How to Do a Pull-Up

By Laura High @healthwriter61
April 10, 2015

This bodyweight exercise works the muscles of your shoulders, back, and arms.

You can do this challenging exercise in a variety of ways with modifications to make it easier or more difficult.

How it’s done

Stand below a chin-up or other sturdy bar. Reach, jump, or stand on a box or bench to grasp the bar. Use an overhand grip with your thumbs wrapped around the bar and your hands slightly wider than your shoulders. Hang from the bar and either cross your ankles or let your legs hang straight, but avoid touching the ground. Engage your core and pull your shoulder blades (scapula) together and down. Maintain these engagements throughout the exercise. Pull your body up by bending your elbows, keeping them pointed toward the ground, until your chin is over the bar. Slowly lower yourself. Repeat.

Avoid swinging your body during this exercise. The move should be slow and controlled. Avoid relaxing your shoulders too much at the bottom, which can place a great deal of strain on your joints.


You can also do this exercise with a wider grip — twice your shoulder width — to focus more on your lat muscles and less on your arms. To focus more on your arms, reverse the grip and move your hands closer together (chin-up).

If you aren’t strong enough to pull up your full body weight, rest your legs on a bench or a box and help yourself up with your legs, resisting your full weight on the way down. Some gyms also have assisted pull-up machines to help you work your way up to lifting your bodyweight.

If your bodyweight isn’t enough, there are belts designed for attaching weights for added resistance.


April 13, 2015

Reviewed By:

Janet O’Dell, RN

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