Pull Up Exercise

A pull-up is an upper-body compound pulling exercise. Although it can be performed with any grip, in recent years some have used the term to refer more specifically to a pull-up performed with a palms-forward position. The term chin-up, traditionally referring to a pull-up with the chin brought over top of a bar, was used in the 1980s to refer to a palms-away (overhand/pronated) grip, with a palms-toward (underhand/supinated) grip being called a “reverse-grip” chin-up. In later decades, this usage has inverted, with some using “chin” to refer to a pull-up done with a palms-backward position. In spite of this, “chin” is still regularly used refer to overhand-grip.

The most popular current meaning refers to a closed-chain bodyweight movement where the body is suspended by the arms, gripping something, and pulls up. As this happens, the wrists remain in neutral (straight, neither flexed nor extended) position, the elbows flex and the shoulder adducts and/or extends to bring the elbows to or sometimes behind the torso. The knees may be bent by choice or if the bar is not high enough. Bending the knees may reduce pendulum-type swinging. A traditional pull-up relies on upper body strength with no swinging or “kipping” (using a forceful initial movement of the legs in order to gain momentum). The exercise mostly targets the latissimus dorsi muscle of the back along with other assisting muscles.

Pull-ups (including chins) can be done with a supinated, neutral or pronated grip (often called “chin-ups”, “hammer grip pull-ups”, and “pull-ups”, in order). Grips may match each other or be different (mixed grip). Grips may also rotate throughout the movement, such as by doing them on rings or rotating handles (false grip). The range of motion used by trainers can vary. The fullest possible range is with straight arms overhead (elbow directly above shoulder), to pulling when the arms are at the sides (elbow directly below shoulder). People sometimes only train portions, such as avoiding locking out the arms at the bottom, or stopping when the head/chin/neck touch the bar. Positions within the range are also trained isometrically, as in flexed-arm and straight-arm hangs for time. The width of the grip may also differ. When grabbing and holding the bar during the pull-up, the hands can be apart at shoulder-width, or wider, or narrower enough to touch each other. This may make the pull-up more difficult and may limit the range of motion compared to the shoulder-width grip.

Step Pull Up:

  1. Grip a pullup bar with your palms facing whichever direction you prefer. In general, having your palms facing towards you is most efficient. When you pull yourself up with your hands facing this way, you give your biceps and lats a better workout. Pulling yourself up with your palms out is considered the most difficult way to pull up your bodyweight but also gives deltoids and pectorals a good workout. Start with your arms fully extended.
  2. Pull your bodyweight up until your chin is just barely above the bar. You may have to strain, but keep pulling until you’ve lifted yourself up using your back and biceps.
    • In order to keep your bodyweight centered, you can cross your feet beneath you as you lift yourself up.
    • Remember kicking your feet to gain extra momentum isn’t helping anything.
  3. Lower yourself until your arms are fully extended. Lower yourself in a controlled way to work the muscles harder and prep yourself for the next pull.
  4. Do another pullup. Once your arms are almost extended, start pulling up again. Repeat for as many reps as you can. Don’t let your number of repetitions bring you down; you can only get better. If possible, do 3 sets of 10 reps.