Home Blogs Commando Pull Ups: Benefits, Muscles Worked, and How To Do

Commando Pull Ups: Benefits, Muscles Worked, and How To Do

Commando Pull Ups

The world of fitness is replete with a myriad of exercises designed to challenge and sculpt the human body. Among these, the commando pull-up stands tall as a unique and effective exercise that targets various muscle groups simultaneously. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the intricacies of the commando pull-up, exploring its benefits, the muscles it engages, and the correct technique to perform it safely.

Commando Pull Ups Technique

To execute with precision, the grip and hand placement are paramount. Begin by assuming a standard pull-up position with your palms facing away from your body, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. However, here’s the twist: rotate one wrist inward so that the palm faces your face, and the other wrist remains in the traditional pull-up grip.

The starting position requires you to hang with arms fully extended, maintaining proper body alignment. Keep your core engaged and your shoulders retracted to activate the targeted muscles effectively.

The motion is initiated by engaging your biceps and lats as you pull yourself up towards one hand, bringing your head to the side of the hand with the inward-facing palm. Gradually lower yourself back down with control, alternating sides for each repetition.

It’s essential to synchronize your breathing with the movement—exhale during the pull-up phase and inhale as you lower yourself.

Avoid common mistakes such as excessive swinging or using momentum to propel yourself upward. Controlled, deliberate movements will maximize muscle engagement and minimize the risk of injury.

Muscles Worked During Commando Pull-Ups

The commando pull-up places primary emphasis on the biceps, lats, and forearms, sculpting these muscle groups for enhanced strength and definition. Additionally, secondary muscles are engaged to provide stability and support throughout the exercise.

The biceps, those coveted muscles responsible for arm flexion, are thoroughly activated during the pulling phase of the exercise. The lats, or latissimus dorsi, which are the broad muscles on the sides of your back, contribute significantly to the pulling motion.

Commando pull-ups also challenge the forearms, promoting grip strength and stability. The rear deltoids, rhomboids, and core muscles play a supportive role, enhancing overall upper body strength.

Commando Pull-Ups Benefits

Unique Advantages for Bicep and Forearm Development

By targeting the biceps with a distinctive grip variation, commando pull-ups provide a novel stimulus for bicep growth and strength. The forearm muscles, often overlooked, are intensively engaged, leading to enhanced grip strength and functionality in daily activities.

Strengthening of the Lats and Upper Back Muscles

The lats are one of the largest muscle groups in the upper body, responsible for various movements involving the arms and shoulders. Commando pull-ups, with their focus on the lats, contribute to a strong and well-defined back.

Improved Grip Strength and Forearm Activation

The unconventional grip of commando pull-ups challenges the forearms, leading to substantial forearm activation and increased grip strength. This advantage extends beyond the exercise itself, improving performance in other activities that rely on grip strength.

Versatility and Variations for Progressive Overload

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced fitness enthusiast, commando pull-ups offer a range of progressions to suit different fitness levels. By adding weights or adjusting tempo, you can continually challenge your muscles, fostering continued growth and development.

Commando Pull-Ups vs. Other Pull-Up Variations

Commando pull-ups distinguish themselves from other pull-up variations through their unique grip and muscle activation. While traditional pull-ups primarily emphasize the latissimus dorsi and biceps, commando pull-ups target these muscles in a different manner, leading to more diversified muscle recruitment.

Additionally, the commando pull-up’s emphasis on forearm activation and grip strength sets it apart from other pull-up variations. This makes it an excellent choice for those seeking to improve their grip for sports or functional activities.

Commando Pull-Up Variations

Weighted Commando Pull-Ups for Advanced Strength Training

For those seeking to challenge their muscles further and promote hypertrophy, weighted commando pull-ups offer an excellent option. By incorporating a weight belt or holding a dumbbell between the legs, the resistance increases, leading to greater muscle engagement and growth.

Tempo Variations for Added Challenge and Muscle Development

Varying the tempo during commando pull-ups can significantly impact muscle development. Slow and controlled eccentric movements (lowering phase) place more tension on the muscles, leading to greater strength gains. Conversely, explosive concentric movements (pulling phase) enhance power and overall muscular performance.

Combining with Other Exercises for a Full-Body Workout

To create a well-rounded workout routine, consider integrating commando pull-ups with complementary exercises. Pairing them with exercises that target the chest, shoulders, and core will yield a comprehensive upper-body workout, fostering balanced muscular development.

Commando Rows

As an alternative exercise, commando rows provide an effective option for targeting similar muscle groups. For executing commando rows, assume a plank position, placing your hands slightly beyond shoulder-width distance. Lower your chest toward the ground, then pull one elbow back, engaging your lats and upper back muscles. Alternate sides for each repetition to work both sides evenly.

Incorporating into Your Workout Routine

Warm-Up Exercises and Mobility Drills for Preparation

Before diving, warming up your upper body is essential to prevent injuries and improve performance. Incorporate arm circles, shoulder rolls, and dynamic stretches to increase blood flow and mobility in the shoulder and upper back regions.

Progression Strategies for Beginners and Advanced Trainees

For beginners, mastering traditional pull-ups should precede attempting commando pull-ups. Once proficient in the basic movement, gradually introduce the commando grip variation. Advanced trainees can incorporate weighted variations and tempo changes to continue challenging their muscles.

Repetition Ranges and Sets for Strength and Hypertrophy Goals

The number of repetitions and sets should align with your specific fitness goals. For strength development, aim for lower repetitions (4-6) with heavier weights or resistance. For hypertrophy (muscle growth), increase the repetitions (8-12) with moderate resistance.

Frequency of Training Commando Pull-Ups for Optimal Results

The frequency of training commando pull-ups depends on your overall workout program and recovery capacity. Allow at least 48 hours of rest between intense upper body sessions to give your muscles sufficient time to recover and grow.

Tips and Cautions

Wrist Health and Injury Prevention During the Exercise

Maintaining proper wrist alignment is crucial during commando pull-ups to avoid unnecessary strain and potential injuries. Ensure your wrists are in a neutral position, not excessively flexed or extended, to distribute the load evenly and minimize stress on the joints.

Avoiding Excessive Swinging and Maintaining Controlled Movements

Maintaining control throughout the exercise is essential to target the intended muscle groups effectively. Avoid using momentum to swing your body upward, as this reduces the workload on the muscles and increases the risk of injury. Focus on slow and deliberate movements to maximize muscle engagement.

Tailoring the Exercise to Suit Individual Fitness Levels and Abilities

As with any exercise, it’s essential to listen to your body and tailor the intensity to your fitness level. If you find commando pull-ups too challenging initially, consider starting with assisted variations using resistance bands or a partner to provide support.

Progressive Training Strategies

Achieving proficiency in commando pull-ups requires a systematic approach to training. This section will delve into progressive strategies that will help you master this challenging exercise. Start by focusing on building a solid foundation with standard pull-ups, gradually introducing the commando grip variation as you gain strength and confidence. Implementing progressive overload by increasing resistance or incorporating tempo variations will further enhance muscle development and overall performance.

A Versatile Addition to Your Calisthenics Routine

If calisthenics is your preferred training style, the commando pull-up is a versatile addition to your repertoire. Incorporate it into your bodyweight workout routine to target multiple muscle groups simultaneously. Pair it with exercises like push-ups, dips, and bodyweight rows to create a full-body calisthenics workout that builds functional strength and challenges your body in new ways. Embrace the freedom of calisthenics and explore the endless possibilities the commando pull-up offers for a holistic fitness experience.

Elevate Your Obstacle Course Race Training

Obstacle course races demand a unique set of skills and strength. The commando pull-up is an ideal exercise to incorporate into your obstacle course race (OCR) training regimen. By focusing on grip strength, upper body endurance, and lateral movement, commando pull-ups can prepare you for the rigors of navigating challenging obstacles. Integrating this exercise into your OCR training program will ensure you conquer walls, ropes, and monkey bars with confidence and finesse, propelling you to OCR success.

Common Questions About Commando Pull-Ups

What Muscles Do Commando Pull-Ups Work That Are Different from Regular Pull-Ups?

Commando pull-ups target the biceps and forearms more intensely due to the unique grip variation, offering enhanced muscle engagement in these areas compared to regular pull-ups.

Are Commando Pull-Ups Effective for Building Bicep and Forearm Strength?

Yes, commando pull-ups are highly effective for building bicep and forearm strength. The unconventional grip places significant demand on these muscle groups, leading to increased strength and size over time.

Can Commando Pull-Ups Be Done With Different Grip Variations?

While the classic commando pull-up utilizes the inward-facing palm grip on one hand and the traditional grip on the other, variations are possible. Experiment with different hand placements to target specific muscles and add variety to your training routine.


In conclusion, commando pull-ups offer a unique and rewarding exercise option for individuals looking to strengthen and sculpt their upper body. By targeting the biceps, lats, and forearms, this exercise delivers a comprehensive workout experience.

Remember to perform commando pull-ups with proper form and controlled movements to maximize muscle engagement and minimize the risk of injury. Incorporate them into your workout routine strategically, considering your fitness level and goals.

So, why wait? Start reaping the benefits of commando pull-ups today, and witness the transformation of your upper body strength and muscular development.



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