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Pull-ups will help strengthen your arms and back and help improve your overall fitness level.
If you’ve never done pull-ups before, expect to struggle the first time you try them. Several years ago (well before we had kids), my wife was just getting into fitness and working out. She had seen me doing pull-ups (and obviously knew what they were) and decided she wanted to do them. However, what she didn’t realize was that I had been doing pull-ups for a year by that point, and so I was able to bang 10+ reps out at a time. We’ll just say that she struggled with her first one.
If you’re watching someone that has done lots of pull-ups before, then you’re going to think that pull-ups don’t require much strength. You’ll be very disappointed when you get up to do them yourself. Pull-ups require a huge amount of upper back strength, as well as some strength in your arm. You also need to have strong hands to hold on to the bar while pulling yourself up multiple times.
Doing your first pull-up
If you’ve never done pull-ups before, then there’s no need to worry. Get up there and give them a try. Not everyone will be able to do a pull-up on their first try, but many will. Males generally have an easier time, but that’s just because they generally have more strength in their upper back. That’s not always the case, and if you have a solid fitness foundation, you should have an easier time.
If you’re unable to actually complete a pull-up (or really struggle to get one), then the first step you’ll want to take is to strengthen your back. Get a chair out, and use it to help assist you in your pull ups. Place it in front of you so that you can put your legs on it, and help to push yourself up to get your chin over the bar. Try to use your arms and back as much as possible, but this can help you.
Another technique to help with completing pull ups is to do a negative. A negative is where you do the opposite of what you generally think of for a move. So for a pull-up, you’re going to focus on the let down portion of the pull-up. Grab a chair, and start with your chin above the pull-up bar. Let your chin/body down slowly over the course of 10 seconds until you’re hanging at the bottom. Repeat this several times to really strengthen those back muscles.
Where to do pull-ups
Whether you’re doing dozens of pull-ups per session, or if you’re just starting out, you need a place to do pull-ups. If you’re going to the gym, you should have no trouble finding a pull-up bar. However, finding a place in your home to do pull-ups is less common. Most people don’t have a random bar hanging around in their home that they can use.
If you have a power rack, hopefully you chose one with a place to do pull-ups. If you’re looking to buy a power rack, make sure you buy one that has a place to do pull-ups. I do hundreds of pull-ups a week on my squat rack, and I’m extremely glad that I bought one with a pull up bar.
Another option is to buy a pull up bar that you can hang in a doorway - namely you’ll need a doorway that has a frame that the bar can hang on. These are an excellent choice if you don’t have room for a power-rack in your home - perhaps you’re just in an apartment, or you don’t have a lot of room in your house. Whatever the reason, these go in basically any doorway, and allow you to do pull-ups with different grips. The downside to these bars is that they will generally damage the doorway frame over time. While the damage can usually be fixed pretty easily (a little paint), just be aware that they’re not perfect.
Perhaps my favorite place to do pull-ups is at the park. If you live close to a park, or have a playground in your backyard, you can use monkey bars to do pull-ups. Monkey bars themselves are great exercise for strengthening your back and grip, but they’re also perfect for pull ups. I’d recommend that you do your pull ups along the side of the monkey bars rather than in between two bars, otherwise you risk hitting your head. If you’re at the park with your kids, and there’s no one else there, then banging out a few pull-ups while playing with your kids is perfectly acceptable.
Doing pull-ups will greatly help with your upper body strength, and allow you more easily lift your own kids up and other important tasks around the house. Getting started doesn’t require much in terms of equipment, and a bit of persistence will go a long way.