Effects of hand position in lat pulldown and pull-ups

The lat pulldown Pullup hand position and pull-ups are very effective and well know fitness exercises, which offer many possibilities and variations. A complete overview on how these variations influenced muscle activity was lacking until now. To find out, scientists from the University of Salford United Kingdom combined the results of many different studies investigating the effects hand position in lat pulldown and pull ups on muscle activation. Find out their findings in this article. 

Effects of hand position in lat pulldown and pull-ups: Hand Grip Width

According to the scientists, the hand placement width has not been investigated properly to reach any definitive conclusions. Some studies have looked into this, but they obtained no clear results. Which could be a result from the small differences between narrow and wide grip exercises.

Effects of hand position in lat pulldown and pull-ups: Hand Orientation

The effects of hand orientation Effects of strength training frequency on strengthare more pronounced in the studies looking into this. Studies focus mostly on three different hand orientations. Pronated grip, with the palms facing forward on the bar, supinated grip with the palms facing backwards, and rotating grip, which starts with completely pronated hands and ends with completely supinated hands. The researchers concluded from these studies that the palms facing forward grip, resulted in increased muscle activity in the lower trapezius compared with the palms facing towards the subject grip. The palms facing forwards also resulted in more activation of the infraspinatus compared with the rotating grip. The rotating grip results in a higher latissimus dorsi activity. Surprisingly both the biceps muscles and pectoralis muscles were most active with the use of the palms facing towards the subject grip.

For the results of the review see the table below:


Hand Orientation

Increased Muscle Activity

Palms Forward Lower trapezius and Infraspinatus
Palms Backward Pectoralis Major and Biceps Brachii
Rotating Grip Latissimus Dorsi

What does this mean for me?

This overview allows you to choose the best pull-up or lat pulldown alternative for developing specific muscle groups.


-Leslie, K.L.M., Comfort, P. The Effect of Grip Width and Hand Orientation on Muscle Activity During Pull-ups and the Lat Pull-down. Strength and Conditioning Journal 2013, 35, 1.