WHY you DON’T NEED the false grip pull up!

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I want to do muscle ups – my issue is that my ceiling is too low at the moment! To get myself in to shape to perform a muscle up I have started cycling false grip pull ups in to the workout routine. Here’s all you need to know about them…

Why you DON'T NEED the false grip pull up!

At a glance…

  • A false grip has your wrist in a position of strength on the TOP of the bar which ultimately enables a smooth transition to a muscle up
  • Unless you want to progress to a muscle up, you probably don’t need to worry about a false grip
  • The main benefits of a false grip are a shorter range of motion due to the wrist bing on TOP of the bar, and the twist triggering different forearm activation
  • Build up your tolerance to the false grip slowly – it can take time for muscles and ligaments to adapt

What is a false grip pull up?

A false grip is one where the wrist is elevated on to the TOP of the bar, compared to a traditional wrist-below the bar grip. It originated in gymnastics but has transitioned in to weightlifting largely through CrossFit and the rise of similar aerobic training.

You PROBABLY shouldn’t use a false grip for pull-ups…

If you want to know if you SHOULD use a false grip for pull-ups then my answer is: probably NOT. 

A false grip is principally used to enable you to hit a more efficient muscle up – if you DO NOT want to do a muscle up I recommend sticking to a traditional pull or chin up grip.

However if you want to do muscle ups or get serious about calisthenics training then a false grip pull-up is a great place to start that journey!

How to perform a false grip pull up

Actually PERFORMING a false grip pull up is quite straight forward:

  1. Use a stool or bench to make the first attempt to get in to position easier
  2. Aim for a grip slightly wider than shoulder width and take a light grip with both hands
  3. Consciously lift the pinky-side of the hand curl over the top of the bar. It is likely that your wrist will then touch the side of the pull up bar. 
  4. Tighten your grip and twist your hand on to the bar, locking it in place
  5. Repeat for the other hands
  6. Progress to a dead hang and ultimately a set of pull ups

Troubleshooting

Like hook grip when deadlifting, a false grip can be confusing to visualise. Here area few common issues:

  • What should it look like – imagine you were going to do a dip on the top of the bar. That is the strong wrist position we are visualising when getting in to position. Imagine the ‘bulldog’ grip adopted during a bench press – this is the same position of wrist strength with the bar crossing the heel of the hand we are looking to emulate.
  • Grip is slipping – apply chalk to your hands and wrist, or directly to the bar
  • Painful – take it slowly, a false grip can take a while to adapt to with both muscles and ligaments. If you experience pain then add assistance such as a band to take some strain off. Build up slowly – start with ONE hand in a false grip and the other normal for dead hangs. Also consider moving from a pull-up bar to rings if pain persists.

How to build up to a false grip pull

Like all exercises and grip changes we need to progress carefully to full sets. When introducing the false grip start first with dead hangs from the bar, progressing to negatives and assisted pull ups before going for bodyweight+.

The THREE main false grip pull-up benefits are…

There are three awesome benefits to using a false grip:

1. Transferability to a muscle up

A false grip is preferable when doing a muscle up as the wrist is in a strong base position on the top of the bar already. This means when the pull transitions to a muscle up – or when you ‘catch’ your body weight on top of the bar – there is minimal wrist repositioning needed to do this safely.

When using a traditional grip pull up the transition to muscle up involves a significant wrist and hand movement to make the catch safe.

The false grip pull up is therefore a great way to reduce injury risk when doing muscle ups.

2. Reduced range of motion

With the wrist on top of the bar the length of the pull up is reduced by around a hands length. This makes the movement theoretically easier and you should be able to do more pull ups, or do them faster, which can be helpful when doing CrossFit or similar WOD based activities.

3. Triggers forearm involvement

The angle adopted in a false grip pull up triggers the flexors and brachioradialis in the forearms. The false grip can be a good way to get a bit more forearm work in to your routine as a result.

Conclusion

In conclusion the false grip pull up is a great exercise to build up to muscle ups or other intermediate to advanced calisthenics movements. If you are more interested in strength or general training then a regular grip is likely easier to perform and will likely be equally as good at helping you achieve your goals.

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