The Absolute Beginner’s Guide To Pull-up Exercise

Pullups and chin-ups are great exercises for toning and strengthening your upper body. Why are pullups so effective? Pulling your body weight up against gravity requires the use of many muscle groups working together and improving the balance of your upper body.

Pullups vs. Chinups

Pull ups or chin ups

Pullups use an overhand grip (palms facing away from you) and chinups use an underhand grip with the palms facing your body. While both movements are very similar and work upper body muscle groups, pullups work more back muscles and chinups shift focus to your arms and especially your biceps. If you only have time or strength for one or the other, choose pullups.

The Perfect Pullup

Pullups are one of the hardest movements for most people to complete. As a beginner, you may only be able to complete one repetition, but pullups are incredibly beneficial and should be a part of your fitness program.

Here’s how to do a perfect pullup:

  1. Grab the pullup bar with your palms facing away from your body and your hands at shoulder width distance.
  2. Hang from the bar, then squeeze your back muscles as you look up towards the bar, and pull yourself towards it. Keep moving upward until your chin clears the pullup bar.
  3. As you progress in your training and become stronger, you will eventually be able to pull your chest up to and touch the bar.
  4. Slowly lower your body to the starting position and repeat.
  5. Don’t swing or use momentum and as you lower your body, fully extend your arms, each perfect pullup is a single rep.
  6. If you are unable to complete a single repetition or clear your chin above the bar, then go as high as possible. Even this small movement and range of motion will help you strengthen your back and arm muscles and you will find that you improve with each training session.
  7. If you are unable to perform a single pullup, start by standing on a chair or bench and use progressively shorter supports. You can also use a long but strong exercise band and attach one end to the bar and use the other end to support part of your weight. These are called “assisted” pullups. If you have a training partner, he or she can assist you by supporting part of your weight as you pull yourself up to the bar.

Focus on pullups to the front of your body, raising your chin or chest to the bar. Behind the neck pullups put unnatural stress on your rotator cuff (shoulder joint). Once you become comfortable with your pullups, add a set of chinups which places the biceps in a more efficient pulling position and allow your lats, those muscles that widen your back, to work harder.

Here’s a complete pull-up tutorial you might find useful:

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