Pull-up: Strengthen your back with this old school bodyweight exercise!

Requiring just a bar placed at a moderate height, pull-ups are a complete exercise which targets the lats and other muscles of the upper body.

pull-upsAmong the most challenging of all exercises is the pull-up. It is a popular exercise that targets muscles of your arm as well as back. Youngsters often do it to increase their height, though there's nothing to suggest that doing them can actually help in that aspect. Requiring just a bar placed at a moderate height, pull-ups are a complete exercise which targets the lats (upper back muscle) and other muscles of the upper body.

How to do a pull-up?

In order to do a pull-up, you need to stand straight with your arms fully extended and gripping the pull-up bar. Then, as the name of the exercise suggests, pull-up until your chin is above the bar. Now, release the pressure you've exerted on your muscles and come down slowly until your arms are once again fully extended.

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Parts targeted

Pull-ups are a compound exercise, which means that they target many muscles at once. Among the parts that are targeted are your biceps, triceps, deltoid, abs and Latissimus dorsi which is the broadest muscle in our back. (Read: What are the exercises for big biceps?)


Pull-ups can be performed in a variety of ways, and you could pick the one that is most comfortable for you. Here are a few options:

Wide-grip pull-ups

It is done like a normal pull-up, except that you place your hands wide apart while gripping the pull-up bar. This variation is useful if you want to place more emphasis on your back instead of your arms.

Close-grip pull-ups

In this version of a pull-up, you place your hands on the pull-up bar closer apart. Make sure your hands are straight and in line with the rest of the body and your arms are not gripping the bar diagonally. (Read: Know your exercises: Biceps curl)

Half pull-ups

If you are facing difficulty doing a standard pull-up, you can try doing half pull-ups where you can stand on a chair or on an elevated level so that it is easier for you to pull your bodyweight above the bar.

Weighted pull-ups

If normal pull-ups are way too easy for you (you must be really fit!) then you can try weighted pull-ups where you can attach a weight around your waist. This will make the exercise tougher and also help you to build more muscle.

How many pull-ups should I do?

According to a study published in European Journal of Applied Physiology, people who performed low amounts of pull-ups several times a day, gained better strength and people who performed high amounts of pull-ups of twice a day gained better endurance. If you haven't been doing pull-ups for a while, start with as many as you can do and try and increase gradually. (Read: Push-up the ultimate bodyweight exercise to sculpt your chest!)

Here are some exercises you can do to strengthen your back:

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