Some experts say pull ups are the king of the upper body strength exercises. I have the same opinion because this compound exercise works the entire upper body as a whole strengthening almost all the muscles at once. I believe, it must be in everyone’s workout routine, no matter if you prefer lifting weights or doing only bodyweight exercises.
Frankly, many years ago, when I started muscle building, I only lift for my back training. You know, almost everyone did the same at the gym, and as a newbie, I just followed them. Then, when calisthenics became more popular, and I saw the first videos about the street workout, I become more interested in pull ups. Those men do only pull ups, and they have such a physique that they put some bodybuilders to shame.
So, I started doing pull ups, chin ups, and their variations. The beginning was not easy. I could hardly do a few proper pull ups, but with time I could increase to the number of reps to an adequate quantity.
What results I had?
My back and shoulders became much broader. Also, my biceps and grips, which helped me to perform weight lifting exercises even better. Finally, I used to have problems with my lower back, but because pull up does not put much stress to that area, the pain went.
To sum up for me, pull ups work, works much better than other back exercises.
Interested in all the benefits of pull ups? Read on, and I’m sure you will include it in your workout plan.
How to do pull ups properly?
While pull ups seem to be a pretty straightforward exercise, it is a complicated move and with that rather tricky for a beginner. To tell the truth, for me took time to perform clean pull ups in a row.
Proper technique is vital since that is the only way to get the desired results from the exercise. Quality is over quantity as it is being said. Furthermore, a weak form may lead to more damage then you think such as shoulder injury.
Here is the pull up tutorial.
- The starting position: Grab the bar with overhand grips a bit more than shoulder width. Then, just hang from it. Personally, I grab the bar in a way that my hands are not totally vertical to the ground, but my fingers point slightly downward. So, my wrists are bent slightly. This way I can control the motion better.
- Next step. Tighten, your abs muscles and pull yourself up by using the power of your arms and back. Pull yourself up until your chest almost touches the pull up bar and continue until the bar is under your chin. During the move keep your shoulders backward, and lead with your chest. This way, the right muscles are activated, and you can prevent injuries.
- The final step: now slowly lower your body back to the starting position, and do the next rep.
A common mistake is when people swing their legs to get the momentum which helps them to complete the movement. That is cheating and not good for your joints.
Now let’s go on and talk about the benefits of doing pull ups.
1. Compound Exercise Working Many Muscles at Once
Compound exercises are the ones that engage more than one muscle group at once. And, pull up is an excellent example of that. While it seems to be bodyweight training for the major back muscles such as your lats, it involves many others such your shoulders, core, triceps, biceps, forearms and your grip strength.
It works your upper body as a whole. It teaches your body how to coordinate multiple muscle groups to perform the movement. That leads to better overall strength and symmetry. Also, it is much safer than as if you were focusing on one particular part.
Finally, because pull up is a compound move, it is an excellent choice for those who are lack of time for training. With pull ups, you can substitute many other exercises.
2. Look big!
Did you know that the latissimus dorsi, aka lat, is the broadest major muscles of your body? If you have ever seen a bodybuilding competition, athletes look like a butterfly because of their developed back. With pull up, you can target those muscles very effectively.
Because of the big back, you look much bigger visually. Just like Johnny Bravo! Just do not neglect leg workouts as he does!
For example, genetically I have rather broad hips, but my back is big, so it does not look so bad.
3. Do it almost anywhere
For weight lifting, you need multiple types of equipment for home, or you need to go to the gym. For pull ups? Well, nothing fancy, just a safe bar!
If you have no time for the gym and want to strengthen at home, then you can choose from different types of pull up bars. Living in an apartment? Get a doorway bar! Have space and want a better one? Get a convenient freestanding one (power tower)?
Finally, in many cities, there are workout parks where you can train for free. But, if not, just get the kids playground and use the monkey bars to exercise.
4. Many Pull Up Variations for Versatility, Fitness Level and Targeting
Doing always the same exercises over and over again is not just dull but may have adverse effects on your progress. That will not happen since you can try many pull up variations for your level or targeting specifically a muscle better.
For example, let say you can perform 15 clean pull ups, you can try the archer pull up when at the end of the motion you place your bodyweight to sides. And, if you are a pro, you can do one arm pull ups. This way you can give your muscles progressive overload which leads to continuous improvement.
What if you are a beginner? You can get started with assisted pull up when you use the machine or a rubber band to get a little help. This way, you get used to the correct technique and be able to do more reps. In the end, you are going to be ready for standard pull ups.
Variations are not only beneficial for progressive overload or for your level but also lets you focus on a particular muscle group.
For example, if you do wide grip pull ups that make your lats wide. If you do chin-ups, you can build your biceps.
Last but not least you can increase the intensity in several ways. You can use a weighted vest, or you can put weight plates on a workout belt for additional resistance. Or, you can use a gym ring instead for even more versatility.
From the following video, you can learn a few exceptional examples.
5. It boosts your grip strength and forearm
A typical mistake of gym goers is that they do not care about the strength of their grip and forearm. They do not strength them in any way because they think other exercises like biceps curls will do. Then, as they improve and want to lift heavier weights, for example doing deadlifts, the barbell slips out from their palms.
Pull ups are great to prevent this problem because they make your grip as strong as a vise. Just think about it. When you do it, your grips have to hold your entire bodyweight for many seconds or even minutes if you do a lot of repetitions. You cannot get similar grip and forearm strength training with a barbell or a dumbbell.
When I switched to bodyweight training, I felt a huge difference after a few months. For example, my deadlift became much better. I was also unbeatable at arm wrestling. Finally, a massive and strong lower arm is the sign of manliness. So, go guys and do pull ups!
6. Healthier back muscles
One reason why people have back pain and bad posture are weak back muscles. Most of us sit too much every day, and that leads to a bad posture.
With pull ups, you can not only make your body more attractive but keep back muscles healthy. The strong back makes it easier to hold yourself up. You will have much better posture and balance.
Also, pull ups build functional strength that you can use in everyday life when you have to lift something and other physical activities. And, because of the stronger muscles, you do not have to be afraid of getting a back injury.
7. Pull up benefits for cardio and fat loss
Well, pull up is not the best practice for cardio and weight loss, but it supports both in two ways.
Firstly, because it is a compound exercise, multiple muscles, big and small, are engaged and for functioning, they require oxygen and calories. Hence, your lung works more and heart rate increases so that we can enjoy cardiovascular benefits. Also, your body burns more calories to give fuel to the fibers. OK, not as effective as running, but still better than nothing.
Another way it supports your fat burning is by increasing your metabolism. By doing pull ups, you increase your muscle mass, particularly your back muscles which are among the biggest ones in your body. The more mass you have, the faster your metabolism will be since fibers require energy even if they do not work. So, even if when you do not train, your body burns more calories.
As I mentioned before not the best exercise for weight loss, but small things add up at the end.
After reading a lot of benefits of pull ups, I’m sure you understand why we call it the king of upper body strength exercises. It gives you massive back, shoulders, arms and functional strength that you can use in any sports. There is a good reason why Navy Seals do so many pull ups day by day.
If you have any question or just want to tell your success story with pull ups, feel free to do it below.