EYC Podcast #21 Text Breakdown

EYC Podcast #21 – Kas

Pull-Up Grips

What’s up guys this is Kas with Elevateyourcraft and welcome to episode #21 of the podcast. Today’s topics include different pull-up grips, and how they affect your workout, and hanging exercises that you can use to supplement your pull-up training to target areas like your grip strength, and forearms. Getting right into it, there are different pull-up grips that you can use in order to customize your training. While you are still working the same muscle groups, changing the grip shifts the emphasis slightly. I’ll get into this shift shortly. This change in emphasis is not only a way to add variety to your training, but can help mitigate some of the difficulty, or increase it if you are looking to challenge yourself. I am going to talk about each grip, and how it will affect your workout, then get into some tips that I have picked up along the way. 

Chin-Up/Palms Facing Toward You

It is very common to start off with this variation of the pull-up if you are a beginner because it is generally easier to execute. This is because of a slight variance in the muscles that are recruited. The chin-up requires greater recruitment of the biceps than other grips and it’s common for deconditioned folks to have a little more strength in that area, making it a bit easier to pull off. You aren’t really going beyond shoulder width with the chin-up as well, and this keeps the elbows closer to the body and allows us to recruit our lats more, for greater strength. Chin-ups should be kept in a routine no matter how strong you are because they are a great way to put more work into your biceps, and help develop greater overall strength. 

Overhand Grip/Palms Facing Away

The overhand grip is generally more difficult for those new to pull-ups, because it relies heavily on torso strength, which is often lagging behind in deconditioned athletes. More specifically, the overhand grip involves the lats to the greatest degree, and forgoes a lot of the assistance you were getting from the biceps in the chin-up. 

Hammer Grip/Neutral Grip/Palms Facing One Another

The hammer grip, or palms facing each other grip, is a great in-between variation that can help you progress to the overhand pull-up from the chin-up. Using what we know about the chin-up as foundation, the hammer grip is a slight shift away from the emphasis on the biceps, and relies more on the lats. This variation is a great way to strengthen the lats, while working toward improving your overhand grip pull-up. Therefore, the neutral grip can be considered a best of both worlds grip, where you are beginning to really test upper body strength.

Mixed Grip

The mixed grip involves using two different grips at the same time, and challenges either side of the body in slightly different ways, so you’ll want to be sure that you are training both sides equally. An example would be one arm using a chin-up grip, while the other has an overhand grip. This variation marks the beginning of transitional pull up variations, where you are beginning to train either side for greater independence. 

All variations discussed are great in any routine, and you will do well to utilize them throughout your training. It is beneficial to stimulate the muscles in different ways, and it will also add variety. You may find that you tend to favour one or two variations, which is fine. The important thing is finding what is best for you, and if you so choose, using the concepts we discussed earlier for your own benefit. It’s important to note that all grips will train the same muscle groups, the primary ones being the lats, and the middle and upper back, and the shifts in emphasis I mentioned previously are subtle, but still noticeable. 

What I want to get into now are some of the things that I picked up throughout the training I’ve done so far, in hopes of offering some feedback that may benefit you. Pull-ups are difficult, and it may take a great deal of time to progress. This is where using these different grips to your advantage can help. When I really began focusing on improving my pull-up, I used a progressive approach with the grips, so I started with chin-ups primarily, then slowly implemented neutral grip, then the overhand grip. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t include the other grips in my training, I just made whatever grip I was focusing on the bulk of my reps. Right now, I tend to stick with overhand grip, and then implement other principles of progression like asymmetrical variations for example. I also use chin-up variations if I’d like to give my biceps a little more attention. One final thing to note is, see what grips are comfortable for you. If you notice any pain or discomfort when experimenting, it may be beneficial to stick to the one that isn’t causing the discomfort or pain. 

These things may not necessarily be true for you in your journey toward pull-up proficiency. I found that using the grips in more of a progressive way helped me get the most out of my workouts, and build confidence, but you may find that you want to stick to one grip and go from there. One thing that I found was important in my training was building my routines in a way that I felt like I accomplished something, and at that time, that meant getting more reps in. Using the chin-up instead of the overhand for example, allowed me to get extra reps in which was important for my confidence levels at the time. If I think about it now, I would have focused less on how many reps I was doing, and more on my goals, and technique. There is nothing wrong with doing 3 quality reps of the overhand grip, versus 8 sloppy ones. So don’t get caught in the idea that if you aren’t doing 12 reps of the pull-up, you aren’t accomplishing anything, or it isn’t worth doing. If you are able to do a good amount of reps with clean technique, then all the power to you.  Similarly, I encourage you to do the pull-up at a full range of motion, with control, even if that means shaving a few reps out of your set. It will be much more rewarding because you are maximizing muscle contraction, and building a good foundation for pull-up progression.

The final point I want to touch on regarding the different grips is that they can be implemented into inverted rows, or Australian pull-ups as they are sometimes referred to. This is valuable because if you are using the inverted row to help you build the necessary strength for your first pull-up, you can take advantage of the benefits of using each grip. 

Hanging Exercises

The next topic is hanging exercises, and I thought it would be great to discuss them because they compliment pull-ups so well. They are excellent for finger, wrist, and forearm strength which will give your grip a tremendous boost. If you aren’t using them as your primary exercise for the day, you can also use them to warm-up for pull-ups. For clarity’s sake, what I mean by hanging exercises are ones where you are doing nothing but hanging. You may also hear it referred to as a dead hang. Technically, the pull-up is an exercise that is done while hanging, however I will be discussing isometric techniques, meaning they don’t involve eccentric and concentric motion. First off, I want to go over some of the benefits of hanging exercises. 

They offer a great stretch, and help decompress the spine, especially if you let the shoulders sag. Now keep in mind, when stretching it can be beneficial to let the shoulders sag, however you don’t want to do this when prepping for, or during an exercise. Retracting the scapula and activating the shoulders is a base you should always strive to follow. It helps keep your technique consistent, and ensures you are optimizing muscle contraction. With the dead hang, you also want to keep the arms engaged, with a very slight bend to ensure you are protecting your joints. There are also the benefits which I mentioned earlier, those being the development of the fingers, wrists, forearms, and in turn overall grip strength. Implementing hanging exercises will also benefit any exercises that require developed grip strength, good examples being pull-ups, and any of the hanging leg raise variations. Overall, improving your dead hang will help you in many other areas, not just being able to hang for extended periods of time(which certainly isn’t a bad thing if that is what you are trying to do).

Hanging exercises can be approached in a progressive manner as well. I will be offering some ideas in this podcast, but I really encourage you to check out Convict Conditioning 2 by Paul Wade. It has two chapters dedicated to grip strength training and offers many progressions that you can take advantage of. Getting into it, all you really need is a bar of some sort, or really anything that you can hang on to. It’s important to note that the shape of what you hold on to will have a significant affect on the difficulty. For example, if you hang onto a bar that is one inch thick, it will prove easier than hanging onto a bar that is three inches thick. Or if you have a pinch grip in which you cannot wrap the fingers and thumbs around, then that will be even more difficult. Regarding the progressive aspect, initially, the idea is that you want to hang using both arms for as long as possible. Since this is an isometric hold, measuring progress using time is a great approach. If you’d like to regress the hang, you can rest the feet on the ground while hanging, then as you progress, lift only one foot off of the ground. As you build strength with the regular bar hang, you can go with an asymmetrical variation like the uneven hang, which introduces a towel over the bar that one hand will grip. This will begin to strengthen the thumbs. Then you can move onto hanging from towels with both arms. You can also manipulate how many fingers you are using while hanging from the bar. There are many different possibilities that you can use, however my goal is not to go over all of them here. My goal is to simply make you aware that this simple exercise can do wonders for your grip strength, and add a new dimension to your training. Furthermore, they can be used in a progressive manner so that athletes at all levels can take advantage of them, which of course is the essence of progressive calisthenics. 

So that’s it for today’s episode. Keep in mind if you aren’t able to listen to the podcasts for whatever reason, I post the transcripts of the episodes that I do solo on the website. If you like the podcast, please follow on:

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