Elbow position during pullups

What to do with your elbows during pullups? Point them sideways? Forward? Out at 45 degrees? Its really interesting because it lets you focus more on your lats or biceps depending on the angle.

If you take a non bodybuilder and ask them to do a pullup, you will find something interesting because without any instruction, they naturally find the easiest way to do them. First half of them will do a chin up rather than a pullup, why is that? Because its easier! Why it is easier? Because when you do chin ups, you can use both your biceps and lats so if you have weak lats you can still get your chin above the bar. Doing chin ups is like doing barbell curls and pullups at the same time.

But the thing you will find MORE interesting is watching the elbow position of people who actually do a pullup. Their elbows will be pointed 45 degrees forward like this, why is that? Because its easier! Once again its because with the elbows forward, you can use your biceps to assist your weak lats in getting you head above the bar. With your elbows pointed forward in a pullup, its the equivelent of doing overhand grip barbell curls and pullups. The only reason these people dont point their elbows completely forward is because if they tried to do pullups that way, their wrists would snap off.

So, now lets talk about some interesting ways to use this information on elbow position. First and foremost, if you are doing a workout focusing on your lats then keep your elbows back! Dont let them point forward! Your upper arms should be co-linear. A perfect way to practice this and get a feel for the proper position is to use a doorway mount pullup bar and let your elbows slide along the frame like this.

A great way to use your newfound elbow position knowledge is to cheat those last few reps. Most people use kipping/swining/kicking to do the last few reps which is bad because it can result in injury. A much better way to get those last few reps is to allow your elbows to drift forward so you biceps can assist your fatigued lats.

The greatest use for elbow position is during vacation workouts when you only have a pullup bar at a ParKour staion. You can get a full biceps workout by using elbows forward.

Just a quick word of warning, more isnt better! Dont let your elbows go behind the plane of your back, thats really dangerous for your shoulder. Colinear or just slightly forward, maybe 1″.

8 thoughts on “Elbow position during pullups”

  1. Call of Duty RoyalShows Gta 5

    I am 12 and i can do 2 chin ups slow and full way up and then full way down and again but if i do a pull up with my elbows 180 deegress i can’t even move from the ground it might be because my hands are too short so can i put my elbows not too forward and not too back to progress to a pull up?

  2. Hi! :) I need help. I registered on The Ask Scooby – The Friendly Home Fitness & Bodybuilding Forum at 19.05.2011, now is 3.06.2011 and i still waiting for a approved of my account. Is this normal?

  3. send in the frowns

    the strength trainers at kit laughlin's monkey gym in Australia tell us to try to get our elbows as far backwards as possible at the top of the motion.

  4. Interesting and useful advice as usual. I do an upper body pyramid/superset of dips, pull-ups, and push-ups once a month and I never knew I was risking my shoulders with my elbow position.

    I also had no idea that bodybuilders had the strength to weight ratio it takes to accomplish a pull-up. Most of them weigh far too much to pull off more than two or three of them at a time.

    Of course, I could always be proven wrong if there was only someone out who provides helpful videos who would demonstrate their mastery…

  5. Unfortunately I don't agree – what is best may not be as obvious as that. Whilst many are capable of performing a single pullup with any style they wish, very few – including those who work out frequently – are capable of pullups with max lat emphasis (wide behind head bar pullups).

    As such it may be a better idea and they would achieve far greater volume of lat emphasis from working with a style of pullup that is slightly easier. We discussed this a while back on the forum to some depth:


  6. Yup, that's right. More is not better. Harder is not better. Thanks for saying this.

    Mr. Peter Zane??? Hans's new name?

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