Skip to content

Pull-Up [Exercise Guide]

What Is A Pull-Up

Pull-ups are a functional bodyweight exercise commonly used for training muscles of the upper body. Even though it’s rather a popular movement, many beginners think it’s hard to do. However, the ability to do a pull-up is one of those skills that, contrary to popular belief, can be learned. To achieve it, you only need to know where and how to begin, learn the proper form, and put in some time and effort. We’ll get you covered in this regard! Read on to know what’s important to master the exercise.

What Muscles Does Pull-Up Work

Pull-ups work the following muscles:

  • latissimus dorsi
  • biceps
  • pectoralis major
  • triceps
  • teres major
  • rhomboids
  • subscapularis
  • coracobrachialis

You use the smaller muscles in the palms and forearms when holding the bar. The biceps and forearms come into play as you begin to raise yourself and reduce the distance between the shoulders and the hands. Finally, by pulling the elbows down towards the sides, an athlete engages the lats with a little assistance from the rotator cuffs and the teres major. Pecs and triceps work as stabilizers.

How to Perform Pull-Up

Step 1. Get into the starting position

Your feet should be able to dangle freely as you do pull-ups. That’s why the bar that you use should be high enough. Place your feet so that they are shoulder-width apart and stand underneath the bar. Jump up and grab the bar with an overhand hold, keeping your hands approximately the width of your shoulders.

Step 2. Strain your body and pull-up

You should fully extend your arms so that you are hanging from them. Bring your knees up to your chest and cross your ankles to achieve a balanced stance. Exhale and draw yourself up such that your chin reaches the bar. Pause at the movement’s top.

Step 3. Go back to the start

Lower yourself, extending your elbows in the bottom position.

Advantages of Pull-Up

Compound movement

Compound exercises work for many muscle groups at the same time and increase muscular strength. Pull-up is a basic motion that gets muscles from all over your body to work together in unison. Because of this, pull-ups have become essential components of almost all exercise programs, including calisthenics, pole fitness, powerlifting, etc.

Enhances your strength

Practicing pull-ups strengthens your back, arms, shoulders, and grip simultaneously. All the mentioned muscles are on top of the list for a good sportive figure and excellent performance. Furthermore, a strong grip works great for lifting exercises and managing many everyday activities.

Excellent for physical well-being

Pull-ups belong to strength and resistance exercises, known for their positive effects on a person’s overall physical health. Different scientific studies prove pull-ups help to fight visceral fat and prevent type 2 diabetes. Additionally, it may assist in lowering resting blood pressure and could alleviate back pain.

5 Pull-Up Alternatives 

1. Chin-Up 

The chin-up’s technique is almost the same as in a pull-up. The only difference is hand-positioning. During a chin-up, your palm should be facing you throughout the movement. Different grip slightly changes the accents on targeted muscles. The chin-up is better for working the bicep brachii and the pectoralis major. 

How to do chin-up:

  • Check that the bar is hung at the appropriate height.
  • Grab the bar with your hands just outside the breadth of your shoulders.
  • Raise your chest to the highest point you can. Make an effort not to rock back and forth or move ahead.
  • Pause when you achieve the apex of the action and your chin is above the bar.
  • Begin the descending movement. 

2. Inverted Row 

Compared to a standard pull-up, this variation places a higher focus on working the muscles in the upper body. Because you have to maintain your glutes and hamstrings engaged during the whole exercise, the lower body is also strongly involved.

How to do inverted row:

  • The bar must be at a height that allows you to hang from it without experiencing any discomfort.
  • Grab the bar with both hands and make sure your wrists are straight. At no point should any part of your foot be on the floor (other than your toes). 
  • You should keep your back in a neutral posture and your body in a straight plank stance.
  • Pull yourself up to the bar until your chest is in contact with it.
  • Bring yourself all the way back to the beginning position.

3. Lat Pulldown 

The latissimus dorsi is the primary muscle that this exercise focuses on strengthening. However, it also engages the trapezius, rhomboids, and biceps muscles. The equipment needed – cable machine.

How to do lat pulldown:

  • To properly do a lat pulldown, sit inside the cable machine and position the pads, so they are resting on top of your quadriceps.
  • Take hold of the bar and make sure your legs are bent at a 90-degree angle.
  • Bring the handles down until they are level with or below your shoulders.
  • Maintain an upright chest position and align your elbows with your hips to stimulate your lats to their fullest extent.
  • Return to the starting position.

4. Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown 

The reverse grip lat pulldown is similar to the previous one. It also implies using a cable machine and has almost the same technique. The primary objective of the workout is to strengthen the muscles in the back. When using a reverse grip, athletes can train their biceps in addition to their forearms.  

How to do reverse grip lat pulldown:

  • Place yourself in a seated position in front of the lat pulldown machine and attach a wide grip handle to it. It is recommended that your knees be bent at a 90-degree angle.
  • Put your hands about shoulder-width apart and use a supinated grip to grab the bar.
  • While maintaining your head and spine in a neutral position, pull the bar up to your chest. At this stage, keeping the shoulders contracted and pressing the shoulder blades together is necessary.
  • Come up and stretch your elbows as you do so.

5. Renegade Row 

Renegade rows are a kind of full-body workout that works the core, the back muscles, and the arms all at the same time. Renegade rows may help increase upper body strength while also improving balance and stability if the exercise is performed correctly.

How to do renegade row:

  • Start in the high plank position with your hands holding dumbbells against the floor underneath your shoulders.
  • Your feet should be shoulder-width apart.
  • Maintaining square hips and shoulders, pull the dumbbell up to your armpit. Don’t let your hips turn.
  • Bring the dumbbell back to the ground in a slow controlled motion. Keep your shoulders square to the floor throughout the whole motion.
  • Repeat with the other arm.


How do you do a pull-up correctly?

Take hold of a bar with your hands facing away from you and a grasp somewhat broader than your shoulders’ breadth. Pull yourself up, bringing the chin above the bar. Bring your body back down to the starting position.

What should you not do in pull-ups?

Letting your elbows flare, stopping hallway, doing partial reps, and practicing without retracted shoulder blades are all on the not-to-do list.

Can you get big from just pull-ups?

Pull-ups can help you gain muscle mass when performed in sufficient quantity. After six to eight sets of resistance training, you’re likely to experience muscular fatigue, which may speed up muscle growth.


Pull-up is the king of upper-body movements. This compound exercise works your lats, arms, and shoulders simultaneously. Although the exercise in and of itself is not very difficult, becoming proficient in it may be challenging. But when you master the proper form, you get all the benefits. Regular practice will make you stronger on many levels and will improve your overall health.