The Supinated Pull Up 101 | Form, Benefits, and Variations!

By
Mike Kenler
July 9, 2021

The Supinated Pull Up 

Also known as the chin up, the supinated grip pull up is one of the all-time best body weight back exercises.

This compound exercise is guaranteed to improve your upper body strength and help you accomplish your fitness goals.

In this article, we cover everything you need to know about the supinated pull up.

Muscles Worked By The Supinated Pull Up

Primary Muscle Groups:

The supinated pull up primarily works your lats and your biceps.

Originating in the mid-low back, the latissimus dorsi is the broadest muscle in your back. 

Your lats play a significant role in most “pulling” exercises such as the lat pulldown, all pull up variations, and other rowing exercises. 

The biceps brachii is the scientific name for the most prominent muscle in the front of your upper arm. 

The bicep muscle is comprised of two “heads:” a long head and a short head. Both heads work together as a cohesive unit during lifting and pulling motions.


Secondary Muscle Groups:

One of the benefits of the supinated grip pull up is that it also works a variety of muscles in your back such as the rhomboids, the teres major, and the traps.

This exercise activates the brachioradialis in your forearm, as well as your brachialis, a muscle that lies beneath your bicep in your upper arm. 

Lastly, chin ups work smaller muscles around your shoulders such as the posterior deltoids.

Your deep core muscles (i.e., the transverse abdominis) also engage to stabilize your midsection. 

Supinated Pull Up Benefits

1. Stronger & Bigger Lats And Biceps

While the standard overhand pull up works your lats slightly more than the supinated pull up, the underhand variation is still an intense lat exercise.

The supinated grip also recruits your biceps much more than the standard overhand pull up.

A sturdy back is essential for improving your performance in athletics, other compound lifts, and simple day-to-day activities. 

If you want to build bigger, stronger back and biceps muscles, supinated pull ups are for you!

2. Improved Posture

Hours of sitting in chairs at work or while driving can lead to slouching, pain, and tension in your shoulders and back.

The supinated pull up can help to activate under utilized muscles in your upper back to help reduce back pain or discomfort. 

With consistent exercise, you will be standing upright with proper posture in no time.

3. Improved Confidence 

The supinated pull up is one of the best exercises to monitor your progression.

At first, you may not be able to do any chin ups. However, as you gain back and bicep strength, you can slowly work your way up and improve.

As a result, you will gain more confidence as you set and achieve new pull up goals for yourself!

How To Do The Supinated Pull Up

Equipment:

For this exercise, you only need a pull up bar.

Setup: 

a) Grab the pull up bar with your hands roughly shoulder width apart and your palms facing towards you.

b) Make sure your back is straight and your feet are slightly in front of your body as you hang from the bar.

Action:

a) Bring your shoulder blades down and contract your lats and biceps to pull up until your chin rises above the bar.

b) Pause briefly at the top and squeeze your lats and biceps hard.

c) Slowly return to the starting position and repeat!

Recommendation:

You should aim to complete 3-4 sets of 6-12 supinated pull ups.

As you become comfortable with the pull up form, feel free to change up your set and rep ranges to challenge yourself.

Supinated Pull Up Mistakes

1. Completing Partial Reps

By far, the most common supinated pull up mistake is failing to complete a full rep. Sometimes, people don't pull all the way up above the bar. 

Other times, they don't drop all the way down and fully extend their arms in the starting position.

Both of these mistakes steal potential gains from your pull up sets. Practice good form and you will see the best possible results!

2. Swinging Back And Forth

Using momentum is another common pull up issue. While swinging back and forth will help you do more reps, you are relying upon your inertia to lift upwards. 

As a result, your muscles aren’t being tested to the max.

To stop yourself from swinging, keep your core engaged and your feet out in front of you. Focus on moving your body straight up and down on every rep. 

3. Using Your Arms Too Much

Other weightlifters tend to over-utilize their arms during the supinated pull up at the bottom part of the motion. While the biceps do play a key role in the exercise, you don't want them to overpower the movement and take engagement away from the lats.

Be sure to pull up and down in a slow and controlled motion.

Supinated Pull Up Variations

1. Assisted Supinated Pull Up

If you can’t do any pull ups at all, start with the assisted pull up machine. Set up with your knees on the pad and grab the inner handles with your palms facing towards you.

Then, complete the supinated pull up with the same form as the body weight variation. 

Repeat!

2. Supinated Pull Up Hold 

Adding a hold to the supinated pull up is a great way to challenge yourself and focus on fully contracting your muscles.

Simply hold your position at the top of every rep for at least three seconds. Squeeze your back and biceps hard during each hold and return to the starting position. 

You may not be able to do as many pull ups but you will definitely increase your time under tension. 

3. Wide Grip Pull Up

Whereas the supinated pull up works your biceps more than standard pull ups, the overhand wide grip pull up variation emphasizes your outer lat muscles.

To begin, grab the handles of the pull up bar with your hands wider than shoulder width apart and your palms facing away from you. 

Then, complete the pull up with the same form as the supinated grip variation. 

Supinated Pull Up Alternatives

If you enjoyed the supinated pull up, check out these back exercises to improve your upper body training:

1. Supinated Lat Pulldown 

Sit on the bench while facing the cable machine. Extend your arms upwards to grab the bar with your palms facing towards you. Your hands should be roughly shoulder width apart.

While slightly leaning back, brace your core, bring your shoulder blades down and back, and pull the bar down until it touches the top of your rib cage. 

Pause briefly at the bottom, squeeze your lats, and slowly return to the starting position. Maintain tightness in your core and repeat!


2. Underhand Barbell Row

Set up a barbell on the ground with light to medium weight. Bend over at a 45 degree angle and grab the barbell with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart and your palms facing away from you.

Contract your lats to row the barbell towards your belly button with each rep. Squeeze your lats hard at the top and slowly return to the starting position.

Repeat!

3. Pendlay Row

Set up a barbell on the ground with light to medium weight. Step forward so that the barbell is over the middle portion of your feet. 

Hinge at the waist and bend your knees so that your back is roughly parallel to the floor. Grab the bar with an overhand grip with your hands wider than shoulder width apart. 

Keeping your elbows slightly tucked, brace your core and contract your lats to drive your elbows up and back, bringing the barbell towards the bottom of your chest.

Squeeze your lats at the top, pause for a moment, and slowly bring the barbell back to the floor in the starting position. Maintain tightness in your core and repeat!

Want To Do More Pull Ups?

Check out these 7 key tips to increase your pull ups today:

Join the Invasion!

This Anabolic Aliens membership will grant you access to workout classes, rehab programs, diet plans, and more exclusive content to help you achieve sustainable success!

Favorite Product:

Mike Kenler
Director of Writing | Certified in Plant Based Nutrition at T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies