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Pull-up's for Those with a Weak Grip

If you are having problems doing Pull-ups or Chin-ups because of a weak grip simply use the Deadlift grip on the Chin-up bar. The next time you are doing Pull-ups/Chin-ups with your training partner he will be surprised that you get a couple of extra reps (that is if you were failing because of a weak grip).

That is a good short term fix. Naturally the long term fix is to improve your grip. I have found the best way to do this for Pull-ups is to perform the bar hang. Do only two sets at the end of your workout for time. Wait about 2:00 between sets.

If you can hang for 1:00 straight then you should have no problem with gripping the Pull-up bar for maximum reps. I have hung for almost 4:00 before (that really, really hurt!). Since it should take you about two to three seconds per rep, if you are going for high reps in this movement, then being able to hang from the bar for :60 is a must if you want a clean set of 20 reps or so. Naturally, the stronger your “hang grip” the more confident and stronger you will be with your Pull-up/chin-up performance.

I have found that working with the Iron Man grippers, while plenty of fun, did not help my grip for Pull-ups. I practiced until I could close the #2 gripper six times.

One additional execise that did help my grip for Pull-ups/Chin-ups is the wrist roller. You are all familiar with that device I’m sure. I used to do two or three sets after my Pull-up work out and found them quite helpful. However, the “bar hang” is the best supplemental movement that I have found to improve your Pull-up/Chin-up grip

Good Luck, with your training!


      Good tip.
      Have you played with bodyweight holds for time in positions other than the bottom? How did it work out?

When you say “deadlift grip,” do you mean an alternating grip?

I agree hangs are one of the most effective ways to improve your pull/chin grip. Another good variation is any kind of moderately heavy barbell holds. Just chose a weight around 60% of you 1RM in the deadlift, pick it up, and hold for time.

Holding can also be done one-handed. It can get pretty difficult to hold and balance a relatively heavy barbell in one hand for time.

One of the reasons grippers don’t carry over well in chin ups, and even deadlifts, is because it is a different kind of gripping strength. Grippers exercise your crushing strength, chins and deadlifts use only a static hold throughout the movement.

Good luck and I’m sure Zeb will answer any questions anybody has.

Waiting for bench press advice,


I can hold my chin over the bar for over :60. This is really not that good in comparison to my hang position time. I am sure that there are many who can do better than this.

My strong point has always been my ability to blast out of the hole in the hang position. I do continue to work on my weak areas however.

Hi Todd, how have you been?

I agree barbell holds are another excellent way to improve your Pull-up grip!

Oh and as far as the Bench Press advice…hmm let me think…oh yes: DON’T DO THEM! haha


Thanks. That’s interesting to know.


Please offer some advice.

I have a neighbor that I have recently been trying to help get started with his training. He is not very experienced, but he is naturally strong.

The problem is the fact that he is about 40 pounds overweight.

I am not sure how to get him started with pullups, or even if I should before he gains a bit more experience.

What are your thoughts?


Great Tips ZEB !

I have been hitting the chins pretty hard lately and can get almost 10 now. I am starting a full body program and am planning to incorporate chins or pullups 3 times a week now.

Keep the tips coming!



Assuming your friend has a high body fat percentage I do not recommend that he attempt doing any Pull-ups at this point. It would most likely cause him to feel badly about himself. We don’t want this. Success first begins in the mind! He needs plenty of smaller victories in order to instill the idea that he can succeed.

One of my more lengthly posts: “Zeb on Chin-ups” has some suggestions for people such as your friend. One good idea is to use a Smith Machine. Adjust the bar so that he can grab hold of it in Pull-up fashion while his feet are touching the ground somewhere in front of him. He would be on an angle such as this: /. As he gets stronger, and loses body fat, you will raise the bar on the Smith Machine so that less of his own body weight is actually touching the ground.

I have noticed a difference in my own Pull-up performance when my body fat fluctuates between 8%, the lowest I have ever been and 12%, about the highest. At 8% to 8.5% I can hit the high 30’s for reps. When I am around 12% I am reduced to about the 32 to 34 rep range. 3.5% body fat can reduce my performance by 5 or 6 reps! I am sure that someone who is grossly overweight, with no Pull-up/Chin-up experience would have a very difficult time.

Also, make sure that you emphasize the proper food consumption to your friend. Eliminate things like soda, which is no more than liquid candy, and other junk foods. I am sure you have already told him this, but it is the other half of the equation, so it needs to be mentioned.

Try the Smith Machine method and let me know how he is doing.

He is lucky to have a neighbor like you!

Best Of Luck,



Way to go man! There are not very many men walking around that can perform 10 clean dead hang Chins!

Quick story time:

I built a house not long ago. In the backyard of the house I had already placed a Chin-up bar. For one week I decided to see how many Chin-ups, or Pull-ups (their choice) that the men building the house could do. The men were mostly young between 18 and 30 and in decent shape. Laborers, Masons, Carpenters etc.

The most that anyone could do was 10, and only one man did that! By the way, he had very low body fat. The rest of them did between 0 and 8. Most performing under 5.

In all fairness I realize that most did not train. However, that still does not negate the fact that 10 strict dead hang Chins is a fine accomplishment!

Performing them three times per week is the way to get the numbers up even higher! If you are going for higher reps make sure you give yourself plenty of rest between sets. Three to five sets per session is plenty, and make sure they are clean reps. Don’t be afraid to train to failure on the final set once a week or so, just don’t overdo it.

Good Luck,


Thanks Zeb,

My son and I were in the front yard running wind sprints, (our next door neighbor is kind enough to let us combine his yard with ours), helping him to prepare for basketball. One of the other kids from across the street decided we were having to much fun, so he came over to join us.

I had a layoff due to spinal surgery, just over a year ago, and my son was enjoying the fact that he was outrunning me.

Anyway, the father comes over to collect the kid from across the street, we get to talking, and the next thing you know I am trying to offer a little hands on advice.

It was spur of the moment, but he has been steady for about three weeks. Hopefully, he will stick with it. He is one strong guy for someone who says he hasn’t touched a bar since high school.

Anyway, thanks for the tips,