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Pull Ups Exercise: Tips, How-To, Common Mistakes + FAQ

The pull-up is one of the most well-known exercises for training your upper back. The advantage of pull-ups is that you can do them not only in the gym but often also at home with limited resources. Want to learn how to do the perfect pull-up? Then read on below!

Which muscles are used during a pull-up?

One of the reasons the pull-up is so popular is because it uses almost every muscle in your back. Most emphasis is placed on the latissimus dorsi, also known as the “wings”. This makes it one of the best exercises for developing a broad and muscular back.

Because several joints are used during the exercise, in this case, the elbow and shoulder joint, we count the pull-up as one of the compound exercises. This means that in addition to the muscles in your back, you also use other muscles during a pull-up. In the case of the pull-up, the main support is provided by the biceps and shoulders.

Pull Ups Exercise

Execution of the pull-up

Below is a step-by-step explanation of how to perform a pull-up. Are you still unable to do a pull-up after these instructions or are you looking for a bit more of a challenge? Then use the tips further in this article.

  1. Stand in the starting position

    Stand directly under the pull-up bar. If the bar hangs too high, it is recommended to take a step. Grab the bar at about one and a half times shoulder width with your palms facing forward.

  2. pull yourself up

    Let yourself hang with straight arms and lift your feet off the floor by bending your knees if necessary. Pull yourself up until your chin is past the bar. Try to imagine that you are pulling your elbows towards the floor. Push your chest forward to avoid around back.

  3. Lower yourself calmly

    Lower yourself in a controlled manner until you are back in the starting position. Keep your arms fully extended for maximum range of motion.

  4. Repeat

    Repeat the above steps for the desired number of reps.

Helpful Tips

Are you unable to do a pull-up after the above or do you want to make it a bit heavier? Try the tips below to help you further!


  1. Start by just performing the lowering movement. Make sure you have a step so that your chin is above the bar. Then hang down and lower yourself slowly. Repeat as many times as you can to do just the lowering portion of the pull-up. In the long run, you should be strong enough to make the movement upwards yourself.
  2. Use elastics to make the pull-up easier. Hold the end of the elastic under the bar. Twist the rest of the elastic over the bar and put it through the other end. The elastic should now be tight around the bar. Put the piece of elastic that hangs down around your knees or feet to make the exercises a little lighter.


  1. Use a fitness belt, also known as a dipping belt. Put the belt around your waist and hang weights on it by means of the chain.
  2. Don't want to buy a belt but want to make your pull-ups heavier? Then use a backpack and load it with books or water bottles for extra weight.

Most common mistakes

The pull-up can be a difficult exercise for a lot of people. Check out the most common mistakes below and make sure you avoid them yourself.

  1. Momentum Using
    One of the most common mistakes is to use momentum. By swinging your hips you can throw yourself up, as it were. This is not only bad for your shoulders, but it also ensures that you use your backless, which is the essence of the pull-up.
  2. Not a full range of motion
    Another common mistake is doing half reps. Many people do not lower themselves completely or do not raise their chin above the bar. Make sure to pay attention to this during your pull-ups. Are you unable to perform the full range of motion? Then use the tips above.
  3. Back bulges
    Another common problem is the bulging of the back, especially on the top part of the pull-up. This can potentially cause an unbalanced development of your back. Make sure you push your chest forward and pull it towards the bar, as it were. Also, try to keep your elbows in.

Frequently asked questions about the pull-up

Do you still have questions about the pull-up? View our selection of frequently asked questions below. Is your question not listed, but would you like an answer? Let us know to get an answer and maybe we'll add your question to the overview!

Pull-ups or chin-ups?

A common question is whether pull-ups or chin-ups are better. This depends on which muscles you want to train. A chin-up uses more of the biceps and chest muscles and less of the muscles in your back such as the trapezius and latissimus dorsi. Do you want optimal development of your back? Then pull-ups are the better choice.

Pull-ups or pull-downs?

Pull-ups and pulldowns are two very similar exercises. No wonder people wonder which of the two is better. Studies show that both provide a comparable activation of the back. However, the pull-up also makes more demands on supporting muscles such as the biceps, your lower back, and your abs. Do you want to focus purely on your back? Then pulldowns are a good alternative, but the pull-up remains the more complete exercise.

How high should a pull-up bar hang?

Ideally, a pull-up bar hangs at a height that you have to extend your arms almost all the way. This ensures that you can grip the bar well without having to jump, and you avoid hitting the ground with your feet or knees.

Can you do pull-ups without a bar or bar?

A pull-up without a bar is difficult, but certainly not impossible. Try looking for another object that you can hang firmly from. For example, consider a wooden beam or wall. There are also often climbing frames in parks and playgrounds where you can find bars to pull yourself up. But in the end, a pull-up bar remains the most pleasant. You can also often buy them for two bucks, such as this pull-up bar.

Want to see more back exercises? Here you will find the complete overview with all exercises for back.

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