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8 Benefits Of Pull-Ups + Why Your Workout Needs Them

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The pull-up bar is a nemesis to those who have yet to conquer this tough move and a trusty workout partner to those who have mastered it.

However, no matter which camp you currently fall into, embracing pull-ups in your workouts provides many benefits, so it’s well worth the hard work and consistency it may take to learn how to do pull-ups properly.

If you’ve fallen out of the routine of doing pull-up workouts, or you’ve been too intimidated to step up to the pull-up bar and test your strength, keep reading for the benefits of pull-ups (and a hefty dose of motivation to do them!) and a few pull-up tips for beginners to get you started on the path to loving pull-ups.

We will cover: 

  • What Is a Pull-Up?
  • How to Perform a Pull-Up
  • 8 Benefits Of Pull-Ups + Why Your Workout Needs Them

Let’s dive in! 

A person doing a pull-up.

What Is a Pull-Up?

A pull-up is a bodyweight exercise that involves gripping an overhead pull-up bar with your palms facing away from your body, and then using the muscles in your back, arms, and core, you bend your elbows as you lift your body up and raise your chin or chest up above the level of the bar.

Then, with control, you slowly straighten your elbows and lower your body all the way back down until your arms are straight.

The pull-up exercise primarily strengthens the latissimus dorsi muscle in the back, along with the trapezius and rhomboids, as well as the deltoids and rotator cuff muscles in the shoulders, the biceps in the arms, and the superficial and deep abdominal muscles, such as the rectus abdominis and the transversus abdominis.

A person doing a pull-up.

How to Perform a Pull-Up

To do a pull, you will need a sturdy overhead bar that can support your weight.

With a pull-up, your palms should be facing away from your body so that your hands are in a pronated grip.

This is the opposite of the hand position used in the chin-up, in which you use a supinated grip on the bar so that your palms are turned towards your face.

The pronated pull-up grip engages your lats and muscles in the back more than your biceps, as in a chin-up.

Here is how to perform a pull-up:

  1. Grab onto a pull-up bar with your hands positioned shoulder-width apart with your palms facing away from your face.
  2. Hang from the bar with your arms fully extended, lifting your feet off the ground. You can bend your knees if you are too tall to clear the floor.
  3. Pull yourself up by engaging your core, contracting your lats, and driving your elbows down toward the floor as you bend them.
  4. Lift your body until your chin is above the bar or the bar approaches chest height. Stay stable and use your muscles to raise your body, do not swing your body to gain momentum.
  5. Slowly lower your body back down in a controlled manner until your arms are fully straight.
  6. Repeat, doing as many repetitions as possible.
A person doing a pull-up.

8 Benefits Of Pull-Ups + Why Your Workout Needs Them

Pull-ups are super challenging, but like many things in life, the rewards are well worth the effort, which is why doing pull-ups regularly is one of the best ways to boost your fitness.

Here are the top benefits of pull-ups:

#1: Pull-Ups Strengthen Your Back

We have the tendency to focus our strength training efforts on the muscles we can see in the mirror—the abs, chest, biceps, and shoulders— but it’s just as important to strengthen the muscles on the backside of the body even if we can’t readily see them in our reflection.

Pull-ups are one of the most effective back-strengthening exercises, and as a pulling motion, the pull-up is a perfect counterpart to common pushing exercises like push-ups and bench presses, which are often performed much more frequently.

In this way, doing pull-ups is particularly important to help prevent muscle imbalances, which can otherwise increase the risk of injury and decrease your overall functional strength.

Pull-ups strengthen almost all of the major muscles in the back, including the latissimus dorsi (the primary muscle worked by pull-ups), trapezius, rhomboids, erector spinae, levator scapulae, and infraspinatus.

People doing a dead hang.

#2: Pull-Ups Strengthen the Muscles In Your Chest, Shoulders, Arms, and Core

In addition to working the muscles in the back, pull-ups strengthen the deltoids and rotator cuff muscles in your forearms and the pectoralis major and minor muscles in your chest. 

When you use proper form, pull-ups also strengthen your abs, including the superficial rectus abdominis (“six-pack” muscle) and obliques, as well as the deep transverse abdominis, which is critical for supporting the entire core and stabilizing the spine.

One of the great benefits of pull-ups is that when coupled with a healthy, calorie-controlled diet and well-rounded exercise program, push-ups can help you attain a more defined, toned, muscular body.

#3: Pull-Ups Increase Grip Strength

A lot of people undervalue the importance of grip strength, but grip strength assists in everything from opening a pickle jar to using a hedge trimmer or carrying a heavy suitcase or car seat with a sleeping baby. 

Grip strength is also necessary for racquet sports, climbing, mountain biking, and lifting heavy weights. 

A person gripping a bar, grip strength is one of the benefits of doing pull-ups.

However, unless you are deliberately performing hand-strengthening exercises, you may not be advancing your grip strength as quickly or effectively as you are your upper-body muscular strength.

Ultimately, grip strength can be a limiting factor in how much weight you can lift; even if you are arms, shoulders, chest, and upper back are theoretically strong enough to handle heavier loads, if you have a weak grip, or your grip strength is relatively lacking, you won’t be able to achieve your maximum potential on your lifts.

One of the benefits of pull-ups is that they are one of the best exercises to improve grip strength and strengthen the forearms and extrinsic and intrinsic muscles in the hand and wrist that support your grip.

Therefore, one of the benefits of pull-ups is that by increasing your hand and grip strength, you will potentially be able to lift more weight in other exercises like barbell curls, bench press, deadlifts, or squats, where poor grip strength may have been a limiting factor in the maximum load you were able to use.

A person doing a pull-up.

#4: Pull-Ups Can Increase Bone Density

Although high-impact exercises like running, jumping, and plyometrics are the most efficient way to increase bone density, research has shown that resistance training exercises like pull-ups are also able to improve bone density.

As you strengthen your muscles, the muscles are able to pull more forcefully on the bones when you move your joints. 

These higher stresses and strains signal the bone to adapt and strengthen by increasing the mineralization content.

Increasing your bone density will help reduce the risk of fractures and bone-thinning diseases such as osteoporosis.

#5: Pull-Ups Can Improve Markers of Health

Resistance training exercises, such as pull-ups, can improve numerous markers of health.

For example, studies have shown that consistent strength training programs can reduce waist circumference and visceral fat, improve body composition, decrease blood pressure, reduce cholesterol in blood lipids, and improve insulin sensitivity.

Because these can be risk factors for various lifestyle diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and hypertension, incorporating pull-ups and other strength training exercises into regular total-body resistance training workouts may reduce your disease and mortality risk.

A person doing a pull-up.

#6: Pull-Ups Don’t Require Much Equipment

One of the awesome benefits of pull-ups is that aside from the need for a stable pull-up bar, pull-ups don’t require much in the way of expensive or bulky exercise equipment. 

You can even perform pull-ups at a park using monkey bars or swing set crossbars or on a sturdy tree limb.

#7: Pull-Ups Can Increase Your Metabolic Rate

Not only do you burn calories while actually doing pull-ups, but by helping build muscle, consistently performing pull-ups can boost your metabolic rate so that you can burn more calories throughout the day.

#8: Pull-Ups Increase Confidence

Mastering a pull-up is one of the classic bucket list fitness goals. It demonstrates an impressive level of physical strength that can absolutely boost your self-confidence.

Setting a goal to learn how to properly do pull-ups is a great way to keep you motivated to hit the gym and get your workouts in when you find yourself needing an extra little push or pull to have something you’re working towards. And who wouldn’t want to reap all of these pull-up benefits?

Do you want a good pull-up workout program to master the pull-up exercise once and for all? Try our pull-up workout plan for beginners and work your way up to being able to do full pull-ups and enjoy all of the pull-up benefits.

A person doing a pull-up.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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