Overhand Pull Ups

In this article you will learn about overhand pull ups – what they are, how to perform them and why you may want to consider adding them to your exercise regime.

Overhand Pull Ups Explained

The overhand pull up is the variant of the pull up in which the standard maneuver of raising oneself on a bar to chin height is performed with the hands in a pronate, facing away position.

It is this specific hand position which gives the overhand pull up it’s name.

This YouTube video provides a demonstration of how to perform the overhand pull up:

The overhand pull up is considered to be one of the most difficult pull up variations to perform. This is because the grip places the main focus of the motion and strength on the lats in the back, whilst almost completely removing the biceps from the maneuver.

This is in contrast with the underhand grip, which is considered an excellent way to build strength in the biceps.

Another disadvantage of the overhand pull up is that it reduces the amount of weight that the individual can successfully lift as the biceps are removed from the equation.

When performing a pull up with the overhand grip position it is generally recommended that you use a wide grip, slightly wider than shoulder width, placing your hands far apart.

This wider grip places full emphasis on the lats and allows for the greatest chance of success in performing the exercise.

However, it is important to be careful that the grip is not too wide or you risk shoulder injury due to a reduced range of motion placing great strain on the shoulder joints and muscles.

Those with a pre-existing history of injuries to their shoulders should be cautious in performing the overhand grip as they risk recurrence of their prior injury.

What Muscles Do Overhand Pull Ups Work?

The overhand pull up works the latissimus dorsi (lats) extensively, with the main focus of the exercise being on these muscles.

They also exercise the trapezius and rhomboid muscles, as well as muscles in the forearm which are involved in the grip required to perform the maneuver.

The bicep muscles are engaged to a degree but this is much less than in an underhand pull up and so if the individual wishes to place emphasis on the bicep muscles they may wish to consider adding the underhand pull up to their regime also.

Why Are Overhand Pull Ups Harder?

It is generally agreed that overhand pull ups are harder to perform than any other variation of the exercise. But why is this?

The overhand grip places great emphasis on the lats, as we have already seen, removing much of the emphasis which other variations of the pull up place of the bicep muscles of the arm.

This grip and placement requires greater flexibility as well as greater strength in the lats in order to successfully complete the pull up than would be required in other variants.

Another reason why some people find overhand pull ups harder is because in their daily lives they spend much of their time working at a desk in an office.

This means that they spend hours hunched over a desk working at a computer with a rolled-forward posture.

This makes it difficult when it comes to performing a pull up for the shoulders to then revert to a more upright position in which the back can pull the body up and down easily.

When this is the case the biceps would usually be employed to undertake more of the effort required.

However, as the overhand pull up almost completely removes the biceps from the pull up they cannot compensate in the manner required, making the exercise harder to complete.

Are Overhand Pull Ups Harder?

Overhand pull ups are generally considered harder to perform than other variants, such as the underhand pull up.

The grip position places emphasis on the lats in the back rather than on the bicep muscles of the arms, removing these almost completely from the exercise, making it more difficult for the individual to successfully perform the pull up.

Greater flexibility and greater strength are required in order to succeed in completing the overhand pull up.

Is 10 Pull Ups Good?

Anyone asking themselves if being able to perform 10 pull ups is good may be reassured by some comparisons with the standard required by some of America’s military institutions.

If you wish to successfully qualify as a US Marine you need to be able to perform at least 3 pull ups. To become an Army Ranger you need to perform a minimum of 6 pull ups and to become a Navy SEAL the qualifying mark is a minimum of 8 reps.

Given the standards set by these demanding American military institutions are below 10 pull ups then you should be reassured that being able to perform 10 pull ups is definitely good!

The exercise is strenuous and arduous, widely considered one of the most difficult to perform. So if you can perform 10 reps you should be very happy with yourself.


Hopefully you now know more about overhand pull ups. Here is a summary of what the article has covered.

  • An overhand pull up involves the hands being placed in a pronate, facing away position
  • The muscles exercised by performing overhand pull ups
  • That overhand pull ups are generally considered harder to perform, and some of the reasons why this is the case
  • That being able to perform 10 pull ups is great!