Pull-up exercise
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Exercise details

  • Target muscle: Latissimus Dorsi
  • Synergists: Brachialis, Brachioradialis, Biceps Brachii, Pectoralis Minor, Teres Major, Posterior Deltoid, Infraspinatus, Rhomboids, Teres Minor, Middle and Lower Trapezius, Levator Scapulae
  • Mechanics: Compound
  • Force: Pull

Starting position

  1. Grasp the bar with a wider-than-shoulder-width pronated (overhand) grip.
  2. Hang with your arms and shoulders fully stretched.


  1. Exhale as you pull your body up until your chin rises above the bar.
  2. Hold for a count of two and squeeze your back muscles.
  3. Inhale as you lower your body until your arms and shoulders are fully stretched.
  4. Repeat.

Comments and tips

  • Pull with your elbows, not with your biceps.
  • Avoid swinging.
  • Make the exercise easier by bending your knees and getting someone to hold your feet. You can also use an assisted pull-up machine.
  • Make the exercise more difficult by wearing a weighted vest or dip belt, by holding a dumbbell between your feet, or by trying some of the numerous advanced pull-up variations (see second video), such as the L-sit pull-up.
  • The pull-up is a compound exercise that will help you to develop major functional upper-body strength and a wide tapering back. If doing lat pull-downs, your goal should be to graduate to pull-ups at some point. The pull-up is more beneficial than the pull-down because it gets your core more involved and is more functional and much more versatile.
  • If you can’t do pull-ups, keep increasing the amount of weight that you pull down until it nears your own weight. Then, practice the negative pull-up (see third video), which will help you to develop the strength necessary to perform proper pull-ups.
  • If you use a supinated (underhand) grip, it becomes a chin-up.
  • See also the mixed-grip pull-up and the self-assisted pull-up.


Pull-up instructions

Advanced variations

Negative pull-up


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