Pull Ups
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Pull-Ups – Benefits & Muscles Worked

Pull-ups fall under the category of compound exercises, meaning the exercise involves more than one muscle group simultaneously. The much maligned and often overlooked pull-up allows you to work on your abdominal muscles while exercising. Also, strong abdominal muscles will help you pull yourself up to achieve the perfect pull-up move. The pull-up is a great exercise to do at home as all you need is a pull-up bar and some daily inspiration.

There are a variety of pull up bars available to help you achieve your goals, it is important you that choose the right one to meet your requirements.

What muscles do pull-ups work?

Pull ups muscles worked

Here are the muscles worked during a pull-up:

  • Lats (Latissimus dorsi) – Primary
  • Teres Major
  • Traps (Trapezius)
  • Pecs (pectoralis major)
  • Rhomboids
  • Biceps
  • Upper back
  • Forearms
  • Abdominals

Including the pull-up move in your exercise routine allows you to work more muscles than you expect.

Many are under the impression that it is used mainly to develop the biceps, but the exercise also works your shoulders, back, and arm muscle groups.


lat musclesThe main muscle worked to execute a pull-up is the latissimus dorsi (lats).

The vital function of the lats is to bring the arms close to the body, but in the pull-up, you are moving your body in.

Back Muscles

Back Muscles AnatomyDuring a pull-up move, you work all your upper back muscles simultaneously. The upper back muscles work in conjunction with the lats to complete a proper pull-up move. The muscles involved are the lower and middle trapezius, rhomboids and the teres major. The upper back muscles work harder with a Wide Grip pull-up.

Triceps and Biceps

arm musclesThe bicep and tricep muscles work together as stabilisers during a pull-up move. This is because of the elbow flexing involved when using your biceps but is not solely responsible for executing a pull-up movement. It is surprising to most to learn that the triceps are involved with the exercise. This is because the tricep muscle is attached to the humerus and scapula which means the muscle is also worked when flexing your elbow.

Forearm muscles

Forearm MusclesWith the pull-up exercise, you use the forearm muscles extensively. Grasping the pull-up bar will immediately tighten the forearm muscles to grip the bar securely. To maximise your pull-up workout, you can increase the width of the bar, as the thicker the bar, the more the forearm muscles will need to work to maintain a firm grip.

You can increase the thickness of the bar by wrapping non-slip workout tape around the bar until you achieve the desired width. Alternatively, you can wrap a towel around the bar for a temporary solution, or should the bar not be in your home.

Also, the forearm muscles will need to work more when you use a Narrow Grip pull-up. A Narrow Grip pull-up means you place your hands closer together on the bar.

Abdominal muscles

abdominal musclesThe surprise muscle group to all are the abdominal muscles.

The abdominals work to stabilise you during a pull-up exercise.

Scapular and Shoulder Stabilisers

scapula shoulderThe pull-up exercise uses the full spectrum of your shoulder and scapular muscles.

These muscle groups help stabilise you during the move.

The rotator cuff muscles, which are the teres minor and the infraspinatus, pull your arms back when the elbows are to the side.

Using a wide neutral grip will require these muscles to work more. The scapula muscles, which are the levator scapulae, trapezius muscles, and rhomboids, pinches your scapulae backward toward your spine.

Benefits of pull-ups

Pull-ups are hard to get started at first, but once you increase your strength and technique, the pull-up is an amazing exercise. It is advised to start small and build up as you improve your strength and technique.

Here are 5 benefits of pull-ups:

  • Compound exercises for a full workout
  • Strengthen your grip
  • Improve your posture and back muscle strength.
  • Convenience and versatile
  • Many variations for maximum effect

we will go through each point in detail below.

Compound exercises for a full workout

An exercise using more than one muscle group or joints at the same time are called compound exercises. Compound exercises use a maximum amount of muscle fibers and will help you gain muscle mass rapidly. During a pull-up exercise, you will use and work all the back, chest, arms and shoulder muscles, as well as your abdominals at the same time.

Strengthen your grip

Pull-ups are amazing to strengthen your back, arms, and abdominals but are also great for improving the strength of your grip. A strong grip is helpful to martial artists and climbers, as it improves the ability to pull downward. The pull-up exercise helps you to develop strong and powerful forearms, as well as improve your finger and hand strength.

Improve your posture and back muscle strength.

Pull-ups are great for strengthening your back muscles. Strong and toned back muscles are not only for aesthetics and looking good, as strong back muscles help with maintaining a proper posture. Incorrect posture is the leading cause of chronic back pain. Constant back pain is not something anyone want to live with. A strong back and proper posture will lead to leading a much healthier lifestyle.

Convenience and versatile

The pull-up exercise is one of the most convenient around, meaning you can do it at home, outdoors and gym. All you need is a solid and stable bar. Ensure that the bar is strong enough to hold your weight, as well as stable enough to avoid any accidents.

Many variations for maximum effect

Doing the same workout day in and day out can quickly become very boring. The pull-up has a host of variations to improve your workout and to keep it interesting enough for you to not get bored. The variation can range from spacing your hands, changing the direction of your grip and increasing the width of the pole.

Compound exercises, such as the pull-up, are a great way for overall fitness and to rapidly increase your strength and muscle mass. A well-defined torso looks good and makes you feel good. As far as exercise trends go, the pull-up has stood up to the test of time and have long been delivering excellent results for those determined to increase their strength, health, and overall well-being. There is no better, convenient and versatile exercise like the pull-up. Grab a bar today and get started, there is nothing to lose, only gains to be made.

Adnan Munye

A certified personal trainer, Adnan specialises in weight loss, muscle building, body conditioning, core strengthening and injury rehabilitation. Adnan comes from a sporting background, where he has played football, badminton, rugby, and swimming all at various levels.

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