T Nation

Opinion: Behind the Neck Pull-ups


What does everyone think of BTN Pullups? In terms of strength and/or size building.


i think , when done correctly, be a valuable addition to ones arsenal. Anatomically speaking, maybe it might not be such a good idea to go from full extension to full contraction, but better to go only halfway up.


great way to fux up your shoulders


problem free shoulders and mobility? great exercise. problem shoulders and poor mobility? bad choice


My problematic shoulders thank me weekly for NOT doing ANYTHING behind the neck.


Go all the way if your shoulder joints are mobile and healthy enough to support it. Don't do it if it hurts, simple enough?


x2 somewhat.

IMO, it's nice to say it's a bad exercise for everyone, when in reality some people can get away with it and be fine. HOWEVER, it's hard to determine that until you get hurt.

And really, what's the point of that exercise? Just because it's a back exercise it was (I guess) thought needed to be done behind the neck to involve the back. The back gets hit just fine with doing it in front, or a lat pulldown machine in-line with the ears.

no where in nature (hate to pull this card on a BB forum), but no where in nature do we perform this movement that I know of. Go rock climbing (all in front) and you'll feel your lats being worked like nothing else.


I wouldn't do them.

If you want to do BTN stuff, do BTN Pulldowns or BTN Rack chins NO FURTHER DOWN THAN EAR LEVEL.
In fact, you can pretty much stick to half reps in the top part of ROM and emphasize the stretch...

Much easier to progress on these two exercises, progress doesn't get skewed by how much bodyweight you're gaining, etc...

The only pullup/chinup I'd do if I were forced to is to the front and with varying grips...


Did em for a few weeks, might be worth it as a change of pace but I wouldn't make them a regular thing. I could be wrong, but feels like they work different muscles, upper back/lower traps. But Kelso's Shrug Book (worth the five or ten bucks) has some good exercises for that.


I've done them for quite a long time 2wice a week with absolutely no probles whatsoever.

Really hit the lats well for me.

If you have problems doing them perhaps you don't have optimal shoulder flexibility/mobility.

Dismissing exercies is just silly and won't correct or make up for your poor shoulder flexibility/mobilty which is the real issue.


I wouldn't do them, no matter what.
The reason is that the pullup is one of the few rare and valuable exercises where your spine is unloaded and you actively promote the muscles to counter bad posture under reasonable load.
You know, the behind the desk posture, the labourer's posture etc.

With BTN Pullup, you throw away practically the biggest (or second biggest, depending on personal training aim) advantage this exercise has to offer.

Apart from shoulder (which can be mostly avoided through being careful with the hang position) and tendonitis problems (which is more of a problem with very heavy external load and one arm chins), the chin up and the pull up are among the safest heavy exercises.

And since most other classic strength exercises are potentially a lot more dangerous (we're talking about going heavy with free weigths here), there is little sense in aggrevating the few ones who are kind on your joints.

Only someone with genuine bodybuilding or strength sport ambitions should try them out, in my opinion.


In nature, I always find an object that weighs hundreds of pounds, put it on the back of my neck, and attempt to sit down and up with it while trying not to be crushed. When in the hell does anyone do half of the bodybuilding exercises in nature? You shouldn't even bother with this route of argument.

As others have said, this lift does cause problems for those with shoulder issues, but some can do it for years without any injuries. Also, it does hit the back from a different angle than any other lift I can think of right now.

Best to try it on a lat pulldown with less than bodyweight for awhile to assess if the exercise is compatible with your body. If all is well, move on to the free bar bodyweight version.


Do them if you can do 50 normal wide grip.It's a great way to keep widening


Uh, why 50? Kind of arbitrary, eh? Why not do them both? Why would you wait?


Note what you say here, people: SOME people might GET AWAY WITH IT without injuries. This should be a warning in itself.

The bad thing about this excercise is that if you are not among the 5-10% who can keep on pulling/pushing behind the neck without getting injured, your shoulder joints will be a little more damaged from grinding everytime you do the excercise.

It's not even sure you feel it, until you've done the exercises for years. Then it's too late, and you'll have hell trying to fix what you've used years to tear apart.

When training, go for the safest possible exercises. At least until you're a professional, but then you'd already know what exercises you need and if your body can handle them.


Anatomically, it is not possible for most guys to keep the tension on the lats once the bar goes behind the head. Once the bar goes behind the head other muscles like the traps and scapular retractors muscles come into play. So if you want to only work your lats, do not go behind the head.

Also, pull-downs in general suck for lats. Chins and rows are king for lat developed. And of course deads.


Care to elaborate why pull-downs suck for lats, and what grip sucks the most/the least?
I'm quite happy with neutral narrow grip pull-downs :slight_smile: I've gone from 160-170lbs to 235lbs in "no time" using those, and my lats have seen nice gains.


They don't activate as much muscle (overall) and EVERYONE cheats. Cool to cheat at the end of a set, but not from the first rep. Pull-downs just invite poor form.

It's like the difference between leg extensions and squats. Squats work more overall muscle groups than leg extensions. Same as chins work more than pull-downs.

Grip would depend on if its front or behind the head. You get a different effect from grip changes so no grip is bad, just depends on what your focus is; i.e. wide grip uses less arm but has a smaller range of motion, etc.

So do what works for your goals.


so, you blame people's inability to properly execute an exercise as a reason that pull-downs suck? Please, pulldowns are a great exercise for hitting the lats. To say otherwise is just retarded. If you're doing pulldowns and not feeling the lats being hit, your form is off, simple as that.

tons of BBers use pulldowns to build size in the lats.


but.. but... Will Smith does them!