How to do a pull up/chin up

The pullup is an awesome compound muscle exercise which primarily works your pulling muscles.  This includes…

  • Back muscles (lots of back muscles are worked)
  • Biceps
  • Forearm muscles
  • Grip strength

The pull up is a tough exercise to do if you don’t have much upper body strength to begin with.  Women especially have trouble with pullups if they don’t have much previous strength training.  In the sections below we’ll address how to make pull ups easier, and also how to make them harder.

-Terry Asher

Gym Junkies

I’m Terry and I’m here to help you achieve your fitness goals. I truly believe anyone can achieve the figure they want with the proper guidance. Through my eBook, I have been able to help thousands of people online lose weight, tone up and get in shape. My passion is for helping people all around the world change their lives for the better.

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  • Dan

    Hey Vic, great demonstration but you forgot the fifth grip – one handed. Only kidding. I’m not sure that needs to be covered in an article about how to do a pull up.

    Keep up the good work.


  • Brad

    I was always timid doing Pull Ups growing up but once I gave them a shot they are now my favorite exercise. You get so much out of doing pull ups.

  • Chris

    I usually avoid doing pull ups but my real insperation is Rocky especially Mr T in Rocky3.

  • Chris C

    Pull ups are awesome- I’ve been doing them in one form or another for… uh… over 30 years! I have only done curls for a few of those years and Vic is correct: curls are a waste of your time and effort. AND they set you up for injury of the biceps and related tendons. Stick with the compound exercises. I am so glad that Vic is pushing this all-important rule of the iron game.

  • Vic Magary

    @ Dan: Man, I wish I could rock the one-arm pull ups! That is an impressive feat, without a doubt.

    @ Brad: Pulls are one of my favorites as well. I’ve really been into kipping pull ups lately.

    @ Chris: Mr. T. hanging on the ropes from the rafter cranking out pull ups is definitely inspiring. I pity the fool who doesn’t do pull ups! :)

    @ Chris C: Always good to find a comrade in compound movements. I’m going to check out your site right now!

  • larry

    I have have shoulders due to a motorcycle wreck when I was 21. I’ll be 50 in May. I tried to do a pull-up and could not do one. Also I do military press but talk about pain. So on the strenth program what do I do for pull – ups?

  • larry

    bad shoulders i mean

  • Cheryl

    Thanks for the details! Although I’ve been a runner and lifting weights for years, I only just recently actually conquered 2 full unassisted chinups a few weeks ago! Being in the military I was always great at pushups, but pullups/chinups were my nemesis. So my question is what do you really think of kipping? So many of my civilian friends are so CrossFit that many of them think it’s the “best” way. I don’t ever prescribe to any exercise being “The best” for anyone since we’re all so individualized, but I wanted to know your take on it. Does kipping provide any real benefit?


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  • Lightboy

    Completely new to exercise I started chin-ups (pull-ups) when a friend at work told me I could buy a bar for home from a local shop. I fixed it to the door frame at home in anticipation of doing say 5, maybe 10…. I couldn’t actually do 1!! I was amazed, how could I be so weak?

    Because I see the bar every day I use it every day, at least once and in less than 3 weeks I can now do 2 sets of 5 reps, it’s an amazing exercise and incredible how just a little – maybe 2 mins (max) several times a day – can make such a difference.

  • Dan

    Hey vic-

    I was wondering how far apart my hands should be when doing pullups– also does the wide grip pullups work the same general muscles, the one where the grips are far apart and slanted 30-40degrees like / \

  • Vic Magary

    The difference in muscle involvement from grip width is so minor that it is not worth worrying about. Put the hands where they feel most comfortable. For most people that will be just outside of shoulders width.

  • Dan

    thanks a lot vic- the slanted wide grip pullups seem a lot more difficult to me though, but good to know they both work the same muscles

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  • Iz

    Hey Vic, i was just wondering, which one will cause my biceps and back to grow faster. Body weight pull-ups 3 X Failure, or Weighted pull-ups 5 X 5 ? Thanks Vic!

  • Vic Magary

    Good question. The only way to know for sure is to test and track. But my guess would be body weight pull us 3 X failure. Good luck.

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  • Dane

    If you need to find more information about Pullups this site has everything you need


  • ritobroto

    I can do above 20 pull ups in a set.. what is the maximum limit of pull ups in one set?