The Complete Guide To Pull-up

August 10, 2022 / Workout
The Complete Guide To Pull-up

A standard pull-up involves gripping an overhead bar and using your upper body strength to raise your body until your chin is above the bar. Because performing the pull-up involves moving the entirety of your own bodyweight up against gravity, it takes incredible upper-body strength and trunk stability. It’s considered to be a difficult exercise for most people, partly because you must overcome gravity to lift your body.

What is a pull-up?

The pull-up is a closed chain strength training exercise that uses your entire body weight, focusing specifically on your upper body and core. 

Closed chain exercises usually involve multiple muscles and joints, causing a much more efficient stimulus to allow the body to improve faster, while open chain exercises generally isolate specific muscle groups.

The pull-ups is a common measure of upper-body strength and endurance that has been utilized to assess a variety of individuals including, athletes, and members of the U.S. military academies.

This multi-joint, upper extremity exercise is a functional movement designed to increase the strength and stability of the glenohumeral joint, while also balancing out the push-pull ratio of the upper torso.

perfect pull-up

Benefits of Pull-up

  • Pull-ups build your upper body strength.

It effectively increases your upper body strength by working the muscles in your back such as the latissimus dorsi, teres major, infraspinatus, levator scapulae and trapezius. Pull-ups will help your back grow bigger, giving the body a V-shape physique that looks attractive and powerful. 

  • Pull-ups build strength in your arms.

pull-ups are one of the best bodyweight exercises for targeting the muscles in your arms, specifically the biceps brachii and the brachialis, your elbow flexor muscles.

  • Pull-ups improve your grip strength.

The pull-up activates the brachioradialis muscles in your forearms, which increases grip strength. By enhancing your grip strength, pull-up can be useful warm-ups for other compound exercises like lat pulldowns, parallel bar push-ups, and barbell curls.

  • Improves posture:

Good posture relies on the strong back and core muscles responsible for stabilizing the spine. When you strengthen these muscle groups, you can maintain an upright posture by effectively exercising the necessary muscles to keep your upper body balanced and aligned.

  • Increases your functional strength

Functional exercises can improve the overall function of your body, boosting muscle strength and endurance. Pull-ups are a functional bodyweight exercise that is effective for building upper body strength. By improving your functional strength through dynamic compound exercises like pull-ups, you strengthen the relationship between your nervous and muscular systems.

How to do Pull-up

how to do pull-up
  • A proper pull-up starts with proper hand placement. Grab the bar and position your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Range of motion will be compromised if grip is too wide. Gripping too narrow can cause your back muscles to not activate completely and can lead to too much focus on your forearm muscles. Keep your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width onto the bar.
  • Try to pull yourself up as far as you can in a slow and controlled motion. Pull body up until chin is above bar.
  • Use your core muscles to stabilize your torso, and pull your shoulder blades back and down; they should stay this way throughout the movement.
  • Lower body until arms and shoulders are fully extended.

Pull-up Muscles Worked

Most of the people think that it is just the Lats and the biceps that work when you do a pull up. This is simply not true. Whenever you perform any movement, almost the entire body works together in synchrony to help you execute the movement as effectively as possible. This is the beauty of the human body.


Target - Latissimus Dorsi
Synergists - Infraspinatus
Synergists - Teres Minor
Synergists - Posterior Deltoid
Synergists - Trapezius
Synergists - Rhomboids
Synergists - Levator Scapulae
Synergists - Teres Major
Synergists - Biceps Brachii
Synergists - Brachioradialis
Synergists - Brachialis
Synergists - Pectoralis Minor
Stabilizers - Rectus Abdominis
Stabilizers - External oblique
Stabilizers - Internal oblique
Dynamic Stabilizers - Triceps
Muscles worked in pull-up

Pull-up muscle groups worked

Extension, adduction, and transverse abduction of the shoulder

  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Deltoid (posterior)
  • Pectoralis major
  • Infraspinatus
  • Teres major
  • Teres minor
  • Triceps brachii (long head)
  • Coracobrachialis

Adduction and inferior rotation of the scapula

  • Trapezius (lower and middle fibers)
  • Rhomboids
  • Levator scapulae
  • Pectoralis minor

Flexion of the elbow

  • Biceps brachii
  • Brachioradialis
  • Brachialis

Isometric anti-extension and anti-rotation of the spine

  • Rectus abdominis
  • External oblique
  • Internal oblique

Abdominal muscles during pull-ups

During pullup, your abs are also usually engaged to keep yourself taut. Pull ups recruit some stabilization of the core in order to avoid swinging on the bar. Abs stabilize you so you don’t rock forward and backward during pullups.

pull-up muscles worked

Which muscles do pull-ups work

Best Pull-up Variations

Shoulder rehabilitation and strength & conditioning plans should encourage incorporation of all pull-up variants with systematic progression to provide greater specific strengthening of the torso and upper limb musculature. Try adding these variations of the pull-up into your training to keep workout fun and varied.

pull-up variations

1- Dead Hang

dead hang

A great pull-up exercise always starts and ends with a dead hang. Dead hang is actually a easy exercise. Basically, you hang from an overhead bar and hold it there for as long as you can

Dead hang is a effective exercise to strengthen the rotator cuffs, decompress the spine, Increase shoulder rom, and to build great forearms the grip strength you’ll build will carry over to pull-ups.

The dead hang works your hand and wrist flexors, the brachioradialis and extensor carpi radialis muscles in your forearms and the latissimus dorsi muscles in your back. Dead hang exercise also help stretch out and decompress the spine.

Dead hang exercise put your body into an extended position, reversing the effects of gravity and poor posture. When done regularly, dead hang exercise can improve your posture.

If you’re looking for a beginner level bodyweight exercise, include dead hang in your workout plan. If you’re brand new to hanging, it’s best to start with short intervals of 10 to 20 seconds of dead hang time.

2- Assisted Pull-up

Assisted Pull-up

If your gym has an assisted pull-up machine, you can also give this a shot.

The mechanism of action is similar to that of the banded pull up, but here the assistance curve is proportionate throughout the entirety of the movement.

With resistance bands, you’ll get the most assistance at the bottom part of the movement – this is also the most difficult part of the exercise.

With the assisted pull-up however, you are supported throughout the entire movement. Therefore, the assisted pull-up machine is a little easier because you don’t have to lift all your weight at the peak of the contraction.

3- Band Assisted Pull-up

Band Assisted Pull-up

With this pull-up variation, you attach a band to the top of the pull up bar, and place your feet within the band.

This way, the elasticity of the band will assist you in pulling yourself up to the bar.

Remember, the thinner resistance band, the less it will help you.

There are various types of resistance bands, so you can play around with that and work your way up to a regular pull up.

4- Scapula Pull-up

Scapula Pull-up

Pull-ups promote activation of scapula stabilizers and stability of the shoulder girdle and performing pull-ups over their full range of motion is important as different techniques and phases emphasize different muscles.

Scapula pull-ups, are an upper-body exercise that uses a smaller range of motion than a regular pull-up to activate your shoulders, traps, scapula, and surrounding muscles.

A scapular pull-up starts in a classic pull-up position with your palms facing away from you and your hands a little over shoulder-width apart. Think of the scapular pull-up as a hanging reverse shrug. Movement should occur only at the scapula. Instead of bringing your shoulders up to your ears, you are pulling them back and down.

The scapula pull-up is an exercise that few people use. However, it will help you move on to more complex exercises such as scapula strength, shoulder health, improved push and pull shape, and front levers.

5- Brachialis Pull-up

Brachialis Pull-up

There is another very important muscle in the upper arm called the brachialis. This muscle is a strong flexor of the elbow. The brachialis muscle lies directly underneath the biceps and, when developed, can give you wider arms and taller looking biceps. This pull-up variation will help you strengthen your arms and increase your pull-up goals.

6- Chin-Up


The main difference between pull-ups and chin-ups is how you grip the bar.

Pull-ups and chin-ups use many of the same muscle groups, but they prioritize different areas. Chin-ups put special emphasis on biceps activation, while pull-ups target your back muscles, specifically your latissimus dorsi, brachioradialis and brachialis.

The chin-ups movement is performed by hanging from a bar and pulling yourself up till your chin is above the bar.

The entire movement can be divided into 2 parts;

1- Concentric phase: This is the positive part of the movement when you pull yourself up.
The elbows flex and the shoulders extend. The elbow flexion is facilitated by the Biceps, Brachialis and Brachioradialis. Teres Major, Latissimus Dorsi, Pectoralis Major, Posterior Deltoid and Tricep (long head) help in shoulder extension.

2- Eccentric phase: This is the negative part of the movement when you’re going down. The elbows and shoulders return to an extended and flexed position respectively. Elbows are extended by the Triceps and the Anconeus, whereas the Anterior Deltoids, Pectoralis Major and Biceps are responsible for the shoulder flexion.

Stabilizers: Apart from the above mentioned muscles there are stabilizers muscles which organise the entire trunk for a smooth and efficient movement.

The scapula (shoulder blades) has to be stabilised by keeping it depressed and retracted during the entire movement. This is done by the Pectoralis minor, trapezius and rhomboids.

All the rotator cuff muscles together work as a suction pump as soon as the humerus moves inside the glenoid fossa, holding the ball tightly inside the socket.

The core muscles namely – Erector Spinae, Rectus Abdominus, Transverse Abdominis and obliques are also activated to keep the spine in a neutral position and protects it from any shear force. These muscles also create a high pressure around the waist maintaining the stiffness of the trunk which contributes towards the efficacy of the movement.

Since the reverse grip pull up is executed in a supinated grip, the Supinator muscle in the forearm also gets a good workout as it is responsible for maintaining the supinated position of the forearm.

All the stabiliser muscles work isometrically to keep your body stiff which improves the efficiency of the entire movement.

7- Commando Pull-up

Commander Pull-up

Commando pull-ups are an effective pull-up variation that can build upper body strength. It is an intermediate skill level exercise and works as part of the back and biceps muscle tissue.

Standing together with your shoulders perpendicular towards the bar, grasp the bar with 1 hand in front of the other as well as your palms facing inward. Pull yourself as much as you can to one side, touching your shoulder towards the bar. Reverse action to return towards the beginning position, and repeat around the other side.

8- Archer Pull-up

Archer Pull-up

Archer pull-ups are a variation of pull-ups that allow you to focus more on developing one-arm pulling power. Targeting primarily the lats and to a lesser extent the biceps, forearms, mid-back, shoulders and traps, this gymnastics move is a good exercise for those with advanced fitness and exercise experience.

9- Jumping Pull-up

Jumping Pull-up

If you want to improve athletic strength, jumping pull-ups are good option for you.

Jumping pull-up is a type of plyometrics exercise that primarily trains your upper and lower body strength and explosiveness. It is also a quick and effective exercise to build strength.

Plyometrics exercises are explosive aerobic moves that increase speed, quickness, and power and they work your whole body.

The sequence of jumping, gripping, and pulling , creates a vertical body movement that extends the ankles, knees, and hips. In combination with the pulling movement, the leg muscles, abdominal muscles, latissimus dorsi and arms are activated. This creates an efficient movement where the whole body and all joints work in coordination.

10- Muscle-Up

Muscle up vertical bar

Muscle-up is an advanced explosive power and strength trainings exercise often used in calisthenics and crossfit training. This is a combination routine of a radial pull up followed by a plunge. In order to do this visually impressive movement, you first need to perfectly master pull-ups and straight bar dips, its two main movements.

The muscle up starts by working your back muscles, forearms, and biceps. You then transition into a straight bar dip, which works your shoulders, triceps, chest, and serratus anterior. During that time, your entire core works to keep you stable, allowing you to put all of your force into the bar.

The muscle-up is a sport-specific movement that calisthenics, crossfit and competitive fitness athletes must be able to perform. This challenging exercise will help you build strength and endurance in your upper body.

11- Rope Climb

Rope Climb

Rope climbing is a great strength test full body workout! This exercise keeps your whole body moving constantly, improving agility and coordination skills as well as being an effective upper body builder.

12- Upside Down Pull-up

Upside Down Pull-up

One of the most challenging of the pull-up variations is the upside-down pull-ups. This exercise requires strong arms and is often preferred by advanced athletes in their calisthenics training.

Just like other types of pull-ups, upside down pull-ups develop your arm muscles and back muscles. But the most important thing to note is to make sure you can lift your own body weight before doing this exercise.

pull-up variations

top 20 pull-up variations




Posted by
Robert George
Robert, a certified fitness coach skilled in creating personalized exercise programs, excels in offering emotional support and motivation to her readers. As a fitness copywriter and coach, she has inspired countless individuals to overcome barriers and achieve their full potential.