The Value of A Good Pullup

The pull-up is the toughest bodyweight move there is, requiring your back and other muscles to work hard to lift and lower your entire body. Muscles in your back, shoulder and arms all get a workout with pull-ups, and you’ll definitely feel every one of them when you wake up the morning after a first session on the bar. Few bodyweight exercises have the ability to target as many upper body muscles and leave them quivering as quickly as pull-ups.

Why is the pull-up important?

“It’s the ultimate test of upper-body muscular strength and one of the very few bodyweight moves that works your back and biceps,” says former Royal Marines PTI Sean Lerwill. “A lot of guys get fixated on their bench press best, but I think your total pull-ups effort is a far better indicator of a strong, stable and functionally fit upper body that has real-world performance capability.”

How many should I be able to do?

The Potential Royal Marine Course (PMRC) requires you to do three full pull-ups to stay on the course, while 16 gives a maximum point score. “A guy in good shape should be able to do about six perfect-form pull-ups at a slow and controlled tempo, with an aim of getting to 12 reps,” says Lerwill. “Once you get to that point you should make them harder by holding a dumbbell between your ankles or wearing a belt with weight plates attached.”

What do I do if I can’t do any?

“The best way to build pull-up power is by doing wide-grip lat pull-downs, both heavy-weight sets and high-rep sets,” says Lerwill. “Eccentric pull-ups – where you ‘jump’ to the top position and lower back down very slowly – are also very good training drills.”

How To Do a Perfect Pull-Up

  1. Leap up and grip the bar with your hands shoulder width apart and your palms facing away from you. Hang with your arms fully extended, you can bend your legs at the knee if they’re dragging on the ground.
  2. Keep your shoulders back and your core engaged throughout. Then pull up. Focus on enlisting every upper body muscle to aid your upward endeavours.
  3. Move slowly upward until your chin is above the bar, then equally slowly downward until your arms are extended again.
  4. Aim for 10 pull-ups, but be prepared to fall short.