Pull-Ups Benefits – Introduction
What are the benefits of pull-ups?
Upper body bodyweight exercises don’t come much better than pull-ups.
However, they’re one of the most challenging compound exercises to master.
After all, pull-ups involve lifting your entire body weight using just your arms, and that’s quite a challenge – even if you are fit and athletic.
But, when you consider the benefits of pull-ups, you’ll soon see that learning to do this exercise will quickly start paying off.
However, to enjoy all these benefits, you need to learn how to do pull-ups properly.
That way, you’ll get the most from this great exercise while keeping your risk of injury to a minimum.
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Table of Contents
- Muscles Worked by Pull-ups
- How-To Do Pullups
- The Benefits of Pull-Ups
- Top Tips To Learn Pull-ups
- Recommended Gear for Pull-Ups
What Muscles Do Pull-Ups Work
However, before you start doing pull-ups, you should know what muscles this great exercise works.
That way, you’ll know if this is the exercise for you.
Many fitness enthusiasts do not call pull-ups the king of upper body exercises for nothing!
Doing pull-ups will help build and strengthen your:
Known as your lats for short, this is a large and powerful muscle located on the sides and across your upper back.
When well-developed, it gives your torso a pronounced V-shape.
Big lats look like wings.
The latissimus dorsi muscle is the prime mover muscle (sometimes called the agonist) in the pull-up exercise, which means that the lats provide the primary force driving the pull-up action.
If you want to build a broad V-shaped back, you want to do pull-ups!
The muscles on the front of your upper arms, and known as biceps for short, this muscle flexes your elbow.
Your biceps are the primary synergist muscle in the pull-up movement and assist your lats in performing a pull-up.
For this reason, pull-ups will also help you build bigger biceps in addition to your lats.
Mid-traps and rhomboids
You can find your mid-traps and rhomboids between your shoulder blades as in the image below; these muscles work together to pull your shoulders back.
You can find your lower traps below your shoulder blades; the lower traps hold your shoulders down so that they do not fly up and hit your ears during pull-ups!
The rectus abdominus muscle is known as Your abs for short; this muscle, whose location is on the front of your abdomen, is a stabilizer muscle in the pull-up and works to keep your lower body stable and stationary during pull-ups.
How To Do Pull-ups
Whether you have yet to do your first pull-up or you’re an old hand and can do sets of 8 reps already, make sure you are doing them right.
Here’s how to do a proper pull-up:
Step 1. Hang from a bar
Use a slightly broader than shoulder-width overhand grip.
Your arms should be straight and your feet clear of the floor.
Bend your legs and cross your feet if required.
Pulling your shoulder blades down and back and, and without bending your arms yet, lift your chest towards the bar.
Brace your abs to stabilize your legs.
See ‘pulling your shoulder blades down’ at 2:27 in this video:
Step 2. Without kicking or swinging
Bend your arms and pull your body upward until your chin is just above the bar.
Think about leading with your elbows to increase lat activation.
Step 3. Maintain tension
As tempting as it is, don’t just relax and drop back down.
Instead, lower yourself slowly and under control.
Step 4. Don’t bounce out of the bottom
Without bouncing out of the dead hang, bend your arms, and repeat.
Step 5. Full range of motion
Remember to use a full range of motion when you do pull-ups.
Go from full arms stretch to touching the bar with your chin.
Anything less than this will make your pull-up workout less productive.
Step 6. Chin Ups
You can also do this exercise with an underhand grip, turning pull-ups into chin-ups.
Some people find chin-ups easier than pull-ups because doing them with your palms facing you puts your biceps in a better pulling position.
Both exercises are similarly beneficial, so include either or both in your upper body pulling workouts.
If you wonder which you should do, chin-ups or pull-ups, see Chin-Ups vs. Pull-Ups – Which Is Better To Build Muscle? for the answer!
Step 7. Neutral grip pull-ups
For variety, you can do pull-ups with a palms-in or neutral grip.
Some exercisers find this hand position easier on the elbows than underhand chin-ups, which can put a lot of stress on your joints.
How to do pull-ups even if you cant do 1 – Exercises that will help you get your first pull-up
10 Awesome Benefits of Pull-ups
Pull-ups provide a lot of bang for your workout buck.
The vast number of benefits means that pull-ups deserve to be part of your workout routine.
Not sure yet?
Here are ten of the best benefits of doing pull-ups.
#1. Build your latissimus dorsi
Pull-ups are one of the best lat exercises around.
They’re easily comparable to lat pulldowns, but pull-ups are potentially better for building strength and muscle because you can expose your muscles to more weight.
You can make them even harder by strapping a weight around your waist and doing weighted pull-ups.
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#2. Strengthen your biceps
Even though pull-ups are primarily a lat exercise, they’re also great for building bigger biceps.
If curls aren’t giving you the arm-building results you want, start working on your pull-ups and chin-ups, and your guns will soon begin to grow.
#3. Increased grip strength
Supporting your body weight with your hands will strengthen your grip and build your forearms.
Because of this, pull-ups are one of the most helpful deadlift assistance exercises.
A firm grip will stop you from dropping the barbell mid-rep.
Also, since pull-ups (and barbell rows) strengthen your lats and grip, they will help you keep the bar close to your body during the deadlift, a vital component of excellent deadlift form.
Pulling strength is critical for success in the deadlift.
#4. Decompress your spine
Hanging from an overhead bar takes the pressure off your spine.
Heavy squats and deadlifts compress your spine, and that can lead to back pain.
Pull-ups and chin-ups, or even just doing dead hangs from a bar, stretch your back and alleviate the pressure that could otherwise cause discomfort.
Do a set of pull-ups between sets of squats and deadlifts to experience this decompressing effect for yourself.
#5. A good indicator of healthy body weight
The more overweight you are, the harder pull-ups will be.
Losing weight is one of the best ways to make pull-ups easier.
If you find pull-ups hard, you might not be weak.
You might be too heavy.
Use this as inspiration to diet down and shed some unwanted fat.
Your pull-up numbers will soon improve!
#6. Healthier shoulders
Correctly done, pull-ups are an excellent compound exercise for shoulder health.
They involve and strengthen your middle and lower traps as well as your rhomboids.
These postural muscles, whose position is across and below your shoulder blades, help stabilize your shoulders.
Stable shoulders are much less prone to injury.
#7. More powerful abs
Pull-ups provide your abs with an effective, if not indirect, workout because when you do pull-ups, your abs contract to hold your lower body stable.
You can make pull-ups more abs-centric by doing them with your knees raised or even with your legs extended in front of you, an exercise called L-pull-ups.
See more of the 10 Best Pull-Up Bar Exercises for Abs + Core Muscles Workout.
#8. You can do pull-ups almost anywhere
To do this exercise, all you need is somewhere convenient to hang.
Pull-up bars are ideal, but you can also do your workout using a tree branch, a roof joist, a climbing frame at the park, or anywhere else you can hang from your hands.
You can even do pull-ups using a door.
#9. There are lots of different pull-ups you can do
Have you mastered regular pull-ups?
Good for you!
There are plenty of other variations to try next, including:
#10. Increased functional strength
Because pull-ups target multiple muscle groups, they help develop functional strength.
That means that they have a carryover to everyday life.
If you do pull-ups several times a week, using a narrow or a wide grip, you’ll soon start to see the health benefits of pull-ups, and many of the tasks you face will seem a lot easier too.
Three science-based tips to increase your pull-ups from 0 to 10+ reps fast
What if you can’t do any pull-ups?
Achieving your first pull-up is a significant achievement.
For some people, it comes easy, but others find it much harder.
Here are a few pull-up variations that will help you score your first pull-up and increase the number of pull-ups you can do in a single set.
Using a band makes pull-ups easier by temporarily reducing your body weight.
Loop the band over your pull-up bar and kneel or stand in it.
Use a thinner resistance band to build pull-up strength until you can wean yourself off of elastic bands entirely and do your first unaided pull-up.
Lower your bar or stand on a step/box and use your legs to give your arms a boost.
See how little leg strength you need to use to do your reps.
Use your legs less and your arms more as you build muscle and get stronger.
Because of the wonders of muscle physiology, you have more strength in the eccentric or lowering phase than you do in the concentric or lifting phase.
Make the most of this phenomenon by doing negative pull-ups.
Stand on a box and climb into the top position of pull-ups, with your chin over the bar.
Lift your legs and then slowly extend your arms and lower yourself down.
Climb back up and repeat.
In time, you’ll develop the strength you need to start your reps from the bottom.
For this developmental exercise, you aren’t going to do a single pull-up.
Instead, hold yourself with your arms bent so you are halfway up.
This isometric pull-up position will strengthen your muscles so that, in time, you’ll develop the power you need to do complete reps.
Increase the length of each hold until you can do 15-20 seconds.
You should then be ready to do a rep unaided.
Grease the groove pull-ups
Once you’ve done your first pull-up, you need to keep practicing to increase your performance.
One of the best ways to do this is known as greasing the groove.
In simple terms, GTG training involves doing lots of mini-workouts every day.
You never train too hard but, instead, do lots of easy sets.
For example, if you can do three pull-ups, you would do many sets of just one rep, spread throughout your day.
Done daily, this will increase your pull-up ability without tiring you out.
Get better at pull-ups fast by doing pull-ups every day.
If you can do five or more pull-ups, doing weighted pull-ups will help you do more.
Strap on a weighted vest or weight belt and do sets with added resistance to strengthen your muscles.
Then, when you go back to just bodyweight-only pull-ups training, you’ll have more strength, feel more comfortable performing, and be able to do more reps.
Improve Your Pull-Up | 3 Easy Tips
All you need to do pull-ups is somewhere to hang.
Even a tree branch will do!
That said, several pieces of equipment can make this fantastic exercise more accessible, more productive, and comfortable.
1. Canway Pull-up bands
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Whether you are working on getting your first pull-up or want to do more reps per set, resistance bands can help.
This four-band set means you can use as much or as little assistance as you need for your workouts.
2. ZFOsports Weighted Vest
- Premium features: Pocket for your phone/music devices
- Water bottle holder, designed to fit all water bottles 16oz or smaller
- One size fits most
- Belt attached on the vest for easy set up
Ready to do pull-ups with more than just your body weight?
Strap on a weighted vest!
And, when it comes to workout productivity, more challenging is almost always better!
3. Pull-up/dip belt
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Cheaper and more portable than a weighted vest, a pull-up/dip weighted belt is another way to make your bodyweight workouts more demanding.
Just load the belt chain with standard weight plates and get to work!
4. KT Men’s Pull-up Bar
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While you can do pull-ups from any overhead beam or bar, it’s always nice to have a dedicated pull-up station.
This freestanding pull-up bar model is light and portable, and you can fold it away when it’s not in use.
See more dip and pull-up station options in The 7 Best Power Towers for Your Home Gym + workout.
5. Fat Gripz
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The thicker your bar, the harder it is to grip, making pull-ups harder and better for increasing forearm and arm strength.
Fat Gripz can clip onto existing bars to make them thicker and clip off for more comfortable workouts.
Make pull-ups harder with Fat Gripz.
Benefits of Pull-Ups – Final Thoughts
Whatever your fitness goals are, pull-ups will help you get there faster.
They’re a time-efficient upper body exercise that works for almost every muscle group in your torso.
Pair them with push-ups, and you have an incredibly effective upper body strength workout with just two moves!
Pull-ups aren’t easy, though, and that’s why a lot of exercisers don’t do them or even try them.
But, once mastered, the mighty pull-up is one of the most effective exercises you can do.
So, train hard, be patient, and work on your pull-ups.
You’ll soon be cranking them out in sets of 15 reps, and your arms and back will look amazing!
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