It's an iconic Freeletics exercise, but by no means easy. Getting yourself over the bar takes time, effort and commitment. Here's everything you should know about the king of upper body exercises.
Let’s start from the beginning. Pullups are a movement where you “pull” yourself “up” over a bar. The concept is simple, but they are actually a fairly advanced upper body movement. Start by hanging from a bar, suspended by your arms. Next, holding your entire body under tension, pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar. Finally, lower yourself down until your arms are almost straight again. Throughout the entire movement, just your upper body is working; your legs hang freely. And there you have it!
The grip you choose is dependent on the specific muscles you want to train. Holding the bar with your hands more than shoulder width apart puts more strain on the lats or back muscles, whereas a narrower grip is more effective for training the biceps, triceps and shoulders. A standard grip with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart offers the best of both worlds.
Which muscles do Pullups train?
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.
Where to start?
Completing your first Pullup is a huge achievement in itself. An huge amount of upper body strength is needed to lift your own bodyweight and requires a lot of effort to develop. Women in particular naturally have less upper body strength, making Pullups even more of a challenge.
But this doesn’t mean they’re impossible. There are a number of variations you can follow to build up to your first Pullup, whatever your current level.
Start with a simple Passive Hang. This will get your shoulders and grip used to being on the bar, an important starting point for Pullups. Once you’re comfortable here, move on to Jumping Pullups; these focus on the negative, or lowering, movement, which works all the major muscle groups and can be adapted as you progress. As you move forward with this exercise, make the lowering movement slower and slower, so your muscles work even harder.
The Assisted Pullup is another great beginner exercise. With the support of resistance bands, you can get used to completing the full range of motion. Adjust the thickness of the band as you progress; a thicker band offers more support.
How quickly you’re able to work through these progressions depends on the individual, but with commitment and time, you’ll work your way to standard Pullups. Once you’re at this stage, there’s a whole host of Pullup progressions in the Freeletics arsenal to test your upper body strength even further. Commando, Typewriter, Archer and even Clapping Pullups are all ready and waiting for Free Athletes looking for an even greater Pullup challenge.
Anyone can do Pullups, it just takes time, dedication and practice. They’re the ultimate upper body exercise and achieving a clean Pullup is a huge achievement, no matter what your level. Want to practice your Pullups on your terms? Find the ultimate Pullup bundle in the Freeletics shop and start your Pullup training today.