The pull-up is often seen as an intimidating exercise by beginners in resistance training. But, with the numerous benefits of pull-ups, any difficulty or embarrassment you might experience at the beginning shouldn’t really matter.
Here’s why you should add the pull-up to your strength training program.
The Benefits of Pull-Ups
Incorporates the Movement of Multiple Muscle Groups
To do this upper body exercise, you need to grip a pull-up bar and hang onto it with your hands. You then draw your shoulders together and lower your back.
Then, you pull yourself up towards the bar by bending both your arms. Once you reach the top of the movement, you will then lower yourself back to your starting position.
In that whole movement, you use your forearm muscles, triceps, biceps, latissimus dorsi (or the “lats”), rhomboids, lower trapezius, pectoralis minor, and core muscles. This makes the pull-up an efficient workout as you are able to work different muscle groups in one go.
Yes, the pull-up is actually often grouped together with other compound exercises (or multi-joint exercises). Working various parts of your body simultaneously means you’ll get to spend less time in the gym without worrying about the results.
Improves Your Functional Movement
The pull-up is a bodyweight exercise. And, like any bodyweight exercise, there is more emphasis in training the movement.
This is what researchers have seen on athletes who incorporated functional strength exercises into their training. The athletes were moving better, jumping higher, and leaping further.
Aside from this, their sport-specific skills improved significantly as the efficiency and strength of their movements has also improved.
Improve Bone Mineral Density in Old Age
Bone mineral density is the measure of your bone’s strength. If you have good bone mineral density, you are less likely to experience fractures and osteoporosis.
Unfortunately, as we age, the density of our bones decreases. This is why older individuals are more prone to fractures and bone-loss related diseases.
Of course, the need to prevent or, at least, manage this had eventually caught the attention of researchers. And, what they have found out was that strengthening the back muscles has improved the bone density of individuals aged 60 years and above.
You actually don’t have to wait until you reach that age to get started with strengthening your back muscles. This is because a stronger skeletal muscle can slow down the mineral loss of its bone.
This means having stronger back muscles now can slow down your vertebrae’s future bone loss.
Prevents and Alleviates Neck Pain
One of the primary causes of neck pain is a poor sitting posture on a chair. This is because of the muscle imbalances that form from the uneven distribution of your bodyweight.
And, if you’re experiencing neck pain on one side, you likely have muscle imbalance on your lower back, with the weaker side on the same side of your neck pain.
Since the lower trapezius is one of its targeted muscles, you can strengthen your weaker side with pull-ups. You would just have to consciously perform the exercise to make sure that you’re distributing the weight equally—and this is done by feeling the contractions during the pulling phase.
Improves Chronic Lower Back Pain
Sitting for long periods has been confirmed in numerous studies to have a positive association with the incidence of lower back pain. Plus, if you work at a desk, you’re probably sitting on your office chair for long periods of time and have experienced what these studies have confirmed.
This is another area in which doing pull-ups can help. Research has shown that chronic lower back pain may be improved significantly with exercises that strengthen it—these include pull-ups and back extensions.
This effect of pull-ups on chronic lower back pain is attributed to how they employ your lower back muscles in their movement. Through this, the lower back muscles are strengthened and are able to support your posture better, solving the imbalances formed from long periods of sitting.
However, you’ll have to be mindful of your movement as you do the exercise. This is to ensure that you are equally using both sides of your lower back muscles so that the imbalance won’t get worse.
Increases Human Growth Hormone Concentrations
The pull-up is an exercise that can be done to maximize hypertrophy (especially in the case of kipping pullups) or to increase muscular endurance.
It turns out this type of exercise is the best for naturally increasing human growth hormone concentration in the body. With higher growth hormone concentrations, you get increased muscle strength, enhanced fat loss, stronger bones, and a lower risk for cardiovascular disease.
Naturally Increases Testosterone Levels
Like any resistance exercise, pull-ups can increase your testosterone levels.
Research has shown that testosterone levels are higher by at least 14% for up to 180 minutes after a session of resistance training. This is in comparison to testosterone levels of individuals who did not undergo resistance training.
The increases in testosterone levels are even more significant for individuals who have been doing resistance training for a longer time.
Gives You That V-Shaped Physique
Pull-ups target all the muscles that you need to build the v-shaped physique. Once you are able to do it regularly as part of your full-body workout, you will eventually see some noticeable changes.
The results will be more pronounced when you perform three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions per workout. Shedding excess fat will, of course, help as well.
A Must for Any Routine
You can use straps and bands to perform an assisted pull-up to get into it and move up to the normal overhand grip pull-ups when you’re strong enough. But, if all you have is just a pull-up bar, you can do negative pull-ups for an easy start.
Once you’re confident with your grip strength, upper-body strength, and range of motion, you could try other variations. You could do it with a supinated grip (you’ll need a chin-up bar) or apronated grip, and there’s also the Australian pull-up if you’re going for something different.
Do not be intimidated—just treat it like any other strength-training exercise that would be difficult when you’re new to it.