How to Do a Pull-Up

The pull-up is considered to be the more difficult cousin of the chin-up and requires a tremendous amount of upper body and core strength to perform. This exercise targets multiple muscles in the back including the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, thoracic erector spinae and infraspinatus.  Pull-ups also work to strengthen muscles in the shoulder, forearm and the abs.

The muscles that are strengthened by doing a pull-up are responsible for good posture, which will help you to avoid everyday back strain. They are also excellent at building a stronger grip, which is useful for everyday activities such as opening jars and pulling heavy loads.

How To

  • Start in a relaxed, full hang. Your hands should be gripping the bar just slightly wider than shoulder width apart with palms facing away from the body. This is considered an overhand grip.
  • Set your shoulder blades by pulling them together and down the back. This stabilizes the shoulders and allows the back muscles to do the work, while taking the strain off the shoulders. Also, remember to keep your abs engaged throughout the exercise.
  • Pull your chest and chin toward the bar as you exhale. It can help to imagine pulling the bar down into your chest while driving your elbows downward. Remember to keep those shoulder blades engaged at the top of the movement. Think about squeezing a pencil if you find this difficult.
  • To complete the exercise, inhale as you slowly lower yourself back to a full hang. Remember to go as slow and controlled on the descent as possible. The descent is just as important as the ascent.


The numbers of repetitions you can perform will depend heavily on your level of fitness. You may only be able to complete one full pull-up in the beginning. There is nothing wrong with this. Focusing on quality over quantity is key with exercises like pull-ups.


Completing a pull-up is not as easy as walking up to the bar and simply pulling yourself up. Many people need to modify the movements on their way to completing their first pull-up.

Assisted pull-ups: This can mean using anything from a stable chair or box, to an exercise band, or even a partner. All of these aids help to take off a bit of weight while you work on getting stronger.

If using a chair, place one or two feet on the chair and complete the pull-up. Try to use the chair only as a support and put as little weight on it as possible. Exercise bands come in different elasticities—the stronger the band, the more weight it will assist with. Using a partner sees them place their hands under your knees and hold some of your weight. Your partner should never be active pushing you up.

Negatives: If performing a pull-up unassisted is not possible, then consider doing negatives to build strength. This is done by using a bar that is set a little lower so that you can jump up to the bar. Lower yourself in a slow and controlled manner until you are in a full hang.

Cautionary Notes

Using an exercise band as a support on a bar at home can be dangerous. Never attempt to DIY your bands if you don’t have the proper equipment.

Always make sure to set your shoulder blades before attempting a pull-up. Not doing so can put unnecessary strain on the shoulders and lead to injury.

Kipping uses a swinging motion to gain momentum which aids in bringing the chest to the bar. This can be especially dangerous if practiced at home. The swinging motion can knock the pull-up bar loose and cause dangerous accidents.

More Pull-Up Related Resources

Master the Pullup Using This Program With Accessory Exercises
How To Master The Pull-Up – One Of The Toughest Bodyweight Moves There Is | Coach
How to do Pull-Ups: 17 Pull-Up Exercises to Build Upper Body Strength
How to Do a Proper Pull-up & Chin-up, Step By Step. | Nerd Fitness

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