From military drills to everyday workouts, the simple pull-up is widely regarded as one of the most important and effective exercises. To the uninitiated, however, its popularity is confusing. With so many other back and bicep exercises available, why bother with pull-ups?
Turns out, a properly executed pull-up can do wonders for your functional strength and physique. This essential exercise works several key muscles and, best of all, can be completed almost anywhere. It's not nearly as intimidating as you might think; with a basic understanding of the pull-up process, almost anybody can learn to complete this beloved move.
What Muscles Do Pull-Ups Work?
Before you can understand why pull-ups are so important, it helps to get a sense for the specific muscles this exercise targets and how the unique motion of the pull-up works several areas at the same time.
At first glance (or first rep, we should say), the pull-up looks like the kind of movement that is dominated by the arms and shoulders. However, pull-ups primarily target the latissimus dorsi — a muscle in your back that isn't typically put to strenuous use during day-to-day life.
Because the lat is so difficult to target, it's important to include strategic exercises in your workout regimen. Hence, the appeal of the pull-up, which allows you to strengthen an oft-forgotten muscle without compromising on other areas of the body.
Even though the lats do a lot of the work, stabilizer muscles in the arms and back also play an important role in completing each rep. Your biceps, for example, are essential for pull-ups. Likewise, the brachialis and brachioradialis — which work in conjunction with the bicep — can be targeted with a few quick pull-ups.
Simply hanging from the bar won't do much to stimulate these muscles, which launch into action as soon as you attempt to defy gravity and raise yourself above the bar. Yes, these can be worked with a typical dumbbell or barbell curl, but pull-ups go above and beyond and are easier to adapt. In fact, with a few tweaks (such as reducing the amount of space between your hands), the pull-up can shift from being a primarily lat-oriented exercise to a bicep-heavy move.
Upper Back and Shoulders
Don't be surprised if your back and shoulders feel sore the day after you perform lots of pull-ups. Muscles in these areas assist the lats but may feel even more burn, simply because they're so often forgotten.
Located at the back of the shoulder, the posterior deltoid is recruited to help with every repetition of the pull-up. The lower and middle portions of the trapezius muscle also spring into action, assisting with both the concentric (on the way up) and eccentric (on the way down) portions of the pull-up.
Not to be forgotten, the pectoral muscles help out with every pull-up. Don't ditch the bench press just yet; the pec minor's role in every pull-up is just that, minor. Still, if you're looking to streamline your workout and need an option that will provide your pecs a modest boost, the pull-up should be your go-to move.
Why should you do pull ups?
Now that you understand how pull-ups work and which muscles they target, you should have a greater appreciation for all that they can accomplish. Still, while many people have a basic grasp for the muscles that contribute to a successful pull-up, they struggle to regularly complete this crucial exercise. This reluctance may stem from a limited understanding of the myriad of ways in which pull-ups can be used to improve strength, stamina, and your entire aesthetic. These benefits are most evident when pull-ups are completed on a regular basis, as we explain below:
Here are 7 of the main reasons why you should do pullups on a consistent basis:
1. It's an Effective Compound Exercise
When you think of a 'typical' compound exercise, what do you picture? In all likelihood, you imagine the deadlift, bench press, shoulder press, or squat. These moves may work different muscles, but they hold a lot in common:
- They are most effective when they involve heavy weights.
- They use several muscles at once.
- They can be adapted to target some muscles more than others.
These attributes are important, but they are by no means limited to the standard compound exercises we've come to know and love. Pull-ups also work a variety of muscles — and they can be tweaked when necessary to focus on specific areas. The sheer power required for a successful pull-up should not be discounted; instead of using dumbbells or barbells, this move utilizes the entire weight of your body.
No single muscle can lift your body above the bar on its own, but all the upper body muscles — including the lats, traps, deltoids, pecs, biceps, forearms, and triceps — work in concert when you perform a pull-up. If you're determined to work several muscles at once during your daily exercises, you'll find few moves more comprehensive or effective than the pull-up.
2. You Can Target Muscles From Different Angles
As mentioned previously, pull-ups are highly versatile. You can change the effect the exercise has on your body simply by shifting a few key aspects of how it's performed. These include:
A close grip pull-up targets the outer lats and biceps far more than the middle portion of the back. If you want to build more back depth in the middle, the wider grip is preferable, as it engages the traps and the inner lats more effectively.
The pull-up doesn't technically work your legs, but how you position them can influence how other muscles are worked. For example, extending your legs while pulling up will engage the midsection and lower back. This tactical style is commonly performed in the military and even in gymnastics.
Whether you change up your grip or the positioning of your legs, you can do a different type of pull-up every day. This versatility means that, despite performing the same exercise on a daily basis, the move will never feel stale. If you like taking on new challenges, you'll love the range of possibilities that this single exercise can provide.
This variety is also beneficial in that it allows you to continue performing pull-ups even when a specific muscle gets sore. If, for example, you feel yesterday's pull-ups in your lats, you can change your grip and add strength to the middle portion of the back muscles, arms, or any other area you want to improve further.
3.You Can Improve Easily
Plateaus are the bane of every exercise enthusiast's existence, but with some moves, they can only be avoided by constantly adding weight. With pull-ups, however, there is always room for improvement. No matter how often you perform them or how much muscle you develop along the way, you can always build even more strength and endurance, often by simply changing the number of reps or shifting your position.
The sheer rate of improvement can be exciting for pull-ups, especially as compared to typical compound exercises that may not see significant changes for several months. Despite struggling to complete just one or two pull-ups at first, daily practice will allow you to up the ante quickly. With dedication, you could reach ten or more pull-ups in a matter of weeks.
Not only do pull-ups allow you to improve quickly, they provide multiple avenues to reaching your end goal. For example: close grip pull-ups are easier for most people, as the biceps and lats do most of the lifting together. Meanwhile, a wide grip will make the lats take on almost all of the work. With this in mind, you can start by performing close grip pull-ups and widen the grip with time.
While pull-ups can be uniquely effective when performed with bodyweight alone, major improvements can be found by simply adding weight. This is typically accomplished by using a belt and strapping a plate onto it. Another great option? Simply holding a dumbbell between your legs. Even a heavy backpack can be used to bring additional challenge to this exercise.
On the hunt for even more pullup variations? Try these options:
Pick up the pace and perform the pull-ups faster
Try slow, highly controlled pull-ups
Use a rest pause as you lower yourself down
Pause at the moment of contraction
Keep track of how many reps you perform for specific types of pull-ups. Over time, you may observe certain varieties improving more than others. In general, however, your pull-up performance will improve quickly across the board when you complete this exercise every day.
4.It's The Ultimate V-Shape Builder
Pull-ups may be an awesome compound movement, but they're especially valuable for building the back muscles. This is particularly true when building width, as almost any pull-up variation will somehow engage the latissimus dorsi. As you perform more pull-ups, the lats will inevitably grow, giving the body a V-shape physique that looks attractive and powerful.
Beyond their lat-building power, pull-ups represent one of few bodyweight exercises capable of targeting the middle and latter part of the delts. These are the hardest upper body muscles to develop when using only calisthenic workouts. By performing more pull-ups — especially the middle grip version — you will be able to develop round delts that compliment your wide back perfectly.
5. Increase Grip Strength
Grip strength is a common point of contention among the gym crowd. Many trainees neglect working their grip through isolation movements, as they think it's a waste of time.
In reality, a strong grip is crucial if you want to add strength to your deadlifts, back rows, and countless other pulling exercises. Pull-ups are an effective way to strengthen your grip while also building up the bigger muscle groups.
6. They're Easy On The Joints
There aren't many exercises you can do every day without causing problems for your joints and tendons. Exceptions include bodyweight movements such as pull-ups, chin ups, crunches, and push ups.
The style of movement distinguishes pull-ups, as no traction is available to keep the body in place. The knees, lower back, and midsection stabilizers don't wear down from the movement.
The only joints and tendons that are activated are located in the elbow and shoulder region. These are activated by a variety of upper body exercises and can handle a lot of work.
If you're prone to injury, you'll be pleased to discover that pull-ups can be performed every day without worrying about tendonitis or significant joint injuries.
7. Improve Explosiveness And Balance Your Body
When you complete your daily exercise regimen, you probably focus on improving strength through compound movements or pursuing a particular aesthetic for your physique. If you really want to become a well-rounded athlete, however, you'll also make an effort to improve explosiveness. This oft-forgotten term references your ability to shift from a state of inactivity to a state of high-intensity engagement in the blink of an eye. This is where fast pull-ups come into play.
By doing fast motions on the bar, you increase your explosiveness. Over time, this speed will translate into a better snatch, clean & jerk, and improved performance in competitive sports. Football and basketball players, in particular, can benefit from the explosiveness training that pull-ups provide. These activities require fast reactions and a proportional engagement of the upper and lower body.
In all likelihood, your current fitness routine involves training the upper body with slow movements such as the bench press or shoulder press. Meanwhile, you might train your legs through coordinated movements such as running. Explosive sets of pull-ups can help you create a balance between these two essentials.
What are the benefits of doing pull ups everyday?
If you're impressed by the range of pull-up benefits outlined above, you may be looking forward to adding this exercise into your rotation. This isn't just any move, however, and you'll quickly find that its advantages become more evident the more often you perform pull-ups. Daily pull-ups are especially beneficial for these key reasons:
1. Functional Strength
Some forms of strength are more practical in daily life or emergency situations than others. Moves that isolate muscles, while great for shaping your body into the aesthetic you desire, won't help you much as you encounter physically demanding situations in the real world.
Instead of focusing on building a pretty pair of biceps, pull-ups deliver practical power that you can call upon outside of the gym. Isolated exercises can certainly be included in your workout regimen, but if you want the strength to excel in any environment, it's critical that the bulk of your workout consist of functional moves such as pull-ups.
2. Saving Time
Another downside of exercises that work isolated areas? If you train each of these muscles separately, you'll need a lot more time to get the job done. Pull-ups allow you to streamline your workout routine so you don't spend time separately working muscles that could easily be fired up at once. If you're struggling to make time for the gym, the pull-up could be your best bet for getting the results you want.
3. Minimal Gym Equipment
What happens when you're unable to hit up the gym for your usual exercise routine? With some excercises, you'll be forced to perform a less effective version — or you may be tempted to skip them entirely. This is not a problem with pull-ups, which can be performed with minimal gym equipment.
All that's required for a successful pull-up? A high platform or bar from which you can hang so that you are able to pull yourself from the ground. Often, this means investing in a pull-up bar, which can be installed just about anywhere. This simple investment will allow you to complete your daily pull-ups with ease — even if you don't feel like going to the gym. If you'd like to do away with your expensive gym membership entirely, a commitment to daily pull-ups will ensure that you continue to see results while working out from the comfort of home.
We recommend Gronk Fitness Multigrip Pullup Bars.
As you can see, there are obvious benefits to doing pull ups, and these can be multiplied the more often you train them. From building an aesthetic V-shaped back, to improving strength and explosiveness, they are an irreplaceable exercise in every athlete's workout arsenal.
I hope this article will inspire you to improve your physique and performance by adding pull ups to your daily workouts.
|About the author: James Gross founded Fitnessapie.com to share valuable information helps people achieve fitness goals through guides, tips, ideas and reviews to people live a healthy and happy life.