Should You Do Pullups in a Workout and Are They Good for You?

Did you know that most people can’t even do 5 pull-ups?

But the actual test for strength is the body weight exercises. There’s no substitute for a pull-up with a decent form. It helps to build a wider and thicker back. And it works on nearly every upper body muscle in our body.

If you have mastered the pull-ups, more than half of your physique will be built just by doing it.

Let’s discuss the importance of integrating pull-ups into your workout regime.

1. Targeted Muscles in a Pull-up

man in black shorts holding orange bar
By Anastase Maragos / Unsplash copyrights 2020

The whole back, core, and arms are worked upon while performing pull-ups. There are some primary movers’ muscles and some stabilizer muscles. 

1.1 The Primary Targeted Muscles

Pull-ups are mainly done to train arms, back, and in some cases traps. The primary muscles involved are the latissimus dorsi, the biceps brachii, the trapezius, the rhomboids, the Infraspinatus, and the posterior head of the deltoid. These are the muscles that help to pull up our body to the bar. There are ways to make the pull-up lat dominant or bicep dominant. 

1.2 The Stabilizer Muscles

The stabilizers are those muscles that help us maintain a relatively good posture while doing pull-ups. These work alongside the primary movers but are not involved heavily in the movement itself. These are the core, forearms, brachialis, and brachioradialis. The erector spine is another key stabilizer utilized in maintaining a tight upper body in a pull-up.   

2. How to Perform a Pull-up Effectively?

A pull-up is the most basic yet the best upper body builder out there. So, to reap the most benefit, the technique should be perfected. There are some cues to ponder upon in your mind while doing the proper form of a pull-up. Let’s have a brief discussion about them.

2.1 Engaging Your Back

When you grab the bar for a pull-up, there’s a must-do pre-pull-up ritual. Grab the bar to your shoulder width or slightly wider and engage your lats by pulling up your torso. It is a mini pull-up itself. When you engage your traps, it creates tension in your back. This tension helps you feel your back more with an optimal posture of your body.

2.2 The Movement

The pull-up is relatively convenient yet a movement that requires a good technique. While pulling your body, make sure that your chest leads the movement. Keep your hands in front of your torso and try to keep your chin above the bar at the top of the movement. Keep your legs in front of your torso and maintain an arch in your back. Keep your core tight throughout the movement. Go slow and feel the muscles relaxing and contracting.

2.3 Some Useful Cues

There are some ways to reap more out of a standard pull-up. To feel your back more, grab the bar with a thumbless grip. This reduces tension in your forearms and helps you to prioritize your back more.

If you don’t want the least involvement of your forearms, use a lifting strap. To build muscles, one can add some weight to a weight belt and then perform pull-ups. Visualize the pull-up in such a way that you are pulling the bar towards you. It helps manifold.

3. Different Types of Pull-ups

However, a standard unassisted pull-up is enough, there are some pull-up variants out there. These are pull up variations that are similar to the traditional pull-ups except for the hand placement. These variants are listed below.

3.1 Wide Arm Pull-up

a man doing a pull-up
By Richard R/ Unsplash copyrights 2023

These are similar to the regular pull-ups except that you hold the bar wider. This is done to target the upper and the middle back specifically. The lats and biceps are still involved but less as compared to the upper and middle back. Usually, it becomes difficult to get your chin upper than the bar in this. But just focus on maintaining a 90-degree angle between your forearm and your shoulders at the top of the movement.

3.2 Neutral Grip Pull-up

man doing neutral grip pull-up
By Gordon Cowie/ Unsplash copyrights 2020

This variant of pull-up helps to target the muscle growth of the bicep brachialis and the lats. Usually, it’s done to focus on the lats more. Using a neutral grip forces your body to target the posterior chain of your back. Forearms are involved in this pullup exercise too.

3.3 The Chin Up

What Do Pullups Workout? a man holding a bar in his hand
By J M/ Unsplash copyrights 2022

To focus more on your bicep in a pull-up, a supinated grip is used. This helps to contract your bicep more effectively than any other movement. The shortening and elongation of the bicep is what is achieved in this type of pull-up. Make sure to bring your ching upper than the bar and touch your upper chest to the bar. Fully elongate the bicep at the very end of the movement. 

4. Do Your First Pull-Up 

It is understood that pull-ups can be fairly difficult to perform. You have to pull your whole weight up using your arms only. Many gym goers can do a 100 kg deadlift but not even 5 pull-ups. The interesting fact is, that you need very strong arms to be able to handle your weight. The other option is if you are not that heavy, you would be able to perform a pull-up quickly.

Nonetheless, there are some exercises to help you build up to your first five pulls.

4.1 Dead Hang

The crux of a pull-up is how well you handle your body weight. The first and foremost thing you should do is a dead hang. Grab a bar and just hang on it as long as you can. This will help you build the forearm strength necessary for a pull-up. Gradually increase the time of the hanging. Once you can perform the hang for at least two minutes, it’s time to progress further. 

4.2 Scapula Pull-up

The first real step towards performing a pull-up is a scapula pull-up. It’s similar to engaging your back before performing a pull-up. Just pull your scapula up and contract your upper back muscles so that your shoulders are in a straight line. Perform 10-12 reps of this. Do it for a few days. If it becomes easy for you, proceed to the next exercise.

4.3 Eccentric Pull-up

Controlling your body movement during a pull-up is important. Eccentric pull-up helps you to control the negative of the pull-up. Stand on an elevated platform and grab the bar. The platform should be high enough so that your chin is above the bar. Hang onto the bar with your chin above the bar and slowly control as you go down. At the bottom, fully stretch your arms. Remember to go as slow as you can. Repeat the same process until you can do 10-12 reps.

4.4 Assisted Pull-up

This is the final step before you perform a real pull-up. This is similar to a pull-up but there’s something to help you to do the former. A resistance band is the best aid for the assist. Just hang the band on the bar. Put your feet in between the bar and the band. Perform a pull-up as you do. The resistance developed in the band would assist you in lifting your entire body. The other option is that your friend can hold your legs. Fold your legs backward and ask a friend to hold your feet. Then perform a pull-up as you would.

5. Final Words

No matter which routine you follow, diet plays a crucial role. Eat enough protein so that you can progress. Also, another thing that should be looked upon is technique. Before lifting any weight, get your body used to lifting your body weight. Master the pull-up, free squats, dips, and push-ups, and then progress further. Before lifting heavy, master the technique to remain injury-free.

Last Updated on December 26, 2023 by