Exercise details

  • Target muscle: Latissimus Dorsi

  • Synergists: Brachialis, Brachioradialis, Biceps Brachii, Pectoralis Minor, Teres Major, Posterior Deltoid, Infraspinatus, Rhomboids, Teres Minor, Middle and Lower Trapezii, Levator Scapulae

  • Mechanics: Compound

  • Force: Pull

Starting position

  • Grasp the bar with a wider-than-shoulder-width pronated (overhand) grip.

  • Hang with your arms and shoulders fully stretched.


  • Exhale as you pull your body up until your chin rises above the bar.

  • Hold for a count of two and squeeze your back muscles.

  • Inhale as you lower your body until your arms and shoulders are fully stretched.

  • Repeat.

Comments and tips

  • Pull with your elbows, not with your biceps.

  • Avoid swinging.

  • Make the exercise easier by bending your knees and getting someone to hold your feet.

  • Make the exercise more difficult by wearing a weighted vest or dip belt, by holding a dumbbell between your feet, or by trying some of the numerous advanced pull-up variations (see second video).

  • The pull-up is a compound exercise that will help you to develop major functional upper-body strength and a wide tapering back. If doing lat pull-downs, your goal should be to graduate to pull-ups at some point. The pull-up is more beneficial than the pull-down because it gets your core more involved, and is more functional and much more versatile.

  • If you can’t do pull-ups, keep increasing the amount of weight that you pull down until it nears your own weight. Then, practice the negative pull-up (see third video), which will help you to develop the strength necessary to perform proper pull-ups.

  • If you use a supinated (underhand) grip, it becomes a chin-up.