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Why You Should Pull Up

Pull-ups—most of us view them with a mixture of dread and awe. There’s no doubt, pull-ups are hard—very hard—but they also offer the most reward for your effort. In fact, they are one of the most effective strength training moves you can do. So, why aren’t more of us doing them? Oh yeah—because they’re hard.

What Exactly is a Pull-Up?
A pull-up is a bodyweight exercise that is performed by hanging from a bar and lifting your chin up to the bar and then lowering yourself back down. Some of us confuse pull-ups and chin-ups. Pull-ups are performed with your palms facing away from you, whereas chin-ups are performed with your palms facing toward you. Chin-ups are easier because they rely more on the biceps and therefore, offer more arm leverage. But, we’re not going for easier.

Anatomy of a Pull-Up
Pull-ups are a type of exercise known as a compound, or multi-joint, exercise—meaning that it requires you to use more than one muscle group and more than one joint to perform the movement. Pull-ups require you to use your back, shoulders, chest, and arms to get your chin over the bar. In fact, when you do a pull-up, you’re actually recruiting 13 different muscles:

Primary Muscle:
Latissimus Dorsi (Lats)

Secondary Muscles:
Brachialis (Lower Biceps)
Brachioradialis (Forearm)
Biceps Brachii (Biceps)
Teres Major (Outer Back)
Deltoid, Posterior (Rear Delts)
Infraspinatus (Rotary Cuff)
Teres Minor (Rotary Cuff)
Rhomboids (Middle Back)
Levator Scapulae (Rear Neck)
Trapezius, Middle (Upper Traps)
Trapezius, Lower (Lower Traps)
Pectoralis Minor (Chest)

Stabilizer Muscles:

Thirteen muscles? No wonder pull-ups are so hard!

Benefits of Pull-Ups
Pull-ups offer the most reward for any single movement. Being able to perform multiple pull-ups is a true gauge of strength. It’s very important to be able to lift your own body with your arms. In fact, a pull-up is considered a functional movement—a type of real-world movement that involves multi-planar and multi-joint movement. In nature, this type of movement is often a matter of survival. While we no longer live in survival mode like our ancestors, we want our bodies to move with ease. If you think pull-ups have no place in the modern world, talk to a mom who picks up her toddler 20 times a day. If she wants to do this without injury, she needs strong upper body muscles.

Ready to Pull Up?
Skipping pull-ups because they’re hard is sort of like skipping yoga because you’re not flexible. The cure for lack of strength is to practice pull-ups—and practice, and practice, and practice some more.

There is no excuse when it comes to pull-ups—this equal-opportunity exercise is for everyone and that includes women. Yes, pull-ups are harder for women and women will likely be able to do fewer pull-ups than men—but fewer does not mean zero.

  • Women, if you want a strong upper body—do pull-ups.
  • Men, if you want a strong back, a chiseled v-shaped body, and enviable arms—do pull-ups.

Want to get started? Here’s how:

  • Static holds: Static holds are a safe, entry-level way to build up to pull-ups. Hang from the bar with your arms extended or with your arms flexed and your chin at the bar.
  • Negative pull-ups: Use a stool to start in the upper position of a pull-up and then slowly lower yourself down, working against gravity.
  • Assisted pull-ups: Use a rubber band around your feet or knees to give you an assist or use a machine that has a moving platform. 

Ready to go? Check out the Hoist Multi-Jungle Machine, the latest and greatest addition to the gym. It goes along with our pledge to maintain functional, high quality equipment to improve your fitness experience.

  • For pull-ups: The Hoist machine has a long pull-up bar across the center and includes multi-directional handles and rock climbing holds to vary your grip.
  • Rowing: The Hoist has two row machines with a more ergonomic footprint that allows for more comfort and adjustability.
  • Triceps: The Hoist has twice as many triceps extension options for your full triceps satisfaction.