A pullup is a compound exercise that strengthens your upper body, emphasising the muscles in your back, shoulders and biceps. The chest contributes to the exercise in a secondary and supportive way. When you perform a pullup with a wide grip, your trunk and arms will appear to have a V shape. This modification in grip shifts the stress to your back muscles and is far more difficult than a standard or narrow-grip pullup.
The Impact of Different Grips
When you perform a pullup with a standard grip, you use a pronated or overhand position and space your hands shoulder-width distance apart. In addition to targeting the lats, rhomboids and biceps, the exercise conditions the deltoids, trapezius and teres major and minor, or the muscles responsible for controlling the shoulder blades. When you widen the grip, it shifts the stress from the biceps to the back and shoulders. Some trainers warn that the wide-grip pullup places excessive pressure on your wrists and shoulder blades, according to the Tribesports website. If you narrow the grip to less than shoulder width, the stress of the exercise shifts to your biceps, which makes a pullup easier.
Pulling Up in the V
Begin by standing under a pullup bar. Grasp the bar with hands wider than shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees and cross your ankles to maintain stability throughout the exercise. Exhale and pull yourself up until your chin is just higher than the bar. Hold the peak position for a second and then slowly return to starting position. Avoid rocking or swinging your body and using momentum to hoist yourself up. To boost the intensity of the exercise, pause at three different levels on your descent or hold a dumbbell with your feet.
Brute Strength of the Back
While the standard pullup is a difficult body-weight exercise, the wide-grip pullup requires that the upper back assumes almost the entire pressure of the exercise. Because your arms are in a stretched position, you can't use your biceps to lift your body. To complete a single rep, it takes an enormous amount of strength to lower yourself into a dead hang with fully extended arms. Even athletes have a tough time with this pullup variation, using a full range of motion and correct technique.
Pace and Training
While common advice is to perform a pullup with a two-count lift and a four-count descent, authors Thomas Incledon and Matthew Hoffman recommend that you perform pullups at your own pace, according to "Men's Health Maximum Muscle Plan: The High-efficiency Workout Program to Increase Your Strength and Muscle Size in Just 12 Weeks." Because pullups are challenging, you can attach the ends of an elastic band to the pullup bar and form a loop that hangs below your body. If you're struggling with fatigue, step on this loop and use the springy elastic to help you execute more reps. As you become more adept at pullups, you should use a variety of grips -- narrow, wide, neutral, underhand and staggered -- to challenge your upper-body muscles at different angles and activate more muscle fibers. Gradually progress the number of pullups in your training regimen. If you're feeling any pain in your shoulders, avoid the exercise.