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Behind The Neck Pull-Ups – Get A Big And Strong Back With Powerful Exercise

Behind the neck pull-ups are a great way to diversify your regular pull-ups and work out your back. But don’t be in a hurry. It’s a difficult exercise, which requires physical training. Therefore, learn the classic pull-ups on the horizontal bar first. Then complicate your workouts and experiment.

It’s worth noting that violation of the exercise technique (especially if there are contraindications) can lead to injury. But first things first.

What muscles do pull-ups work?

Behind the neck pull-ups work out the entire upper back, like the usual pull-ups on the horizontal bar:

  • Broadest dorsal muscles

  • Rhomboid muscles

  • Large round muscle

Some athletes note that behind the neck pull-ups work out well the circular muscle of the back. Other exercises hardly train it. The pectoral muscles, biceps, and shoulders work too.

Is the grip wide or narrow?

By default, we mean wide-grip pull-ups. Athletes believe that the wider the grip, the higher the effectiveness of the exercise. It’s only partially true. It’s important to keep a balance here. Because an excessively wide grip can lead to injury of the shoulder joints.

Choose the optimal width grip carefully. The main indicator is a feeling of tension in the working muscles and the absence of discomfort, a feeling of “pinching” of the shoulders or back.


As a rule, a narrowing of the grip leads to passing the load from the upper part of the broadest muscles of the back to the lower one. In addition, the pectoral muscles and arms receive additional stress. In other words, the back muscles work less. Therefore, experienced athletes don’t recommend behind the neck pull-ups with a narrow grip. Use a narrow grip only if you have a lot of experience and individual training goals.

Proper exercise technique

Behind the neck pull-ups have the following technique:

11. The starting position – hanging with a wide grip on the horizontal bar. We have already considered the selection of the optimal grip width above. First, you can try a grip, which is slightly more than shoulder width (about 20 centimeters). Hang on a horizontal bar with relaxed straight arms. Only your forearms remain tense. Take a deep breath

22. Gently pull yourself up while exhaling. Strain your lats. The mid-occiput should be at the level of the bar. It’s the top point of the exercise. Don’t put your elbows to the body. Otherwise, you’ll decrease the contraction amplitude and reduce the exercise effectiveness.

33. Lower yourself to the starting position while inhaling. Do the required reps

Some athletes recommend staying at the top for an extra breath. However, this is a rare exercise option. Most often, athletes use a standard exercise scheme: inhale in the starting position, exhale during lifting, and inhale during lowering without interrupting your breath.


The reps depend on your physical training. Try to start with 2 sets of 5-6 reps. And increase the quantity little by little.


Injuries of the cervical spine and shoulder girdle are reasons to refuse the exercise. These areas are under heavy load.

Remember, the wide grip is not the goal of the exercise. This moment is directly related to the likelihood of injury. Try a grip slightly wider than your shoulders first. Then follow your own feelings. Correct technique if necessary.

What else should I know?

Make sure that there is no hunching during the behind the neck pull-ups. There is a desire to unload the lats and hunch over at the top point, easing the load. Therefore, keep your head as straight as possible. The shoulder blades are brought together.

Try to lower yourself to the starting position smoothly. Don’t drop sharply down. Lower yourself by controlling movement and feeling the muscles work. Thus, you’ll protect yourself from shoulder injuries and increase exercise effectiveness.

Do full amplitude. Lower yourself until the arms straighten. Pull yourself up to the top point until the bar is at the level of the nape.

Think of your arms as simply “bindings”, which hold you on the horizontal bar. Don’t use your biceps. After all, your goal is to work out your back.


Remember, behind the neck pull-ups is a specific exercise for athletes who have experience training on a horizontal bar. Beginners should learn the classic pull-ups first.

I'm a professional fitness instructor and nutritionist, runner, husband and father. I do my best in providing the right guidance when it comes to the grounds of sexual health, nutrition and common fitness.

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