Grappling is a sport of pulling. Certainly pushing motions are required but the predominant actions of the upper body during all types of grappling are gripping, holding, squeezing, and pulling. This makes the pull-up an ideal exercise for building grappling-specific strength. Additionally it is a relatively simple motion to learn and can be done almost anywhere with a little imagination. Many people make a distinction between the pull-up and the chin-up. One exercise performed with the palms facing away (pronated) and the other with the palms facing your face (supinated). I use the word pull-up to refer to any exercise where you hang from a bar or other apparatus and pull yourself up until your chin clears the bar. There are dozens of different grips you can use for variety. Some will be easier and some harder with more emphasis on this or that muscle group, but in reality they all work the same basic muscles. It is primarily a back, biceps, and forearm workout. Use different grips for variety.
If you aren’t currently doing pull-ups, put them into your routine. They are light years ahead of the lat pull-down for all around development. If you can’t do a single pull-up start with the flexed hang. Just jump yourself into the top position of the pull-up and hold for as long as you can. Combine these with partial pull-ups (start at the top and only go ¼ or ½ the way down) and full range lat pull-downs.
Here are a couple of standards to use as goals. First, if you can’t do any then focus on trying to get one complete dead hang pull-up. Dead hang means a relatively motionless start from the bottom hanging position with little or no swinging or kipping. If you can get a single one you can base your progress on the FBI Physical Fitness Standards (http://www.fbijobs.gov/11133.asp).
Brian Jones, PhD