engaged throughout the move. Think about the hollow hold and keeping the hollow hold position while hanging from the bar.

Mistake 2 – Turtle neck


When you extend your neck up so you can have your chin go over the bar it’s like cheating the move. You will not be doing the complete range of motion.


To prevent your neck from extending up and reducing the range of motion you can do a simple correction. You know your head should be pointed forward during the entire movement. To achieve this, simply choose one point to look at in the distance in front of you. Fixate on this point throughout the entire exercise. This will keep your head leveled.

Mistake 3 – Back rounding and shoulders up to ears


You may find yourself rounding your back and having your shoulders come up to your ears near the highest point of the move. When you detect this mistake, it’s a great thing. This is the first step to resolving the issue. Sadly, it’s a clear sign you are still not strong enough to do this move.


When you notice back rounding and shoulder rising when you are close to a bar you should take a few steps back. Go back a few steps back in a muscle up progression and do easier exercises for a few weeks. You can do inverted rows, band assisted pull ups, and pull up negatives. After a few weeks or a month, try to do a pull up again. You simply have to improve your strength. This takes time.

Progression / Regression

If you are still not able to do this move, you can try easier variants from a progression. Here are exercises you can do from easiest to hardest:

If pull ups no longer challenge you, you can try harder variants. Here are the skills you can try from easiest to hardest:

This skill is positioned around the middle of a muscle up progression. So, you will have enough easier and harder variants to try on your fitness journey.

Key takeaways

A neutral grip pull up is a great skill for building your upper back and arms strength and size. It will also help you improve your shoulder extension.

The strength and mobility you gain with this skill will help you with other hand balancing and pulling exercises. It’s important for building a well rounded muscular body and avoiding muscular imbalances.

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