What Muscles Do Pull Ups Work? The Ultimate Guide 2024

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Written By Kathy Brewer

I am a certified personal trainer, and I take pride in helping people achieve their fitness goals through strength training, cardio, and nutrition. 





Pull-ups are among the most popular exercises in almost every fitness enthusiast’s routine. If you want to build your back strength, pull-ups will help you with that.

I have been personally doing pull-ups since when I was 16; as a fat kid, I was disappointed in myself. My body was not in my control, and I didn’t even have the strength to do something productive.

Pull-ups helped me a lot in shedding that weight within weeks. I was shocked and amazed to see my increased physical strength and my aesthetic-looking physical body. I was pleased; I have always caught up on pull-ups since then.

Initially, I could only do a few reps, which could be frustrating for anyone. It might be the same with you, but you can easily ace the pull-ups properly and maintain patience. I will share all those fantastic tips I used for my body.

You should know all the muscles worked when performing pull-ups. Don’t worry. We are here for your queries.

So, today I’ll tell you about what muscle pull-ups work, the benefits of pull-ups, how to do a pull-up correctly, how to add pull-ups to your routine, and pull-ups vs. chin.

You will better understand how pushups can help you attain your fitness, from the muscles worked in pull-ups to variations that hit specific areas goals.

So, let’s dive in together and discover the different muscles that come into play when doing pull-ups!

What muscles do pull ups work?

Sometimes you exercise and don’t know what muscles are working out. What benefits will I get from this exercise?

Well, Pull-ups are one of the most common and famous exercises among individuals. It helps build many muscles at a time, it’s good for grip strength, burning more calories, mental health improves posture, and you can do it anywhere.

pull ups muscles

The primary muscles worked during a pull-up are the latissimus dorsi or lats, the broadest muscles on the back covering most of the back, except for the areas around the trapezius.

Pull-ups also work the lower and middle fibres of the trapezius muscle, the pectoralis minor, the levator scapulae, and the rhomboids. So, pull ups muscles worked are numerous and varied.

The pull-up exercises the back muscles and strengthens the Teres major, biceps, forearms, and grip strength. The biceps flex the elbow to help with this exercise’s performance.

The forearms are heavily involved during pull-ups because they help to maintain a firm grip on the bar. Grip strength is essential for any exercise that involves holding onto an object; making pull-ups is a great way to improve this critical ability.

According to a study by EMG urban chikita,” The beginning range is mainly facilitated by the lats, infraspinatus, brachialis, and traps.”

If you have started doing pull-ups, you might have weakness in these muscles, which may be hard for you. To make yourself better in pull-ups, watch this video.

There are several variations of pull-ups that target different muscle groups.

You can choose one according to your own needs and goals. Different people choose different techniques for doing pull-ups.
For example, a wide-grip pull-up will work the lats more intensely, while a close-grip pull-up will place more emphasis on the biceps.

A chin-up, which involves bringing the chin over the bar instead of the chest, will work the biceps more directly than a traditional pull-up.

Benefits of Pull ups

Yes, pull-ups do have a lot of benefits. Not only it helps you in losing weight fastly, but it also makes your back V-shaped. This gives your body an aesthetic look which is a dream of many individuals. Here are all the benefits of doing pull-ups.

1. Impacts Multiple Joints and Muscle Groups Simultaneously

Pull-ups are a compound exercise for multiple joints and muscle groups with a single movement.

The arms, shoulders, back, and core all come into play when performing this exercise. Whenever you perform a pull-up, you try to lift your whole body while using your upper body to lift yourself.

The pull-up is considered one of the best bodyweight exercises to build strength in those areas.

This is how pull-ups impact multiple joints and muscles together and save time performing each of them alone.

2. Many Variations

If you want to focus on a specific muscle group or do the pull-ups in a way you are more comfortable, you might be pleased to know that the pull-up is an exercise that can be performed in many different ways.

The most common variation is the wide grip pull-up, which involves holding your hands about shoulder width apart as you pull yourself up.

This is the best way to work your lats because it utilizes more muscle fibers and provides a more excellent range of motion than other types of pull-ups.

However, you have limited mobility in your shoulders or arms. In that case, then narrow grip or close grip pull-ups may be better options for you–the closer your hands are placed on the bar, the easier it will be for you to complete this movement without straining yourself too much (and vice versa).

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3. Improves Physical strength

improve physical strength

For those dreaming of a V-shaped back, pull-ups are one of the best exercises for them. Because the multiple muscles and joints work together in a single movement, the pull-ups make your shoulders look broad and your waist trim.

This helps in making your body look beautiful and aesthetic. It helps in decreasing back pain and improving your posture as well.

4. Helps Build a Strong Grip.

Pull-ups are one of the best ways to build a firm grip. Your hands are one of the essential parts of your body, and they can be used for many things, including lifting, carrying, and even typing.

Gripping strength is essential for almost every exercise, even daily. So for more muscular grip strength, pull-ups would do the job for you!

While doing a pull-up, you need excellent grip and strength to lift your body. This enables you to work harder to make a firm grip strength.

So, if you have difficulty typing or opening your jar, start doing the pull-ups right now!

5. Decreases Risk of Joint Injuries

If you want an aesthetic V-shaped body as well as shoulder strength you need to incorporate pull-ups into your daily routine. The best thing about pull-ups is that it has no risk of joint injuries.

Unlike squats, pull-ups won’t put pressure on your joints as it’s an upper body exercise that will reduce the risk of most injuries.

Pull-ups encourage proper alignment and movement of the joints by engaging in an active stretch with each repetition.

This is crucial for people with tight shoulders or hamstrings because they run the risk of getting hurt if their muscles aren’t adequately stretched out before indulging in physical activity that requires a lot of energy.

6. Very Convenient

Pull-ups are convenient. You can do them anywhere, and they don’t require any special equipment or training. You can even do them in your home if you want to exercise without going to the gym!

Convenience is one of the most significant benefits of pull-ups because it means there is no need for extra time or money spent on other things like a membership at the gym or purchasing expensive equipment that may need to be used more regularly to justify its cost.

How to do a pull up correctly?

Suppose you are just about to start doing pull-ups or have been doing them for some time but have yet to get the desired result. You should do it correctly. Pull-ups have many variations; you can perform them with the desired goal.

For different techniques, watch this video to know what technique you should opt for your goals. However, here are the steps to do a pull-up correctly:

1. Choose the correct grip width based on your goals.

The two most common techniques for performing pull-ups are shoulder-width and wide grip. Shoulder width is best for those pursuing bodyweight or calisthenics strength, while a wide grip allows you to do chin-height reps (good for building muscle).

Grab the bar with your arms extended and hang from it until your shoulders are engaged. To initiate the pull, engage your lats and bring your elbows down and back towards your hips.

Keep your body straight, and make sure that there’s no swinging or kipping involved as you do this.

2. Maintain proper scapular technique

There are two techniques to choose from: scapular engaged and disengaged. The engaged technique, which involves active maintenance of the scapulae in a depressed position, stabilises the back and rotator cuff muscles.

The disengaged form allows for a more excellent range of motion but requires a passive hang at the bottom of each rep.

As you approach the top of the pull-up, your chin should be above the bar for a successful rep. At this point, your scapula should be fully retracted, and your elbows should be pointing down toward the floor.

Slowly lower yourself back to the starting position, maintaining control and engaging your muscles throughout the movement.

3. Choose the correct body position

Arch body and hollow body pull ups

There are two techniques to choose from: arch body and hollow body. The Arch body is preferred for maximum output regarding reps or motion, while the hollow body is preferred for muscle-ups and if your goals are general concerning building strength.

Using a controlled, strict technique and avoiding kipping to perform a pull-up correctly is essential. When you come down below, make sure you do it slowly and with a focus on positively impacting your muscles.

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Incorporating pull-ups into your routine

To safely incorporate pull-ups into your training routine, follow these steps:

Assess your readiness to perform pull-ups

Before adding pull-ups to your routine, ensure that your shoulders and wrists are flexible enough to do the exercise correctly.

To find out if you’re prepared to do pull-ups, try the passive shoulder flexion, the standing shoulder flexion, and the hand supination and pronation tests.

Choose the best variation for you

There are many different pull-up variations, each with benefits and drawbacks. Chin-ups are one option, but neutral grip pull-ups and ring pull-ups could be better for you depending on your body type.

Progress to bodyweight pull-ups

Once you’ve chosen various pull-ups that suit your abilities and goals, gradually build up to doing bodyweight reps by using assistance bands or performing eccentric-only pull-ups.

Progress to more challenging pull-up variations

Once you can perform bodyweight pull-ups, you can move on to more challenging variations such as weighted or one-arm pull-ups. However, always try new exercises at your own pace and focus on proper form, not straining muscles or tendons.

Use good technique and brilliant exercise progressions

Good technique, brilliant exercise progressions, and a gradual increase in volume are the keys to success when adding pull-ups into your training program.

To execute the movement correctly, squeeze your shoulder blades together as you drive your elbows into your sides and hold a good head position.

Counteract the stress pull-ups place on your shoulder and elbow joints

Good technique and innovative programming are essential to overcoming the stress that pull-ups place on your shoulder and elbow joints.

To counteract this, you can do prehabilitation exercises like rotator cuff stabilization and soft tissue work (like massage) or stretching.

By following these steps, you can safely incorporate pull-ups into your training routine and reap the benefits of this practical exercise.



The difference between a pull-up and a chin up

A chin-up is performed with an underhand hold with the palms facing the body, whereas a pull-up is performed with an overhand grip with the palms facing away from the body.

Although the effects of these two workouts on the muscles involved in movement may seem similar, they are not the same.

The anterior chain is better activated during the chin-up than the posterior chain is during the pull-up.

The broader arm posture of the pull-up promotes the activation of the traps, rear delts, and rhomboids while decreasing the involvement of the biceps and pectoralis.

The chin-up, in comparison, has a narrow grip that maintains the open body position and the biceps. The pull-up is more complicated than the chin-up, yet both exercises are beneficial for developing a broadly rounded back.

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Do pull ups help build muscle?

Yes! Pull-ups are an excellent calisthenic workout for developing muscles like the back and biceps. You effectively work out your back and biceps by tightening these muscles to lift your body weight. Pull-up variations allow you to target particular muscles for the best results.

How many pull ups a day is good?

It is not recommended to train the same exercise every day. Instead, perform pull-ups two or three times a week—aiming for 15–24 reps per workout for optimal results.

Is 3 sets of pull ups good?

The effectiveness of 3 sets of pull-ups depends on factors such as an individual's fitness level, goals, and specific workout routines. For beginners, it's best to start with one or two sets of pull-ups, doing fewer repetitions than you would see in advanced training. Advanced athletes may perform multiple pull-ups to challenge themselves and achieve a specific goal; however, repetitive movements stress the body, so don't overdo it!

Why are pull ups so hard?

Pull-ups are challenging because they require you to lift your total body weight with only your arms and shoulders. The exercise can be challenging for people whose muscle groups have limited strength. Moreover, pull-ups use a variety of muscles in the upper body, so performing them well requires a high degree of overall strength in this region.



So, if you want to build strength with grip, the pull-ups are a great exercise to incorporate into your daily routine.

It doesn’t even require equipment, just a hanging bar. Isn’t it so easy? You don’t have to worry much about going to a gym on your cycle. Just hang a steel bar in your home somewhere and start doing pushups.

It will help you lose weight and build your upper strength, making your body look aesthetic and V-shaped.

Pull-ups are excellent exercises for building upper body strength and improving overall fitness. They are compound exercises that target multiple muscle groups simultaneously, making them an efficient use of time in any workout routine.

Pull-ups work numerous and varied muscles, from the lats to the biceps, forearms, and grip strength. I have incorporated pull-ups into my fitness routine; I can attest to their effectiveness in building strength and improving posture.

Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced athlete, many variations of pull-ups can be tailored to your specific goals and abilities. Try choosing one that you are more comfortable with, don’t put pressure on yourself.

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