The bad news: Pull ups are difficult.

The good news: Difficult exercises yield incredible results

The pull-up is a key bodyweight exercise that builds muscles throughout your back, shoulders, arms, and core in a single movement. However, this seemingly simple exercise is also a universal indicator of strength.

Whether you’re improving your pull-up form to build muscle, dominate a fitness test, or to save yourself in the event you are ever hanging from a rocky ledge, proper pull-up form is crucial.


  1. Set your grip with your palms facing forward. Wide, medium, and close grip pull-ups all work slightly different muscle groups.
  2. Wide grip: hands are positioned wider than shoulder-width
  3. Medium grip: hands are positioned at shoulder-width
  4. Close grip: hands are positioned closer than shoulder-width
  5. From a dead hang, pull your shoulder blades down and lock your shoulders into their sockets while simultaneously pushing your chest outward. Rather than locking out your elbows, bend them slightly – just shy of a lockout.
  6. During the movement, cock your head back and tuck your chin. Keep your body from swinging by crossing your feet, engaging your core, and clenching your glutes. Your entire body should be tight throughout the entire exercise.
  7. As you begin to pull, focus on contracting your lats first. Pull your body up. Lead with your chest, arching your back slightly and driving your elbows down and back.
  8. Exhale as you pull your chest to the bar, making sure at least your chin clears the bar.
  9. During the negative (downward) phase of the exercise, inhale and maintain control as you lower your torso. You should feel your muscles lowering your body, not the force of gravity.
  10. Lower your body until your arms are extended and your lats are fully stretched
  11. You have just completed one pull-up repetition


There’s no shame in being unable to complete a pull-up rep with full range-of-motion. We all had to start somewhere. Work up to your first pull-up by:

1. Using an assist

2. Increasing your strength with a pull-up machine

3. Practicing Iso-Eccentric Pull-Ups: use a step or jump up so the pull-up bar is at chest level. If you can, hold the position for 5 seconds, then slowly, with control, lower your body down. Do as many reps as you can until you reach failure, or until your form fails. Once you build up to 10 iso-eccentric pull-ups, you’re likely ready to complete a standard pull-up.

4. Adding strength with Ring Rows or Bodyweight Rows: If you have access to rings at home or at your gym, they’re great for building your upper body. If you don’t have access to rings, a simple low bar will suffice. As you progress, add a box under your feet to add difficulty to the exercise.

Completing a pull-up from a dead hang with proper form is a major milestone when it comes to strength training. No matter where you start in pursuit of the perfect pull-up, you have nowhere to go but up!


If you’re already proficient when it comes to completing a pull-up, here are some other strategies that will help you attain the perfect pull up:

1. Lose weight

The more you weigh, the more weight you have to pull upward during your pull-up. Lean out a little by adding cardio to your routine. You should also research adding a thermogenic fat burner to your supplement stack like NFP’s Shred XD.

If you’re worried you may lose your hard earned muscle revisit our Blog, “SHED FAT AND CUT UP WITHOUT LOSING MUSCLE.

2. Add upper body lifts

Your body recruits several muscles to complete a single pull-up rep. By strengthening these muscle groups individually, you’ll improve the entire movement. To strengthen your pull-up add these moves to your strength training routine:

  • Lat Pull-Downs to develop pulling strength
  • Dumbbell rows to strengthen your back, forearm grip, and bicep muscles
  • Bicep Curls
  • Farmer’s Carry to develop a stronger grip

3. Practice

If you are not yet able to do one full pull-up, add a pull-up assist to the bar. However, continue attempting a complete, unassisted pull-up. Relying too heavily on the assist can deteriorate proper body mechanics. Perfect pull-up form requires that you fully engage your core, a pointer that is easily forgotten when you’re using an assist.

4. Continue to critique your form

As your level of confidence increases, it’s tempting to overlook your form. Remind yourself to reevaluate your body position each time you complete the exercise.

Impeccable pull-up form leads to strong core and upper-body muscles that are imperative for sports and activities including:

  • MMA: A strong pull-up is indicative of strong grappling and pulling strength
  • Powerlifting: Strengthening your pull-up will also improve exercises that work in the opposite direction like the bench press
  • Bodybuilding: Pull-ups build your arm, shoulder, and back muscles to achieve a balanced physique
  • Grappling: improving your pull-up will develop your skills in any sport involving pulling, like rock climbing

The pull-up builds tremendous upper body strength while simultaneously boosting your confidence. The exercise is difficult and it takes time and practice. But once you’ve mastered this key exercise, you will be well on your way to building a better body and improving your athletic performance.