The Benefits of Pull-ups

Did you know that pull-ups have been around since the 1770s? Yes, people have been reliant on this multi-functional exercise for ages!

Since the exercise has been around for many years, one can’t help wonder — why has it been a staple for so long? Its longevity lies in its effectiveness and simplicity.

Man doing pullups in the gym

If you wish to learn more about the benefits of performing this strength building staple, read on.

What Do You Need to Do Pull-Ups?

One of the first benefits of pull ups is that it is one of the best upper body exercises and requires minimal equipment to do them.

For instance, an wall mounted pull-up bar is an excellent piece of fitness gear that can help you perform pull-ups with ease. They are relatively inexpensive, easy to install and take up very little space. Try one with multiple grip positions for plenty of pull up variations.

However, if you’re looking for something a bit more effective for total body toning, power towers are great bit of kit that can help you perform pull-ups at home. A power tower is usually on the pricier end of the spectrum — yet you can perform multiple exercises such as tricep dips, leg lifts, and pull-ups, making it a versatile and worthwhile investment.

If you wish to forgo equipment altogether, many people opt for using their door frame for support. While this is a riskier measure — you can cause damage to yourself and your home — use a door wedge to keep the door propped open. Also, set a towel on top of the frame to prevent splinters.

Resistance bands are also a useful accessory if you’re struggling to do an unassisted pull-up, as they help take some of the load off your body weight. For this method, wrap one end of the band around the pull-up bar, and loop the other end around your knees.

Armed with these tools, you’ll be on your way to creating a strong and shredded upper body.

What If You Find Them Difficult?

It’s not impossible to nail your first pull up, no matter what your current level of fitness looks like, so don’t get discouraged! First, try implementing negative pull-ups into your routine. If you stay consistent and increase the difficulty each time, you should be able to do plenty more pull ups within a month or two.

How to Do a Reverse or Negative Pull-Up

A negative pull-up is an easier way or targeting and strengthening the exact muscles required in a pull-up. To perform one, follow these steps.

  • Grab a chair and set it underneath your pull up bar. It should be tall enough that your collarbones are levelled with the handles
  • Then, firmly grasp the handles and jump off of the chair. Use the momentum to bring your body up so that your chest is levelled with the bars
  • Hold your body up. Allow your feet to come off of the chair while dangling your legs in the air
  • Hold this position, and using your upper body strength, slowly lower your body down in a controlled fashion. Once your feet are back on the chair, you have performed one repetition
  • Repeat these steps for the entire set

Over the course of a couple of months, you should increase the time it takes to lower your body back onto the chair. This regression will help you learn the movement pattern required to achieve an unassisted pull-up. If negative pull-ups are still too challenging, try an inverted row instead. For this exercise, you will need a barbell. However, this regression allows you to leave your feet on the ground, making it a useful stepping stone for beginners.

Chin Ups

Beginners may also find chin ups easier to perform, as the movement recruits your biceps more than your lats. For this variation, grab the bar with an underhand grip, and use your biceps to pull your body up.

Benefits of Pull-Ups

The pull up benefits two major muscle groups; your arms and back as well as helping to develop a strong grip.

Improved Grip Strength

If you want to get involved with powerlifting or bodybuilding, having solid grip strength is crucial. Unfortunately, it is usually an overlooked aspect of fitness. Pull-ups, however, can improve the strength in your hands and forearms over time, creating a firm grip without the use of a hand strengthener.

Stronger Back Muscles

Your back is made up of multiple muscles, such as the latissimus dorsi, the trapezius, and the erector spinae, to name a few. Pull-ups are an exercise that helps strengthen all of these muscles in one swift movement. A more muscular back will also make certain compound lifts, such as squats and deadlifts, more comfortable and safer to perform.

Strengthened Arm Muscles and a Wide Back

The chest, biceps, and rear deltoids are also worked out during a pull-up — so try to incorporate a few sets on your upper body days to increase your total upper body strength. Pull-ups also pair well with bicep curls or shoulder presses, so superset these exercises in your program if you’re trying to burn your body out. You’ll find that working out consistently will not only improve your strength and endurance, but it will also result in larger muscles — in this case, you’ll gain a wider back.

These gains can make your waist look smaller in comparison and give you an overall ‘fit’ look.

This goes to show you, you don’t need to starve and deprive your body to look its best. Creating a stronger and healthier body through weight training is always the best option when embarking on your fitness journey.

Build Your Core Strength

While the abdominal muscles aren’t targeted exclusively when performing pull-ups, these muscles do receive a bit of attention as they help to stabilise your body throughout the movement. Working out the abdominals along with your back muscles can also improve your posture and reduce any low back pain. Often when working a desk job or spending most of your days craned over a keyboard, our back muscles will weaken, which can cause a myriad of other health issues.

Ensure to brace your core for the best results and to avoid developing this problem down the line.

Improve Your Functional Fitness

Functional fitness is defined by an activity that is performed in your day to day life. Since your back is made up of many muscles you use every day, strengthening them will make it easier to perform other tasks you love outside of the gym — whether that’s walking your dog, going rock climbing, playing with your children, or going swimming.

How Can You Vary Them for More Gains?

Now that we have covered how a beginner can modify pull-ups to make them easier to perform, how can an advanced lifter vary them for more gains? You can’t modify your body weight in between sets, but a weighted belt or vest can make it easier to implement progressive overload into your routine.

If you choose to go this route, purchase one with detachable weights, so you can change up your workout often and alter the difficulty.


Pull-ups are the perfect exercise to perform while you’re at home. They are versatile and can help you improve your overall fitness and health. If you’re worried about the exercise getting stale, you can always throw on a weighted belt to crank up the intensity. Overall, it’s a brilliant exercise that not only gives you a shredded upper back, but it also improves your functional fitness, and overall health for an impressive body, inside and out.

Pull ups work and can help put on some serious muscle mass to your back! If you aren’t currently doing them why not try adding them to your workout routine on your next back session?

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Team MT

Team MT is the editorial team of MuscleTalk. With over 20 years experience we write quality, evidence based, articles. In addition to creating original content, we also edit and fact-check any articles we feature by external writers.

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