Exploring Pull-Up Variations: Muscle Activation and Range of Motion Effects

The pull-up exercise is a ubiquitous and fundamental component of strength training programs. Despite its popularity, there exists a notable scarcity of evidence demonstrating the specific muscle activation patterns associated with different variations of the pull-up. In this blog post, we will delve into two comprehensive studies that shed light on this topic. The first study examines the nuanced muscle activation in various pull-up grips, while the second study contrasts the outcomes of full range of motion (ROM) versus partial ROM resistance training.

Study 1: Lat Activation in Pull-Up Variations

The pull-up is a widely-used exercise, yet questions linger about which muscles are most effectively targeted across different grip variations. This study aimed to investigate how various grip orientations—pronated (overhand), supinated (underhand), neutral, and rope—affect muscle activation within the shoulder-arm-forearm complex. By analyzing EMGPEAK and EMGARV data, the researchers sought to unveil the subtleties of muscle engagement during distinct pull-up grips.


  • Pronated grip pull-ups were found to elicit a higher level of activation in the middle trapezius muscle compared to neutral grip pull-ups.

  • Across the various grip orientations, the activation levels of the other muscles remained relatively consistent.


The findings of this study highlight the increased activation of the middle trapezius muscle during pronated grip pull-ups. On the whole, other muscles showcased consistent activation patterns regardless of the grip orientation employed.

Study 2: Full ROM vs. Partial ROM Resistance Training

This systematic review undertakes a comprehensive comparison of full ROM and partial ROM resistance training. The key insights garnered from this study include:

  • Full ROM training leads to superior muscle strength gains and greater lower-limb muscle hypertrophy.

  • Functional performance benefits slightly more from full ROM exercises.

  • While fascicle length is influenced by full ROM training, no significant discrepancies in muscle architecture changes were observed.


The evidence synthesized from this study underlines the clear advantages of full ROM resistance training for optimizing muscle strength and fostering lower-limb muscle hypertrophy. Furthermore, it suggests a potential preference for full ROM exercises in promoting functional performance. However, when it comes to architectural changes in muscles, the differences between full and partial ROM interventions were not substantial.

Combined Perspective

Both studies collectively contribute to our understanding of effective exercise variations and the efficacy of full ROM resistance training. By dispelling common misconceptions and providing comprehensive insights into training protocols, these studies offer a more nuanced perspective on optimizing strength training strategies.


  1. Vanderburgh, P. M., & Flanagan, S. P. (2000). Activation of trunk muscles during pull-up exercises. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 32(5), 812-818.
  2. Online Library: Effects of range of motion on resistance training adaptations: A systematic review and meta-analysis

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