The Lowdown on Pull Ups

05th February * 2 min read

Pull Ups – the squats for the upper body! Like them, hate them or loathe them, pull ups are a fantastic way of building your upper body. Not only will they will trigger your arms and back but they will certainly increase your heart rate in doing so too.

A lot of our personal training clients struggle with the pull up due to less strength in the upper body. A great way to overcome the pull up exercise is with resistance bands. By starting with a higher resistance, the band will help you pull yourself up over the bar yet your muscles will still need to be engaged. As you master the higher resistance bands, the aim is to slowly reduce the resistance on the bands to eventually not needing anything at all. It’s a great way to train your upper body to master the pull up.

So, the lowdown? Why is the pull up so great?

For starters, it triggers a number of muscles through one multijoint exercise namely:  latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, trapezius, deltoids brachialis and biceps. So, in other words back, shoulders and arms.

In addition to this, the pull up will provide you with additional functional strength as a number of muscles and joints will be working together.
And… pull ups are also great for posture and also in providing a toned, defined physique. Let’s face it, who doesn’t want that?

From time to time, some female clients will note that the pull up is ‘impossible’. Sure females have less muscle mass on their upper bodies however, the pull up for females is certainly not impossible. The same principles apply regardless of gender on how to perform the perfect pull up… 

1. Grab the bar with an overhand grip. Hands should be just slightly wider than shoulder width apart.

2. Allow your arms to straighten so that you hang from the bar. If you are doing it at home using an over-door pull up bar, then you will probably need to bend your knees so that your feet are off the floor.

3. Pull yourself up so that your sternum comes up to the bar. At the same time pull your shoulder blades down and flat against your back. Imagine tucking your shoulder blades into your back pockets.

4. Slowly lower yourself so that your arms are fully extended again. That’s one rep.

If using the resistance bands, loop the band around the bar and put your foot into the band. This will assist you on the pull up.

Form Tips

  • By concentrating on pulling your shoulder blades straight down into imaginary back-pockets will engage your lats a lot more, which are the major workhorse muscles in this move.
  • Don’t think about getting your chin above the bar, concentrate on pulling your sternum (upper chest) to the bar. By doing this you will open your chest out more and will ensure you pull up in a straight line.
  • Don’t rock or swing your body to pull yourself up. This uses momentum and detracts from your lat muscles. Pull yourself up in a straight, vertical line at all times.
  • Don’t have your arms too wide as this will compromise your range of motion and put excessive pressure on your shoulders.

If you liked this post, please share with your network. Thanks for reading. 

The above article was written by a former student who completed our Personal Trainer Courses in Manchester earlier this year.

Take it to the next level

We’re passionate about producing and developing industry leading fitness professionals and personal trainers.
Choose one of our fitness courses, get the qualifications you need and develop a successful career!

In affiliation with