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Pull-up (exercise)

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A U.S. marine performing a pull-up

A pull-up is an upper-body strength exercise. The pull-up is a closed-chain movement where the body is suspended by the hands, gripping a bar or other implement at a distance typically wider than shoulder-width, and pulled up. As this happens, the elbows flex and the shoulders adduct and extend to bring the elbows to the torso.

Pull-ups build up several muscles of the upper body, including the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and biceps brachii. A pull-up may be performed with overhand (pronated), underhand (supinated)—sometimes referred to as a chin-up—neutral, or rotating hand position.

Pull-ups are used by some organizations as a component of fitness tests, and as a conditioning activity for some sports.


Beginning by hanging from the bar, the body is pulled up vertically. From the top position, the participant lowers their body until the arms and shoulders are fully extended.[1] The end range of motion at the top end may be chin over bar or higher, such as chest to bar.[2]

Pull-ups are a closed-chain, compound movement involving flexion at the elbow and adduction or extension of the shoulder joint.[1][3][4] The trapezius, infraspinatus, and brachialis muscles are most active at the beginning of the pull-up; the latissimus dorsi, teres major, and biceps brachii reach peak activity during the middle of the movement, and the triceps brachii and subscapularis experienced maximum activity at the top of the movement.[5] There is similarity to the pull-down in terms of the muscle activation.[6]

A 2017 study found that pronated grip activated the middle trapezius more than the neutral grip, but that overall the muscle activation of different grip variants was similar.[7] Muscle activation is significantly different depending on whether the pull-up is completed individually or in a set without resting between repetitions, which is more efficient due to muscle and tendon stretch-shortening rebound.[8]

Overhead movements such as pull-ups reduce the subacromial space and create a risk of shoulder impingement. According to one study, the pronated grip pull-up with hands at shoulder width apart led to less risk of impingement than other variations studied.[9]


Pull-up techniques

Pull-ups can be done with a supinated, neutral, or pronated grip; devices allow the grip to rotate during the pull-up.[10][11] The pull-up performed with a supinated grip is sometimes called a chin-up.[1][7] A pull-up may be completed using different widths of hand position; studies have found that participants freely choose a grip that is between 20 and 50 percent wider than shoulder width. A grip that is too wide could increase the injury risk or reduce the number of repetitions able to be completed due to lengthening the lever arm.[6][9]

Name Description Picture
Standard A standard pull-up
Weighted To increase the difficulty, weights are added using a dip belt, weight vest, or other means.[1] Animation of a weighted pull-up
One arm A one arm pull-up is performed by using only one arm to lift the body;[12] another variation is using only one finger.[13] Animation of a one arm pull-up
Kipping An easier version in which momentum is built by swinging the legs. Kipping pull-ups have lower muscle activation in the upper body but greater activation in the lower body and core; it is possible to perform them faster and complete more repetitions before encountering upper-body fatigue.[14] Kipping pull-ups are considered high risk for injury and are a major cause of shoulder injury in CrossFit athletes.[15]
Muscle-up A pull-up that transitions to a dip; it is more difficult than a pull-up and requires significant strength and technique to execute. Originating in gymnastics, it is also popular in CrossFit where it may be performed with kipping.[16][17][18] Animation of a muscle-up
Assisted The effective weight of the participant is reduced by such means as resistance band, counterweight, or resting the feet on a surface to make the exercise easier. Assisted pull-ups can be used to increase pulling strength among those who cannot do an unassisted pull-up.[1][19] Machine
Eccentric Beginning from the top position of the pull-up, the participant gradually lowers themselves into the dead hang position. This can be used as a progression to performing a standard pull-up.[1]


Performing a pull-up using a joist

Pull-ups are commonly performed using a bar;[3] doorway mounted bars are sold for use in home gyms.[10] They can also be completed by grasping towels,[3] rotating handles[3][11] or gymnastics rings.[20]


31st Marine Expeditionary Unit members in a team pull-up competition.

Pull-ups are a common way to measure upper body strength, endurance, and strength-to-weight ratio.[1][21] The strength to do a pull-up is correlated with job-related tasks in some careers such as firefighting, police, and military.[21]

Pull-ups are used as a conditioning activity for many sports, especially those that require pulling strength, including rock climbing, gymnastics, rope climbing, rowing, and swimming.[1][5] They are also used by police and military to increase muscular strength among their members.[7]

Some organizations allow women to use a flexed arm hang as a substitute for a pull up in fitness tests after discovering that few female recruits could complete a pull-up. According to a 2003 study in college-age women, one third of participants were able to complete a pull-up after a twelve-week full-body strength training program.[21]

Guinness World Records[edit]

The Guinness World Record for the most consecutive pull-ups was set by Japan Coast Guard diver Kenta Adachi in 2022 with 651 pull-ups, taking 87 minutes.[22][23] The Guinness World Record for the maximum amount of weight added to a weighted pull-up was set by David Marchante of Spain in 2016, with 104.55 kilograms (230.5 lb).[24][25]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Ronai, Peter; Scibek, Eric (2014). "The Pull-up". Strength & Conditioning Journal. 36 (3): 88–90. doi:10.1519/SSC.0000000000000052. ISSN 1524-1602.
  2. ^ Coyne, Joseph; Tran, Tai; Secomb, Josh; Lundgren, Lina; Farley, Oliver; Newton, Robert; Sheppard, Jeremy (2015). "Reliability of pull up and dip maximal strength tests". Journal of Australian Strength and Conditioning. 23 (4). ISSN 1836-649X.
  3. ^ a b c d Snarr, Ronald L.; Hallmark, Ashleigh V.; Casey, Jason C.; Esco, Michael R. (2017). "Electromyographical Comparison of a Traditional, Suspension Device, and Towel Pull-Up". Journal of Human Kinetics (in Italian). 58 (1): 5–13. doi:10.1515/hukin-2017-0068. PMC 5548150. PMID 28828073.
  4. ^ Coombes, Jeff S.; Burton, Nicola W.; Beckman, Emma M. (2019). ESSA's Student Manual for Exercise Prescription, Delivery and Adherence- eBook. Elsevier Health Sciences. pp. 198–199. ISBN 978-0-7295-8658-0.
  5. ^ a b Urbanczyk, Caryn A.; Prinold, Joseph A. I.; Reilly, Peter; Bull, Anthony M. J. (2020). "Avoiding high-risk rotator cuff loading: Muscle force during three pull-up techniques". Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. 30 (11): 2205–2214. doi:10.1111/sms.13780. hdl:10044/1/81710. ISSN 0905-7188. PMID 32715526. S2CID 220796735.
  6. ^ a b Ortega-Rodríguez, R.; Feriche, B.; Almeida, F.; Bonitch-Góngora, J.; Padial, P. (2021). "Effect of the Pronated Pull-Up Grip Width on Performance and Power-Force-Velocity Profile". Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport. 92 (4): 651–658. doi:10.1080/02701367.2020.1762835. PMID 32669057. S2CID 220581421.
  7. ^ a b c Dickie, James A.; Faulkner, James A.; Barnes, Matthew J.; Lark, Sally D. (2017). "Electromyographic analysis of muscle activation during pull-up variations". Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology. 32: 30–36. doi:10.1016/j.jelekin.2016.11.004. ISSN 1050-6411. PMID 28011412.
  8. ^ Vigouroux, L.; Cartier, T.; Rao, G.; Berton, É. (2022). "Pull-up forms of completion impacts deeply the muscular and articular involvements". Science & Sports. 38 (2): 150–160. doi:10.1016/j.scispo.2022.03.006. S2CID 251114906.
  9. ^ a b Prinold, Joe A. I.; Bull, Anthony M. J. (2016). "Scapula kinematics of pull-up techniques: Avoiding impingement risk with training changes". Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 19 (8): 629–635. doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2015.08.002. ISSN 1440-2440. PMC 4916995. PMID 26383875.
  10. ^ a b "The Best Pull-Up Bars". The New York Times. 22 February 2021. Retrieved 1 October 2022.
  11. ^ a b Youdas, James W.; Amundson, Collier L.; Cicero, Kyle S.; Hahn, Justin J.; Harezlak, David T.; Hollman, John H. (2010). "Surface Electromyographic Activation Patterns and Elbow Joint Motion During a Pull-Up, Chin-Up, or Perfect-Pullup™ Rotational Exercise". The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 24 (12): 3404–3414. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181f1598c. ISSN 1064-8011. PMID 21068680. S2CID 22237474.
  12. ^ Miller, Delaney (19 September 2022). "How to do a One-Arm Pull-Up". Climbing. Retrieved 24 September 2022.
  13. ^ "Magnus Midtboe's Training: One-finger Pull-ups". Climbing. 7 December 2011. Retrieved 24 September 2022.
  14. ^ Dinunzio, Christopher; Porter, Nathaniel; Van Scoy, John; Cordice, Derrick; McCulloch, Ryan S. (2019). "Alterations in kinematics and muscle activation patterns with the addition of a kipping action during a pull-up activity". Sports Biomechanics. 18 (6): 622–635. doi:10.1080/14763141.2018.1452971. PMID 29768093. S2CID 21699036.
  15. ^ Nicolay, Richard W.; Moore, Laura K.; DeSena, Tyler D.; Dines, Joshua S. (2022). "Upper Extremity Injuries in CrossFit Athletes—a Review of the Current Literature". Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine. 15 (5): 402–410. doi:10.1007/s12178-022-09781-4. ISSN 1935-9748. PMC 9463423. PMID 35867271.
  16. ^ Matal, Megan A.; Barez, Fred; Lee, John; Wagner, David (2013). "Factors Contributing to Spiral Humerus Fracture During Muscle-Up Exercise". Proceedings of the ASME 2013 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition. Volume 3A: Biomedical and Biotechnology Engineering. doi:10.1115/IMECE2013-62643. ISBN 978-0-7918-5621-5.
  17. ^ Friedman, Michael V.; Stensby, J. Derek; Hillen, Travis J.; Demertzis, Jennifer L.; Keener, Jay D. (2015). "Traumatic Tear of the Latissimus Dorsi Myotendinous Junction: Case Report of a CrossFit-Related Injury". Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach. 7 (6): 548–552. doi:10.1177/1941738115595975. PMC 4622375. PMID 26502450.
  18. ^ Walker, CW; Brunger, A.; Tucker, S.; Lee, R. (2017). "Comparison of Muscle Activity During a Ring Muscle Up and Bar Muscle Up". International Journal of Exercise Science: Conference Proceedings. 11 (5).
  19. ^ Johnson, Doug; Lynch, James; Nash, Kedren; Cygan, Joe; Mayhew, Jerry L. (2009). "Relationship of Lat-Pull Repetitions and Pull-Ups to Maximal Lat-Pull and Pull-Up Strength in Men and Women". The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 23 (3): 1022–1028. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181a2d7f5. ISSN 1064-8011. PMID 19387371. S2CID 24597041.
  20. ^ Anderson, Wm G. (1932). "Comments on the "Push-Up and Pull-Up"". Research Quarterly. American Physical Education Association. 3 (1): 81–84. doi:10.1080/23267402.1932.10761532.
  21. ^ a b c Flanagan, S. P.; Vanderburgh, P. M.; Borchers, S. G.; Kohstall, C. D. (2003). "Training College-Age Women to Perform the Pull-Up Exercise". Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport. 74 (1): 52–59. doi:10.1080/02701367.2003.10609064. PMID 12659476. S2CID 11511920.
  22. ^ Shimbun, The Yomiuri (28 May 2022). "Coast Guard diver sets Guinness Record for consecutive pull-ups". japannews.yomiuri.co.jp. Retrieved 24 September 2022.
  23. ^ "Most consecutive pull ups". Guinness World Records. 4 March 2022. Retrieved 24 September 2022.
  24. ^ "Heaviest weighted pull up (male)". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 24 September 2022.
  25. ^ Shiffer, Emily (12 March 2020). "Watch These Guys Try to Break the Unofficial Weighted Pull-Up World Record". Yahoo News. Retrieved 24 September 2022.

Further reading[edit]

  • Beckham, George K.; Olmeda, Joshua J.; Flores, Alexandra J.; Echeverry, Julian A.; Campos, Alexus F.; Kim, Steven B. (2018). "Relationship Between Maximum Pull-up Repetitions and First Repetition Mean Concentric Velocity". Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 32 (7): 1831–1837. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000002431. PMID 29351165. S2CID 23580065.
  • Sánchez-Moreno, Miguel; Cornejo-Daza, Pedro Jesús; González-Badillo, Juan José; Pareja-Blanco, Fernando (2020). "Effects of Velocity Loss During Body Mass Prone-Grip Pull-up Training on Strength and Endurance Performance". Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 34 (4): 911–917. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000003500. PMID 32213783. S2CID 213281481.
  • Sánchez-Moreno, Miguel; Rodríguez-Rosell, David; Pareja-Blanco, Fernando; Mora-Custodio, Ricardo; González-Badillo, Juan José (2017). "Movement Velocity as Indicator of Relative Intensity and Level of Effort Attained During the Set in Pull-Up Exercise". International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance. 12 (10): 1378–1384. doi:10.1123/ijspp.2016-0791. PMID 28338365.