working muscles during pull-ups

Pull-ups are a basic (multi-joint) exercise intended to build back muscles. The main working muscles in this exercise are the latissimus dorsi, the middle and lower trapezius muscles, the rhomboid and infraspinatus muscles of the back. Secondary are the muscles of the forearm, the posterior bundles of the deltoid muscles and the biceps of the arm. Pull-ups allow you to create a strong and wide back, give your figure a V-shape, and also develop grip strength. Since pull-ups are a basic exercise, it should be performed at the beginning of the back workout.

Varieties and technique of pull-ups

Pull-ups are subdivided according to the width and direction of the grip. Due to this, the load can be varied between different parts of the back muscles. Let’s take a closer look at each of the types and analyze the technique.

different grips in pull ups

Straight wide grip pull-ups

The classic version of the exercise. The technique is as follows: go to the horizontal bar, take it with both hands with a straight grip and slightly wider than your shoulders. Then you hang on the horizontal bar (this is the lowest point of the amplitude), slightly bend your back and begin performing the exercise through lifting your body until your chest touches the horizontal bar (this is with ideal technique), or at least until your chin touches.

pull-ups with a wide grip

According to the research, this type of pull-ups allows you to work out the back muscles in the best way compared to other variations of this exercise. Straight wide grip pull-ups can also be done behind the head, touching the horizontal bar with the top of the neck. This type of pull-ups allows you to work out the upper back in a better way, in particular the rhomboid and infraspinatus muscles of the back. But in my opinion, pulling up behind the head is a rather traumatic exercise, so I would advise you to focus your attention on the classic version of the exercise.

Reverse narrow grip pull-ups

This type of pull-ups is performed the same as the classic version but your grip becomes narrower than the shoulders and also changes direction to reverse. The exercise allows you to get the maximum stretch of the back muscles. The load in this version is shifted to the bottom of the lats. Also, the biceps in this variation receive significantly more load compared to the classic version. I would recommend doing this type of pull-ups at the end of your workout. This is due to the fact that the muscles of the biceps are much smaller than the muscles of the back. Therefore, if you do this exercise at the beginning of the workout, the biceps will get tired much earlier than the back muscles. And because of this, they will not allow you to fully work out your back muscles.

Pull-ups with a neutral or parallel grip

A neutral grip is one in which your palms point towards each other. The grip width in this exercise is most often narrow or medium. The load during such pull-ups is shifted to the inner part of the back muscles, I can say that it is shifted closer to the spine. Therefore, you train your back for thickness, not width. The main stress is experienced by the lower parts of the lats and trapezius. During the exercise, you will have to lean back slightly, otherwise you will not be able to make the full range of motion. Watch your elbows, they should go behind your back in the last point of amplitude.

Tips on performing pull-ups

1) Perform pull-ups smoothly, without jerking, concentrating on the work of the lats. Do not swing when performing the exercise, do not throw your body in jerks and do not throw your head back. At the end of the exercise, do not jump off the horizontal bar. Doing exercise with jerks can easily injure the shoulder or elbow joint. Throwing the head back during pull-ups can be the cause of the injury to the cervical vertebrae. And the jump at the end of the exercise, especially with a landing on the heels, will hit the spine stretched during the exercise. And it can lead to serious injury (displacement of the intervertebral discs).

perfect pull up technique

2) Do not hold your breath while doing the exercise. Lift your body up as you exhale and go down as you inhale.

3) Fully straighten your arms at the lowest point of the amplitude, this will maximize the stretch of the back muscles.

4) Include different grip pull-ups in your workout routine. This will allow all the muscles of the back to be worked out to the maximum and will not allow them to adapt to the load received.

5) If you do 10-15 repetitions in a set with a perfect technique, then your own body weight is no longer enough for a good training of the back muscles, and it is worth doing pull-ups with weights. Start with a small weight (up to 5 kg) hunging on an athletic belt, when you’ll reach the same 10-15 repetitions with this weight, you can add more. You can also do a pyramid, this is when you start with a small weight and add with each set. And do the last set without any weight at all. Such a pyramid perfectly shocks the muscles of the back.

How to start pull-up

There is often a situation when beginners who just come to the gym cannot pull up even once. But without pull-ups, you will not see a really wide back. Therefore, in order to learn how to pull up, you need to follow some tips. These tips are also suitable for girls who want to pull up.

1) Do partial amplitude. From workout to workout, you will pull higher and higher. Finally, you’ll learn.

2) Strengthen your back and arm muscles with accompanying weights and exercises. These can be: barbell bent-over row, dumbbell bent-over row, lat pull-down, seated cable row, various barbell or dumbbell curls for biceps.

pull ups with resistance band

3) If your gym has a special machine called dip and chin assist machine, do pull-ups in it. It will greatly lighten the mass you need to pull up to the bar. If there is no such a machine, then you can simply place your legs against an athletic wall. A resistance band can also serve as an analogue.

4) Do negative pull-ups. Ask your partner to help you pull up to the bar, then hang and stay in the upper position as much as possible. After that, begin to go down smoothly.

5) If you have a weak grip, try pulling up with lifting straps. These straps are used by bodybuilders to lift really heavy weights. They are put on your wrists and wrapped around the horizontal bar. The lifting straps will strengthen your grip and help you pull up.

For clearly understanding, and to quickly learn how to pull up on the horizontal bar, I advise you to watch the video:

Pull-ups perfect technique (video)

Pull-ups world records

Among the records that are included in the Guinness Book of Records are:

Pull-ups in 1 minute. On October 28, 2012, Vitaly Kulikov pulled up 59 times. He did one pull-up almost every second. Incredible speed.

Pull-ups in 3 minutes: In 1988, Ngo Xuan Chayenu did 100 pull-ups.

Pull-ups in 30 minutes. On July 5, 2010, Stephen Hyland pulled himself up 543 times.

Pull-ups in 1 hour. On August 1, 2010, Stephen Hyland pulled himself up 1,009 times.

Pull-ups in 6 hours. On April 20, 2014, Jan Kares pulled up 3378 times. And he didn’t stop there.

Pull-ups in 12 hours. On April 20, 2014, Jan Kares pulled up 4,654 times. The top achievement was not enough for him and he went further, and in one day he set 2 world records at once.

Pull-ups in 24 hours. On May 30, 2015, John Bosek pulled up 5801 times. Crazy result.

The brightest record, which was not added in the Guinness Book, was set by Jen Kares. He performed 232 pull-ups in one set, without getting up even once on the ground. It took him 36 minutes.

Pull-ups world record (video)

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