How to do a Pull Up/Chin Up

How to do a Pull Up/Chin Up

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When doing the pull up hang on the pull-up bar. If you don’t have a pull-up bar, you can use the squat rack. Raise the uprights of the squat rack as high as you can. Then you can put the barbell in the uprights and hang from it to do your pull-ups. You can also get a doorway pull up bar.

Once you have your bar to hang from, follow these five simple steps to do pull ups maintaining proper form.

Grip the bar. You want it to be about shoulder-width apart with a full grip keeping your palms down.

    1. Now you hang. Bend your knees and raise your feet off the floor. You want to hang so your arms are straight.
    2. Pull yourself up by pulling your elbows down to the ground keeping your elbows close.
    3. The difficult part. Passing the bar. Pull yourself ALL the way up until your chin passes the bar. You want to make sure you do full reps to get the most out of your exercise.
    4. And Repeat. Lower yourself all the way down until your arms are straight again at starting position. Breathe and pull up again.

    If you lack the strength to do one pull up you can do negatives. Get your chin over the bar by standing on the bench. Lower yourself slowly and then you can jump off and up again for the next rep. Another way to switch it up if you aren’t able to do one pull up is using a resistance band around your leg to help you up. You can always can ask your gym partner/spotter to help you by holding your legs. You want to stay away from assisted pull up machines. The reason being is the only way to get stronger at pull ups is by doing pull ups.

    Pull ups are mostly an upper-back and arm exercise. Unlike Barbell Rows they actually train your back differently. Barbell Rows also are a horizontal movement like the Bench Press. Like the Overhead Press pull ups are a vertical movement. The major difference between Barbell Rows and pull ups is pull ups trains and hits less muscles than Barbell Rows simply because your legs and hips do nothing but hang. Pull ups are more of an upper-body focused exercise and less of a full body exercise.

    The muscles that pull ups work are…

    • Your biceps, forearm and triceps. They bend your elbows in order to pull yourself up. If you want to work your biceps the hardest when you do pull ups do the exercise with your palms up. Your forearm muscles also get worked in order to bend your elbow and to keep you gripped on to the bar. Your triceps pull your elbows back towards your torso.
    • Your core. Your ab muscles are what prevent your lower back from arching while you pull yourself up. It maintains a straight line from your shoulders all the way to your knees. This works your abs. If you eat right and continue doing pull ups we promise they will show.
    • Your upper back. Your lats pull your arms down in order to pull yourself up. If you want that “v-shape” look you want to make sure to do your pull-ups. You also work your traps, shoulders and various small muscles in your upper back.

    Chin-ups are easier than pull ups. If you can’t do a pull-up try doing chin ups. Also if you want bigger arms I suggest doing chin ups instead of pull ups. Chin ups force you to lift more weight because you have to lift your own body weight.


-Terry Asher


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  1. Hey Vic, great demonstration but you forgot the fifth grip – one handed. Only kidding. I’m not sure that needs to be covered in an article about how to do a pull up.

    Keep up the good work.


  2. I was always timid doing Pull Ups growing up but once I gave them a shot they are now my favorite exercise. You get so much out of doing pull ups.

  3. Pull ups are awesome- I’ve been doing them in one form or another for… uh… over 30 years! I have only done curls for a few of those years and Vic is correct: curls are a waste of your time and effort. AND they set you up for injury of the biceps and related tendons. Stick with the compound exercises. I am so glad that Vic is pushing this all-important rule of the iron game.

  4. @ Dan: Man, I wish I could rock the one-arm pull ups! That is an impressive feat, without a doubt.

    @ Brad: Pulls are one of my favorites as well. I’ve really been into kipping pull ups lately.

    @ Chris: Mr. T. hanging on the ropes from the rafter cranking out pull ups is definitely inspiring. I pity the fool who doesn’t do pull ups! :)

    @ Chris C: Always good to find a comrade in compound movements. I’m going to check out your site right now!

  5. I have have shoulders due to a motorcycle wreck when I was 21. I’ll be 50 in May. I tried to do a pull-up and could not do one. Also I do military press but talk about pain. So on the strenth program what do I do for pull – ups?

  6. Thanks for the details! Although I’ve been a runner and lifting weights for years, I only just recently actually conquered 2 full unassisted chinups a few weeks ago! Being in the military I was always great at pushups, but pullups/chinups were my nemesis. So my question is what do you really think of kipping? So many of my civilian friends are so CrossFit that many of them think it’s the “best” way. I don’t ever prescribe to any exercise being “The best” for anyone since we’re all so individualized, but I wanted to know your take on it. Does kipping provide any real benefit?


  7. Completely new to exercise I started chin-ups (pull-ups) when a friend at work told me I could buy a bar for home from a local shop. I fixed it to the door frame at home in anticipation of doing say 5, maybe 10…. I couldn’t actually do 1!! I was amazed, how could I be so weak?

    Because I see the bar every day I use it every day, at least once and in less than 3 weeks I can now do 2 sets of 5 reps, it’s an amazing exercise and incredible how just a little – maybe 2 mins (max) several times a day – can make such a difference.

  8. Hey vic-

    I was wondering how far apart my hands should be when doing pullups– also does the wide grip pullups work the same general muscles, the one where the grips are far apart and slanted 30-40degrees like /

    • The difference in muscle involvement from grip width is so minor that it is not worth worrying about. Put the hands where they feel most comfortable. For most people that will be just outside of shoulders width.

      • thanks a lot vic- the slanted wide grip pullups seem a lot more difficult to me though, but good to know they both work the same muscles

  9. […] an all too frequent question from my clients and readers (especially women).The path to the pull up can be a long one for many, but here are a few secrets to put you in the fast […]

  10. […] an all too frequent question from my clients and readers (especially women).The path to the pull up can be a long one for many, but here are a few secrets to put you in the fast […]

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  12. […] it before and I’ll say it again: if you wanted to get fit with nothing more than the push up, pull up, and bodyweight squat, you could do it. But a life time fitness regimen of only three movements […]

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  14. Hey Vic, i was just wondering, which one will cause my biceps and back to grow faster. Body weight pull-ups 3 X Failure, or Weighted pull-ups 5 X 5 ? Thanks Vic!

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