Anyone who has more than a passing interest in fitness will know just how tough pull-ups can be.
Pull-ups are a compound, full upper-body exercise. Your back and your arms pull the weight of your body up. Your abs are brought into play stopping your back from arching.
While pull-ups are demanding, regular practice brings them within the range of most people whatever their fitness level.
A lot of people want to know what pull-up muscles are worked so we will look at that and include a handy diagram.
First, though, how do you do proper pull-ups?
How Do You Do Pull-Ups?
Pull-ups are a simple exercise but one where proper form is essential.
You really do not need much by the way of gym equipment.
All you need is a bar that will support the weight of your body. Whether that’s at the gym, in your home gym, above a doorway or outside in a park, make it your business to access a solid bar.
- Grip the bar roughly shoulder-width apart. Face your palms down and use a full grip
- Hang on the bar with your arms straight
- Pull yourself up as you move your elbows to the floor. Keep your elbows tucked in
- Go up over the bar until your chin goes above it. Make sure you don’t sell yourself short here. Go all the way up
- Lower yourself until you are in a straight arm position again
Make sure your breathing is controlled throughout and don’t rush. The form is far more important than numbers. You might attempt to use some supportive devices after doing exercise. It's very important to ensure that whether this type of exercise fits your body well.
Start doing pull-ups one at a time if need be. You can increase the reps as you improve.
Pointers on Pull-Up Form
Once you are happy with doing a few reps, think about some ways to really maximize the benefits you can reap from pull-ups.
The biggest single point of advice is to always perform a full range of motion. If you stop short while raising yourself or fail to lock your elbows, you’re only cheating yourself. You might expend half the effort but you’ll only get half the gains
We’ve broken down here some other simple tips to hit those pull-ups hard…
- Use a full grip with palms facing away. Hold the bar high and close to your fingers
- Do not grip too wide apart or you’ll make things more difficult for yourself
- Really raise your chest and lead with it. Aim to touch the bar with your chest
- Make sure your elbows are flush to your body at 45 degrees
- Look forward rather than at the bar itself. Keep your head steady
- While you shouldn’t squeeze your shoulder blades, you should keep shoulders back
- Do not overarch your back
- You can cross your legs while squeezing your glutes
- Thrust your chin up over the bar to really make your pull-ups count
- Be sure to lower yourself fully down
- Breathing is crucial so take a large breath at the bottom, keep it held in at the top then exhale and inhale again at the bottom
Pull-Up Muscles Worked: Diagram
Pull-ups are closed kinetic chain exercises (CKC).
CKC are exercises where the hand or foot is fixed and can’t move.
These are compound movements involving more than a single muscle group or joint at the same time.
Take a look at this pull-up muscles worked diagram…
As you can see, pull-ups are wonderful for the upper body in many ways.
What Muscles Are Worked With Pull-Ups?
You can give your lats a really thorough workout if you start incorporating pull-ups into your routine. This is the prime target when it comes to pull-ups.
The brachialis and brachioradialis get a good test. These are the muscles in the arm near the elbow.
The biceps also come out to play but they are worked more heavily with chin-ups, the same exercise but with palms reversed.
The muscles in and around your shoulders come under heavy fire. Pull-ups are great for the traps, teres major and rhomboids.
Start doing pull-ups consistently and you should notice a pleasing definition to your shoulders.
Your abs are used for stability and to stop your lower back from overarching.
You will feel a real burn in your stomach muscles after a few sets of pull-ups.
Hands and Forearms
With any exercise like a pull-up when you are supporting your entire bodyweight, the hands and forearms are flexed fully.
No look at pull-ups would be complete without drawing attention to the chin-up, a variation of a pull-up using a reversed grip.
This is known as a supinated grip, a grip where the palms are faced up rather than down.
Chin-ups are slightly easier to get the hang of so if you are struggling to get off the ground with pull-ups, perhaps try some chin-ups first.
We hope you have found this guide to pull-up muscles worked with the accompanying diagram to be useful.
Pull-ups really are a superb way to take your workout up a notch. Practice and keep at them and they will soon be second nature. Start off nice and slowly. Just do them singly. Once you can build up to 3 sets of 10 you will notice your overall strength is enhanced.
Please feel free to get in touch if you have any queries or feedback. We are always very happy to hear from our readers.
Now go and find a pull-up bar…