How to Do a Proper Pull Up, and Why You Need to Do Them

So you want to do a pull up, eh?

When many people think of fitness and the gym, they picture meatheads doing countless arm curls, staring at themselves in the mirror.

Sounds about right to me, and that makes me sad.

What’s truly unfortunate is that I hvery rarely see people in my gym doing deadlifts or proper squats, and I’ve probably only seen a handful of people (in a year and a half) doing legitimate pull ups.

As far as I’m concerned, if you’re not doing deadlifts, squats (going all the way down to parallel!), and pull ups and you want to “build muscle,” you’re leaving behind a TON of progress and gains.

We want to avoid that.

And you’re reading this article, which means you want to avoid that too! I knew you were smart.

If you’re afraid of making a mistake when it comes to doing pull-ups incorrectly, or you can’t quite do one yet but want to learn how, we’ve created a resource for ya: Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know – this guide will help you scale pull-ups til you can do them, get started in a gym, and how to train at home if you don’t have a gym!

You can download our massive strength training guide for free when you sign up in the box below:

Appearance is a consequence of fitness

When preparing for their roles in the movie 300, all the actors from the film went to train with Mark Twight.

who had them train by emphasizing “athleticism by combining compound movements, lifting, and throwing. Primitive tools – medicine balls, Kettlebells, rings – were used instead of machines. Each session was competitive, with a penalty-reward system tied to performance and results posted daily for all to see.”

That’s right, these guys weren’t training to have bulging biceps and chiseled abs.

Their motto, “appearance is a consequence of fitness,” meant that these guys worked on getting in the best shape possible – doing deadlifts, running sprints, Olympic ring push ups, doing pull-ups like clockwork, and then doing it all over again.

This type of training really struck a chord with me, because I’ve always been fascinated with turning myself into an absolute machine; if I happen to look good as a side effect, awesome.

There’s a reason you need to do 50 pull ups to complete the 300 challenge: only the fitness elite can attempt such a thing.

Proper PulL-Ups

Personally, I believe pull ups are one of the most important exercises in a routine and I recommend them to anybody that comes to me for advice.

Forget bicep curls; show me a guy who can do 25 pull ups and 25 chin ups and there’s no WAY his arms aren’t well-developed.

I’ve written an updated article on “how to do a pull up” that is a must read, but this article will get you started!

Find a bar that will support your weight, anywhere. I don’t care. Just find one.

If you have a gym membership there will be pull up bars all over the place.  At your house you might have “the perfect pull up” in your door way.  If you have neither of these things, find a local playground and use their monkey bars.  This is one piece of equipment that NEEDS to be in your arsenal, so find a way to get one.  No excuses, play like a champion.

  • A PULL UP is when your hands are facing away from you.  This will work your back and biceps.
  • A CHIN UP is when your hands are facing towards you.  Although this also works your back, it has more emphasis on your biceps.

Grab a bar with a grip slightly wider than shoulder width, with your hands facing away from you. Hang all the way down.  Pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar.  Slight pause  Lower yourself all the way back down. Go up, and really concentrate on isolating your back and biceps. Don’t swing!

Although we’ve written a pretty You can watch our quick 5 minute video on pull-ups here, which also covers how to scale them when you can’t quite do one yet:

Once you can do a single pull up, work on doing them in sets.

  • Do one pull up, then wait a minute or two and do another one.
  • Then wait a few more minutes and do another one.

A few days later, try to do two in a row, and do a few sets of two.

You need to start somewhere, but as soon as you can do one, you can find a way to do two.  After that, find a way to do three, and so on.  Remember, don’t cheat yourself by only going halfway down and not going all the way up.  Straighten your arms out at the bottom, and get your chin over the bar!

Want big biceps? Do close-grip chin ups. I guarantee if you’re banging out 3 sets of 12 at the gym, maybe even hanging some weight around your waist, your arms will be built like cannons and you might need to have them legally declared.

If you’re interested in doing more pull-ups (or getting your first!), and you are looking for some free routines to follow, check out our free resource, Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know:

Remember, appearance is a consequence of fitness. 

Pull ups are a true test to somebody’s level of fitness, so where do you fit in?

Happy Friday!


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  • sgttom

    Try eating more.

  • Martine Boulanger

    Besides pullups, push ups, squats and deadlifts, are dips, bench presses, lateral raises, rear delts, calf presses and dumbells rows good to do too? When in a gym, I have a member ship, I do some exercises on the machines, is that bad or good? Most exercises I do are with dumbells and weights. How many exercises may you do or doesn’t that matter at all?

  • happy guy


  • muhie

    Well try to do it more often . do this all the week and you must be doing something wrong , because i started this say 3 weeks ago and i really feel the difference

  • Nadine Woismeinblistex

    Sooo… I’m not even near doing even one pull up. A lot weight, not enough muscles. I guess I simply go on with my weight lifting until I can dead lift a barbell as heavy as I am? 😛

  • Guest

    I can not do one either, but I would love to… I did some research and found a lot of tutorials around regarding this… Try negatives to start with, and also start by just hanging on the bar to improve grip strength. A chin up is easier to achieve, so maybe try training for that first?

  • Nadine Woismeinblistex

    Thank you. 🙂 I just started last week to do weight lifting at the Gym. My first goal is to complete the first 6 weeks of basic training, which is designed to prepare me for training with free weights. Like, first, I need stronger core muscles and the muscles on my left and right side have to get on the same level and work together smoothly. Right now, some exercises are easier for my left arm (my “holding-stuff-arm”), others are easier for my right arm (my “moving-stuff-arm”). 😛 Which is to be expected. F.e., I do upright rows and benchpresses at the Smith bar until I can safely lift (and balance) a real barbell, or at least the bar.

  • Prasanth

    Hey friends,
    I’m new 2 gym…. Can any one please tell me wat should I do regularly everyday…. And can anyone tell me on which part of the body these pull ups and chin ups works on…. Please help me, I dont hav a proper trainer…..

  • Mateen Asad

    I will be honest I can’t do even a single pull up. i try to pull my self up but I can only manage to shrug my shoulders. I tried to use the machine in my local gym, the one that has weights at the bottom, and still no luck! How can one start with pull ups?

  • Matthew Gibble

    Just an added comment to a great read. Pull ups actually work the brachialis, not the biceps. But the brachialis lies deep to the biceps so building it helps to make the bicep more pronounced. Just an observation from a massage therapist.

  • Stefan…or Stephan,Steve, ect

    at the end of the ninja warrior clip I thought of monty python, “just a flesh wound!”

  • Daniel Carpenter

    I need some help. I found out I had low T. Got it fixed, Im 46yrs old and never felt like this in a long time. I am currently doing pushups two sets of 25 with a twenty pound vest. I then walk with it a mile. Cant go far becuause I have a hernated L5. I started doing pull ups but cant even go all the way up. Starting slow and I wont give up. Just need some guidance. Is there anything I can do other than the pull up itself to help with the progress? Or should just keep trying until I get it?

  • punith

    My shoulders are nt broad enugh, so plz guide me with some exercises.. and also I need to gain mass, give me some tips to gain mass.

  • Nivedita Dhage

    While you guys are talking about reps and sets, I have a slightly bigger problem. Truth is I’ve never been able to do an actual pull up. Is there any way to build up to it? You know like one step at a time.

  • GQ

    You’ve probably found this already, but:

  • T-Flip

    Tips on minimizing swings? I can do a few without swinging but then it starts and I have to break my rhythm to stop it.

  • Samir

    Finally did a pull up yesterday! I’d been working up to it using inverted rows, bent over rows and barbell curls.
    The first couple of times I was able to lift from bottom to middle and middle to top.
    The third time I was able to sequence the contractions just right to pull to the top from the bottom.
    Thanks for the VERY useful progression guide 🙂

    360 Twist jumps still scare me a bit 😛 I was able to finish 3-4 a few weeks ago, but then slipped 2-3 times after that and hit my knees on concrete.
    Will probably resume on grass or sand.

  • christopher schreiber

    Slow down a bit and try to stay as under the bar as possible, lifting straight up (arms close to chest – don’t hold them straight out)

  • Chris

    I am 14 and i can do 25 pull ups and chin ups but my arms are skinny. They only look good when I flex them.

  • Roy S

    After reading your article on nerd fitness, I have decided I could never get to your standard, so I’m not going to be an actor I am sticking to my day job.

  • SharBear

    Just stumbled on this now. As a 25 year old female (I’m 5’1″ and 112lbs) training in a Muay Thai gym, everyone did pull ups and chin ups. And the fancy one-armed, legs straight out kind. There I was hanging there trying to do just one. But bit by bit I was getting a centimetre closer to that bar after doing negatives and using a resistance band or friend to assist me. I’m now at 3 sets of 4 reps, full range. Everyone starts somewhere 🙂

  • RR

    What if you can’t do even 1 how do you start?

  • Katherine Hornsby

    Start by doing negatives. It takes weeks of commitment just to get to doing one pull-up, but it’s so worth it! I started by doing 3X5 negative chin-ups three or four times a week. When I could do chin-ups, then I started to do a few sets of those AND negative pull-ups. It really just takes persistence! I’m working on getting beyond three pull-ups right now, so I can’t advise on that… But definitely do negatives!

  • Saurav

    if pull-ups seem too simple, do them like Frank Medrano does(see youtube).Really slow. By the way he is not paleo but vegan.

  • ArcAngel

    So I am a woman of 5’2″ and 116lbs. I can squat 150, bench 110, and dead lift 185 lbs. For the life of me I struggle horribly with wide grip pull ups. My ultimate goal is to be able to do a muscle up, but how can I improve my ability to do a regular pull up? I can do about 3 on a good day.

  • Avi Hirsch

    Sup! For those of us who can’t do a pull up yet, what is your opinion on the assisted pull up machine? You know, that thing that you kneel on which takes away from your body weight while doing a pull up.

  • loulou

    Ok, but how can i do this? i can barely do push-up 🙁 and my weight aint helping….

  • Designer1323

    A month ago I would have never thought of doing a pull up. But know I feel like such a bad ass! Its awesome! I even got my uncle to make a salmon ladder and the workout I get from that is amazing!

  • dimaschin

    i do every day 100 pull-ups with 36 lbs weight. remember when i started 1 year ago i could barely manage to do 2 with my body-weight.

  • JustAGuy

    I just wanna say that’s the most impressive Ninje warrior guy ever . to even get that far is outrageous

  • Stan

    I’m Stan, 61 years old and have been doing pull ups all my life just about. I now do them in a pyramid count style ie: I do 1 wait 15 -20 seconds do 2 and so forth up to 5 then go down from 5 back to 1 then chin ups the same way. I also run ( very slow runner) do 3 different styles of push-ups, sit ups, etc. all at a local park OUTSIDE ! ( hate gyms always have). Try to get the workout in 3 times a week
    Do you think this is an effective way to do the pull ups ?

  • Leah

    I literally cannot pull my self up. My arms will barely twitch.

  • Deepak Behl

    I do 100 chin ups in total of 3 sets. And I am satisfied with my training, even though I weigh 104 kgs.
    In my diet, I just eat pulses and nothing else, ,, nothing means nothing.
    Thank u.

  • Ilana

    Dear Chris,
    I’m getting back into working out after years (stressful art college years) of falling out of it and being in the treadmill every so often. I recently found out I have both PCOS and high cholesterol.
    I was halfway through a second set of the beginner body weight workout when I started feeling nauseous and dizzy and had to stop. I probably know why this happened, but I’m so discouraged. Can you give me some words of encouragement to continue with this tomorrow?

    Many thanks,

  • Leonard

    I can’t even do a single pull up… Different story for chin ups

  • Arsenal1Again

    Realistic number of pull ups are bodyweight dependent. It’s true the most developed arms I’ve seen with strength are those of professional athletes on the rings and bars.

    I weigh 116kg and I’m tall with it (long limbs) and it’s ridiculous to expect me to compete with short feather-weight guys who weigh like 63kg or even 170Ibs on a pull up bar. My arms are lifting almost 260ibs per pull up (not chin up).

    If I could do 50+ pull ups a day I would be walking everywhere on my hands, including up and down stairs showing off. My strength would be immense.

  • Arsenal1Again

    Yes, I was going to suggest wider grip to hit the back more.

  • Alexander

    It is quite important to know that How To Do Pull Ups Properly as it help us bring more good results. Results will be effective and faster which should be the aim.

  • Just curious

    I do ten pull ups n chin ups n 25 sit-ups with 20 push-ups is that overworking my body as I’m not that fit

  • nicolejr

    Great information

    370 Paleo Diet Recipe

  • Alex

    Nicely explained. Well i have read somewhere else about How to do pullups properly and it was nice to read too.

  • meadhassan

    This is very nice article, Proper pull up is very important for body
    and health. This articles teach us how to do proper pull up. Thanks for

  • This is awesome Chris, really enjoyed the mention of 300, my brother makes pull up bars so will forward this on to him 🙂

  • Chris Parsons

    And again it has changed. New link:

  • Angie

    Doing a proper pushup is a great first step to getting in shape! Losing weight doesn’t have to take long. If you’re looking for something that works to lose weight quickly and keep it off, I recently discovered The 3 Week Diet online (go to ) on our local news and it really helped me. I went from 195 pounds all the way to 145, so I’m glad I made the change to a healthier lifestyle. If I can do it, you can too! Get up off your butt and do something about your health and fitness! Three weeks from now you’ll wish you have started today… good luck and you can do this! I promise 🙂Text me if you need some help staying motivated! (706) 968-7729 – I might be a little slow at replying but I’ll do my best to be your free personal trainer. We can be here for each other 🙂xo,Angie

  • Taniya Ali

    Hello, everyone..
    I am very new here. Fitness tips are to useful and helpful here. I am 18 years old and I want you to plz give some tips on growing tall for girls and shaping the body.

  • จมาพันธ์ ชูตา
  • You make a lot of great points of the many benefits of doing pull ups. Especially that they will greatly assist in bicep development. Nicely put together.

  • jim S

    Convict Conditioning: The Forgotten Art Of Bodyweight Training. No gym required. We have all been duped by the modern fitness industry.

  • Michael Prince

    One could always just change the variation. You could straighten your body to where you are parallel with the bar and pull yourself up like a row. You could also try to bring your grip in very close, Dorian Yates actually recommends this and says that is better than wide grip.

    Just to give myself a plug, I run a pull up and body weight exercised based blog at My content can compliment any bodyweight content you find and could give different perspectives on pull up based exercises.

    The best part about pull ups is that you are not limited to just pull ups and chin ups, if you want inspiration hop on youtube and their are a bunch of awesome people doing variations that one might never consider. The range of motion and variations are limited to the imagination, so try a new variation if your back isn’t feeling it enough! I know the comment is old but hopefully this helps someone who’s browsing today with the same issues!