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Back Workout (1) – Pull-Up

January 31st, 2008 · 11 Comments ·


If you want to have V-shape or X shape, you can’t run away from doing pull-ups. A pull-up is an upper body compound pulling exercise which targets mainly the Latissimus Dorsi muscle in the back along with many other assisting muscles.


Pull-ups are similar to chin-ups but they are different with the grips and the muscles being worked out.

  • Pull-up is done with with overhand (pronated) grip which the palms are facing away whereas chin-up is performed with underhand (supinated) grip which palms are facing inside.
  • Pull-up works more on your back muscles whereas chin-up uses more on biceps.

A wide-grip pull-up does not not only work out large back muscle, but also involves our biceps, forearm muscles and several other muscles as well. Therefore, pull-up is definitely a compound exercise.


  1. Reach up and grab the bar with a firm overhand (pronated) grip.
  2. Hands should be roughly twice your shoulder width apart.
  3. Straighten the arms and let your body hang from the bar. You can keep your legs straight or bend your knees.



  4. Pull your chest up toward the bar by bending your arms and your chin is over the bar.
  5. Try not to jerk as you pull up. In other words, try not to rock or sway back and forth. The controlled motion should be smooth. Keep your hands at the same position on the bar.
  6. As you move upwards, focus on pulling your elbows down at an angle toward your rib cage. Once your lats have completely contracted at the top, slowly lower your body to the starting position. Your shoulders are fully extended now.
  7. A spotter can lift your legs slightly if you need help on the last few reps.



  • Your hand position determines which back muscles are being targeted.
    • A wider grip on the bar works the lateral muscles.
    • A narrower grip works the middle back area.
  • Some gyms’ pull-up bars are more than 7 feet high, no worry, take a stepping stool or other assistance to reach the bar.
  • For beginners, if the standard pull-up is too difficult, try using an assisted pull-up machine as shown below. Follow the instructions printed on the machine.


  • For a more difficult exercise, pull your body up so that your chest makes contact with the bar itself. You can also add weight by using a special Dip Belt.

My Pull-Up Experience
When I started to learn pull-up, I started without pulling up but just grip the bar without moving at all. The first thing I would like to focus on is grip strength. Just hang there between 2 and 4 minutes to train the grip.

After couple of weeks, once I was fine with that, proceed with the assisted pull-up where the kind fitness instructor lifting my legs up while I was struggling to do pull-up. Started with 1 set of 5 repetitions, then increased to 3 sets with 6, 4 and 2 repetitions after some time.



After four months of assisted pull-up, I went for the real pull-up with 3 sets of 5, 3 and 2 repetitions. Nowadays, I am still doing 3 sets, but with 8, 6 and 4 repetitions with less than 1 minute of rest between each set.

Personally, squat is challenging to get the correct form whereas pull-up is tough, in terms of the strength required. Not only the biceps and back, forearms must be strong too to perform this exercise. Many bulky muscle men may be able to bench press 120 or 200 lbs, but they can never do even a three repetitions of their own body weight pull up.

In short, pull up is a great body weight workout. Once you master it and see yourself lifting up your whole body, trust me, the effort is really worth it.

Following are some of the bestselling pull up bars at Amazon:

creative-fitness-door-gym.jpg gofit-chin-up-bar.jpg



Category: Back

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11 responses so far ↓
  • surfnux // Jan 31, 2008 at 10:36 AM

    thanks for the tips. Maybe I can’t even pull up once as for now. I believe it has to be step by step as what you experienced and it takes time. :)

  • trey // Jan 31, 2008 at 11:30 AM

    i totally love this post as i’ve seen alot of people in the gym neglegting the pullups.

    pullups are essential for developing a balanced body, develope your upper back and increase your pulling ability (rowing sucks :P)

    anyways, one can get a spotter to help on the pulling phase initially, and focus on controlling the down phase of the pullup. then when you can actually pull 2 or 3 on your own, you’re all set for the big haul.

    tip : always stop 1 or 2 reps before failure. why? because this would ensure you can get a couple more reps out of the next set coz you havent burned yourself out. PLUS normally the last rep or two you can muster would not be as “clean” as the fresh ones… you’d be jerking, swinging and cheating yourself in a whole lot of ways just to get your chin past that bar.

    so yes, STOP 1 or 2 REPS BEFORE FAILURE.

    rest for about 90 secs or 2 minutes then go at it again.

    doesnt matter if your max is 4 pulls (means you gotta stop at 2 or 3 pullups per set). just dont go to failure.

    once you get the hang of things, you can try the alternate grip pullups (one overhand and one underhand grip), the L-Pullups (raise your legs to waist level and maintain that posture during your pullups… great core exercise) and dont be afraid to try out different grip widths every now and then..

    pullups is fun.

  • Daniel // Feb 2, 2008 at 5:20 AM

    Nice post

    Pull ups are a great exercise. The ultimate test of back strength. I have a bar in my flat that i use almost every time i walk under it. This is a great way of gradually building up strength.

    Keep up the good work.

  • aw // Feb 3, 2008 at 6:04 PM

    trey: I don’t know about that man. I consider myself an intermediate at pull-ups. Had to do a lot of those. The term for “jerking” a little bit to help the last few pull-ups is “kipping”. I do pull-ups to failure, and kip the last 2 or 3.

    Although, my goal is to increase the max number of pull-ups I can do. When I first started, I increased from 1 to 9 in one week. I maxed at 17 a few weeks back, then haven’t been doing any. I’m at 12 now, should be able to get it back to 15 soon.

    My seniors back in school (way back when) could bang out 40 pulls up in one set.

    The “300” guys also kip.

    So I’m really not sure if your advice is accurate, bro.

  • trey // Feb 3, 2008 at 11:16 PM

    aw, OK now its interesting that you’re bringing up the kipping pullups into this discussion.

    i avoided on saying anything on kipping pullups because i thought it would seriously get misunderstood by alot of people. but I for one, is a big believer in kipping pullups.

    what i mentioned before was the uncontrolled and heavy swaying that’s not merely the same with a “kip”. A kip is a very controlled horizontal movement done to create vertical momentum (makes sense?)

    i use kipping pullups to increase work volume, but i do strict pullups and its variations for muscle developement.

    i’m a pullup purist, i do pullups, chinups, alternate grip pullups, L-pullups, kipping pullups, tabata pullups, neutral grip pullups, pullups everywhere..

    hope that clears whatever doubt that you had.

  • LogicYuan // Feb 23, 2008 at 4:34 PM

    how about the difference between pull ups that u put ur head in front of the bar and at the back of the bar? will smith did pull ups in I am Legend too…

  • Mun // Feb 24, 2008 at 10:19 PM

    LogicYuan: If putting head at the back of the bar, you will work out more on your shoulders. Yes, Will Smith did that in I Am Legend as shown in

  • michael // Oct 29, 2008 at 10:51 PM

    what muscles do neutral grip pull ups work?

  • Cathie // Feb 14, 2009 at 5:06 AM

    Is it harder for women to perform wide grip pull-ups than men? If so can you explain why?

  • Tomgreenwald // Dec 6, 2009 at 5:05 AM

    I love pull-ups. According to wide grip pull-ups, I don’t think they are suitable for beginners.

    1. This exercise is quite hard.

    2. You can injure your wrist joints if you do it incorrectly.

  • Nobel Andrew // Dec 15, 2009 at 10:42 PM

    hey thanks mun. really, i was looking for the V shape and now i neglect it. thanks for the truth.

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