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How to: Do a Pullup.

A good Pull Up

A good Pull Up

Name: Pull up.

Also known as:  Chin up.

Main muscles used:  Back muscles.

Other muscles used:  Arms.

Top tips:

  • Start and end the move from a dead hang, with your arms straight.
  • The first movement you make should be to squeeze your shoulder blades back & down, and lift your chest up & out.
  • End the move when you cannot pull your elbows any lower.
  • Your hands should be wide enough apart so your forearms are vertical when you are at the top of the move.
  • Think of pulling your elbows down to your hips.
  • Think of arching your back and stretching your chest up to touch the bar.
  • At the top of the move, think of squeezing your shoulder blades back together and down.
  • Try to bend your elbows forwards through the move, instead of out to the side.
A good Pull Up

A good Pull Up

Common Mistakes:

  • Cutting the move down, so your arms never get anywhere near straight.
  • Thinking of pulling yourself up by bending the arms.
  • Having your shoulders hunched up by your ears.
  • Hunching forwards and turning the move into some kind of Abdominal Crunch.


This move can be classed as a Keystone Ability due to all the things that need to come together to make it work.  Probably most important of all, it needs a good strength to weight ratio.  So getting stronger and losing excess fat will make it easier.

A bad Pull Up

A bad Pull Up

All the points mentioned above can be applied to the popular gym machine, the Lat Pull Down.  If you are using this machine, pay special attention to the “not hunching forwards” tip.  This is one of the most common mistakes I see everyday.

And just for the pedants out there (like me), technically, a Pull up is when you have a wider, overhand grip (this tends to be harder).  A Chin up is when you have a narrower, underhand grip (these tend to be easier).
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