What are pull-ups?
The term ‘pull-up’ stems from a simple description of the movement being performed: you pull yourself up! Pull-ups may also be known as ‘chin-ups’. In the starting position, your body is suspended by the arms, which grip a pull-up bar or any other suitable object (e.g. the horizontal bar of goalposts). Type and width of grip may be chosen freely. Holding the entire body under tension, you pull yourself up by the arms until your chin extends over the bar. Important and crucial point: Pull-ups rely on upper body strength only, the legs hang freely.
Which muscle groups are needed for pull-ups?
Even if the arms seem to do the work, the main force originates in the back. In this exercise, the wide back muscle, the latissimus dorsi (often referred to as just “lat”) and the trapezius muscle, which carries and moves your shoulders, feel the greatest impact. The trapezius muscle is located in the middle of the upper back and has – as the name suggests – a trapezoidal shape. So, the lat and the trapezius muscles bear the main load of the pull-up. The lat and trapezius muscles are supported by the arms – particularly biceps – as well as the shoulder muscles and the large and small breast (or pectoral) muscles. As the lat is the largest muscle of the body in terms of surface area, and the notable size of the trapezoidal muscle, pull-ups involve a large part of the total musculature. Together these muscles deliver a large amount of energy and contribute to a healthy and strong back.
Pull-ups for a strong back!
Pulling up your own body from a state of being freely suspended sounds simple but poses a huge challenge for most people. While many basic movements such as squats or modified forms of push-ups are part of everyday life, pull-up movements are not. To avoid back problems, which are common these days, pull-ups are ideally suited for preventative purposes at an early stage and to strengthen your back. They are also a basic exercise for muscle building: Since extreme strength is needed – the total weight of your own body is involved, after all – the training stimulus exerted by pull-ups is very high. They are therefore the perfect workout to exercise and strengthen your back.
Grip variations providing even more training stimulus with pull-ups!
It is basically up to you to decide which direction your palms face during pull-ups. Intuitively, many people choose the kind of grip that is easier for them. Changing your grip from time to time allows you to use your muscles in different ways. A more narrow grip, with palms pointing back over your shoulders for example, exercises the arm muscles, especially the biceps. Moving to a wider grip with palms pointing away from you will have a greater impact on the latissimus dorsi. The grip can be varied even within a workout – useful when assome muscles approach failure or fatigue.
Pull-ups - impossible for beginners and overweight Athletes?
A very good strength-to-load ratio is necessary to complete a high number of pull-ups at one time. Success with pull-ups, however, is not primarily defined by a high number of repetitions. Only through sustained exercise with sub goals along the way can most people achieve the ability to pull up the complete weight of their own body. Beginners may use the jumping pull-ups as a good first step, as the major muscle groups are activated and trained during the negative movement (lowering). It is important, however, not to let yourself just drop, but to perform the lowering in a very controlled way and under tension. Only then will the training stimulus be set and the risk of injury reduced. Anyone with the right motivation and the necessary practice can do pull-ups. Achieving a clean pull-up will give many people an incredible sense of achievement, which will be remembered with each increase in repetitions. Practice and dedication will result in perfection!