Are Behind The Neck Pull-ups Any Useful?

Behind the neck pull-ups have become pretty popular because they are often seen in movies. The actor Will Smith included them in his training routine in the movie ‘I am Legend’ and ever since more people became interested in the exercise.

However, like always Hollywood misses the essential. Behind the neck pull-ups are a bad exercise and don’t offer significant benefits.


1.Short range of motion.


As you probably saw in the movie Will Smith’s range of motion was terrible. Those are not real pull-ups. Partly it’s due to his particular style but the poor execution is also influenced by the fact that behind the neck pull-ups are a short range of motion (ROM) exercise.

Where do you go after the bar hits your neck?

2.Joint pain. 

Your shoulder and neck hate behind the neck pull-ups. They’ve trying to tell you so in a long time but you just don’t listen. You want to imitate Will Smith at the expense of your own health.

The behind the neck pull-ups put your shoulder joint in the ‘impingement zone’ and you are 1 cm away from a neck strain that will keep you awake at night.

You elbows and wrist will most likely also revolt against your attempts to imitate Will Smith.

3.Inefficient lat builder.

When you are doing behind the neck pull-ups it’s very hard to push your chest out and open your ribcage. This is required in order to activate your lats during pull-ups and chin-ups. It’s better to do ring pull-ups, if you are trying to build massive lats.

But my friend has been doing behind the neck pull-ups for years. He is in his 90s now and he swears by them…

Just because somebody was able to get away with something it does not make it right. After all, there are lifetime smokers who lived to be 90+ years old. Does that make smoking safe too? Doesn’t seems so.

Is the same true for the behind the neck overhead press?

In general, yes. The same principles apply to the behind the neck press – too much stress on the shoulders and not enough ROM.

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