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Pull-ups are probably the best bodyweight exercise of all time. Find out how to do them properly and what are their benefits.

The muscles involved

pullups 480

Pull-up is probably the best bodyweight exercise. It is very demanding, so you need to be in a good shape to perform just a few reps with your bodyweight.

  • Upper back
  • Upper arms and forearms
  • Abs

It is an exercise for the upper body. Primarily, it targets your upper back muscles - latissimus dorsi. This is probably the best exercise for getting muscular v-shape look.

Your arms also work with the exercise – biceps and brachialis works when you pull yourself. Muscles in the forearms (brachioradialis) work while you are holding the bar. Even the triceps work while you are pulling yourself up.

 Another muscle group that works are abs. They are keeping you straight, especially lower back, while you pull yourself up.

How to do pull-ups?

4 simple steps for perfect pull-up:

  1. Grab the bar
  2. Hang from the bar
  3. Pull yourself upward until chin passes the bar
  4. Lower yourself until your arms are straight

1.      Grab the bar

Grip the bar with a shoulder-width grip or little bit wider. Your arms should go vertically, your grip shouldn’t be too wide. Wide grip makes the pull-ups easier, but it can hurt your elbows and shoulders. It is much better to have shoulder-width grip, because it enables full range motion. As a result, you get stronger lats and increased size of your upper back.

Use the full grip. Your palms should be in forward position and thumbs around the bar. Use the strong grip in which bar should rest on top of your calluses. This is not only better for proper pull-up, but it also prevents the hands from hurting and reduces calluses.

2.      Hang from the bar

Raise your feet from the floor and bend your knees. Lower your body until your arms and shoulders are fully extended. The starting position of each rep is with locked elbows.

3.      Pull yourself upward

Pull your body up, until the chin clears the bar. Raise your chest and keep it close to the bar. Keep the straight line of your body, keep your lower back straight. Your elbows should be down and the pull you need to lead with your chest.

The head should be in neutral position, looking straight ahead. Don’t look up at the bar.

4.      Lower yourself

Lower yourself down to the locked position which is described in step 2. Keep your chest up and straight back.

The rep should count only if you do the whole motion. From locked elbows and fully extended arms to the position when your chin clears the bar. Take a big breath at the bottom (in step 2), hold it on the top and exhale again at the bottom.

You can’t do a single pull-up

Pull-ups are very hard exercise and it is very hard to do them, especially if you are overweight. If you can’t do a single pull-up, don’t give up. Don’t wait until you lose lots of weight. This is a great exercise and it can help you in losing weight.

If you can’t do 10 pull-ups, check the video:


Tips for doing your first pull-up

  1. Chin-ups
  2. Assisted or negative pull-ups
  3. Do other back exercises and lose your weight


If you can’t do a single pull-up, try with chin-ups. They are easier than pull-ups, because you can use more your arms. The difference is with grip. In chin-ups, you place your hands by palms facing you. The rest of the procedure is the same.

Try to do the 3-4 sets of chin-ups with as many reps as you can perform. If you can’t do the single chin-up, try with assisted or negative pull-ups.

Assisted or negative pull-ups

If you can’t do a single chin-up, try with assisted and negative pull-ups. In assisted version, someone helps you by holding your legs, while you are doing the standard pull-up.

In negatives, you get in the upward position with chin over the bar, by standing on the bench. After that, lower yourself slowly until your arms are straight. Stand on the bench again and repeat lowering.

After you would be able to perform a few sets of assisted or negative pull-ups, try with chin-ups. If you have problems even with these exercises, do the other exercise for making your back stronger.

Do other back exercises and lose your weight

Do other exercise for making your back stronger. The most effective exercises for back muscles, except pull-ups are:

  • Deadlift
  • Lat pull downs
  • Bent-over barbell row
  • Seated cable row
  • Single arm dumbbell row

If you have a lower weight, it will be easier for you to do the pull-up. If you can’t perform even single rep, this shows that you are too weak for your body mass.  Therefore, you need to lose some weight and make yourself stronger.

When your back become stronger and you lose extra weight, you can try with negative or assisted pull-ups and chin-ups.


Why do the pull-ups?

If you are not sure that all this time and energy is worth just to be able to do the “stupid exercise”, please check all the benefits of pull-ups. What is important to mention they are one of the 5 exercises which are the base for you to become a real man. More about the five best exercises of all time read in Best Exercises for Working Men, Both For Fat Loss and Strength.



#5 Russell 2018-07-30 03:47
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#4 Zandra 2018-07-27 08:02
Thanks for sharing your thoughts about pull-up exercise. Regards
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#2 Marc Strongman 2018-03-22 12:36
Hi Kelly,

Thanks for your comment. The pull-ups are exercise primary for your upper back.
The problems could be if your grip is too wide (it should be about shoulder width). Also, don't do fast, explosive movements.

The problem with pull-ups could be your grip strength, especially if you are using a much thicker pipe. I suggest that compound exercises like pull-ups you do first in your workout, so your forearms are not tired.
Regarding your elbow pain, the problem could be the asymmetrical position of your body, during exercise, or maybe your elbows are too weak for your weight.

Make yourself stronger with exercises like:
1. Chin-ups
2. Assisted or negative pull-ups
3. Do other back exercises and lose your weight

I already mentioned them in my article.
+1 #1 Kelly Smith 2018-02-22 04:46
I recently had a pull-up bar put in however sadly the guy that created it used a far thicker pipe than I given.
i believed that I might simply drop weight/reps and eventually i might get wont to it however currently i am obtaining elbow pain,
therefore i want to prevent this - it isn't productive. short-run no massive deal,
i will provide the pull-ups every week rest so use rings for for a while however i am not even certain what muscles
i want to strengthen to be able to handle a thicker bar or what exercises to use.
once I do Pu on this thick bar it looks like i am victimisation my forearms an excessive amount of and therefore the angle looks odd (and wrong).

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