12 Reasons Why The Pull-up Is Crowned The Name: The Emperor Of Upper Body Exercises

In the gym weighted exercises like the bench press, deadlift and squat are regarded as the backbone of lifting. A bodyweight exercise that should should stand on the same stage as those is the pull-up.
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What Is a Pull-up?

The pull-up is an exercise that uses the weight of the body as resistance. The motion of the pull-up is described by the name. An individual pulls themselves up to the point where their chin is above the bar and then repeated. 

It is a staple exercise for the upper body. Even though the pull-up is considered a bodyweight exercise it is used in weight lifting for it's multitude of benefits. It is one of the few calisthenics exercises where 100% of the bodyweight is used. 

The Reason I Advocate For Pull-ups

I have been working out consistently for over a year and a half now and have dabbled in the art of exercising many years before then. I have found that the pull-up is the most versatile and useful exercise for the upper body. 

I have had a pull-up bar since I was a teenager. Originally, I could only complete one or two despite my lack of size and weight. Since I had a pull-up bar in the doorframe of my room it was convenient to use at my leisure and that is what I did. I practiced them almost every day and I began to see improvements. Not only was I completing more and more in a row, my body went through changes as well. 

By that time I never even picked up a free weight or entered a gym. I had no regiment whatsoever. I was only doing pull-ups and solely with that exercise my upper body grew. I could see the muscles in my back and the vein in my bicep began to be visible.

Now because I have put so much time and effort into pull-ups, I can say with confidence that they are in the upper echelon for upper body exercises if not the best. 

Moving 100% of your bodyweight means that you can control your body. To me that is much more impressive than lifting heavy weights. Getting accustomed to the weight of your body and being able to freely move it with little trouble says a lot about the strength of a person. 

Here are the reasons as to why the pull-up is and should be considered the #1 upper body exercise:

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1. The Amount of Muscles it Targets 

Most people know of the pull-up as an exercise that targets the back muscles. Even though that is a correct statement, the pull-up is not solely limited to the muscles in the back. It is one of the best compound exercises in the world of working out. 

The pull-up targets the back, arms, shoulders and chest. Almost every muscle in the upper body is worked out.

The specific muscles targeted by the pull-up are the latissimus dorsi, pectoralis major, teres major, coracobrachialis, subscapularis, biceps, triceps, rhomboid and pectoralis minor.

Not many exercises have such a wide range of muscles that are targeted per exercise, which makes the pull-up that much more rewarding when completed.

2. Pull-ups Save Time

Since the pull-up is a major compound exercise it can save a lot of time in the gym. 

Instead of spending time isolating muscles with the pull-up it's possible to cover the entire upper body with one exercise. The muscles I listed above count up to nine, so imagine doing nine different exercises to target each of those muscles. With the pull-up that is not necessary. 

If it's ever difficult to find time to workout or feel that working out takes too long, add the pull-up to cut down the time of exercise. 

3. Creates an Incredible Physique

Think of the letter "V" and imagine that shape into the upper body of a person. Yes, that is the physique created with pull-ups. 

The main muscles targeted are the lats, or latissimus dorsi, and those are the muscles under the arm-pit. Pull-ups will increase the size of that muscle for a wider shaped body. This makes for a very muscular look in nature and is appealing to the eye. 

This look creates an illusion that the hips look smaller because the body tapers down in size from the shoulders to the hips. Again creating that "V" look that most bodybuilders aim for. 

Image Source: Men's Journal

4. Pull-ups Are Convenient

Pull-ups require little equipment. Only a bar. So, they can be done anywhere. The gym, at home if a bar has been purchased, a calisthenics outdoor gym, a playground or even a tree limb. 

Pull-ups are not limited to complicated machines that can only be accessed through a gym. A bar and the body is all that is required.

5. They are Cheap

As I mentioned above the only equipment required for a pull-up is a bar. It is a one time purchase that will last a lifetime. Compared to buying an expensive gym membership, buying one bar is much cheaper and more efficient. 

6. Functional Strength Improves with Pull-ups

The strength formed in the gym is different from pull-ups. The machines that isolate muscles do a great job at increasing the strength of the targeted muscles. They will become bigger in size and get stronger to be able to lift more and more, but how do they translate to movements in real life?

Outside the gym the isolation exercises lose a lot of their functionality. Almost no movements exist in life where one muscle is used. That means that the exercises specifically formed to isolate muscles don't do much more than increase them in size and strength. Of course those muscles are now stronger, which means they are more capable of lifting heavier weight, but they don't work in coordination with other muscles.

On the other hand, pull-ups use many muscles at once to raise and lower the body. What this does is teach a person how to freely move their own body by using their muscles together. While this form of training may not create the sheer mass that the isolation exercises allow for, pull-ups do increase functional strength. 

Functional strength is the capability to use the body effectively in daily life. 

Meaning that pull-ups improves the strength required for daily life. 

7. The Risk of Injury is Low

Using the body as resistance is lower in risk when compared to lifting heavy weights that can exceed one's bodyweight by twice the amount. Pull-ups are no exception to this rule.

If done with correct form, which can be learned with relative ease, pull-ups don't put too much strain on the joints. This leads to a safer form of exercise that doesn't create injuries. 

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8. Can Lower Back Pain

As you all know pull-ups target many muscles, but the back is the main muscle used in the movement. By increasing the strength of the back it can lower back pain and also help an individual to stand a little taller.

First off the movement itself is very beneficial. When completing the exercise a person is fighting against gravity. What this means is when holding onto the bar the body is straightened out, which helps to lower back pain.

Additionally, just by doing pull-ups the back gets stronger and helps with posture. The stronger back one has, the more likely a person will have the ability to hold themselves up nice and tall.

9. Keeps the Weight Down

The ease of pull-ups depends on two factors.

First, how strong an individual is. The stronger you are the more pull-ups you can complete. It's as simple as that. 

Second, how much a person weighs. The more you weigh the harder it will be to complete a pull-up.

With that in mind, if pull-ups are done consistently lean muscle is built and sustained. It keeps the weight manageable so that the exercise can be done. 

The science behind it is that by using so many muscles, pull-ups require a lot of energy to complete. The more energy required the more calories that are burned. 

Additionally, the core is utilized with the pull-up. To maintain form, the abdomen is required to stabilize the body to prevent swaying. This means that the abdomen is tightened with every pull-up done, which helps to reduce the fat on the stomach. 

10. Increases Grip Strength 

By grabbing onto the bar the strength of the grip is tested. Holding your own bodyweight while hanging takes a toll on the hands. To the untrained body, this is a herculean task, but after some practice the grip begins to increase.

The benefit of having a stronger grip means that it will be easier to lift heavier. With a stronger grip, the less likely it will be that the bar will slip out of your hands when completing an exercise like the deadlift. 

It also helps to increase the activities in daily life. By having a stronger grip it'll be easier to hold onto heavy pans while cooking, bags full of groceries and opening containers.

11. They Have a lot of Variety

The pull-up is a classic exercise in the world of fitness. One of its defining characteristics is that it can be done in many different ways. 

The classic overhand pull-up, wide grip, close grip and chin-up are a few ways of how the exercise can be changed. By only modifying the location of the hands on the bar the muscles targeted vary greatly. 

The wider the hands are on the bar the more emphasis is put on the back. The closer the hands are the more the arms are targeted. Depending on what muscle you want to target that day, pull-ups can be adjusted accordingly.

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12. Pull-ups can be Completed at any Skill Level

The pull-up can be considered an easy or impossible task depending on the type of person. If a routine a gym goer attempts a pull-up it will require little effort, but if a person with little experience in the gym attempts a pull-up then it might be a more difficult. That is okay. With this exercise skill level doesn't matter.

The great thing about the pull-up is that it can be made easier. Resistance bands are an amazing tool for beginners that allow them to complete the exercise easier. A person can put their foot through it to lighten the amount of weight they are pulling up with. Thus creating for a more friendly exercise for beginners. After pull-ups are done with the resistance bands for a while, it will be much easier to complete a normal one because the necessary muscles will be stronger. 

The pull-up can also be made more difficult if weight is added or the grip is adjusted. By using a weighted vest, strapping a weight to yourself, or even holding a free weight in between your legs can increase the difficulty. If you want an even greater challenge use one arm to complete the exercise.

In summary the pull-up is a great exercise for all skill levels. Whether you are a beginner or expert in the gym the pull-up can become a useful exercise to implement into your routine. 

Pull-ups Should be Used to Train

For all of those benefits I see little reason to ignore pull-ups. They are such a beneficial exercise that can be done practically anywhere. I love them and have been doing them for years without getting bored. I am sure that after a little practice, you will feel the same way. 

In conclusion, if those reasons don't peak your interest, my brother was once complimented on how his back looked like a Dorito. The only way that was possible was with the vast amount of pull-ups that he had done over the years. So if you want a Dorito shaped back, I recommend that you integrate pull-ups into your next workout. 

Hello everyone! My name is Ethan Oilar and I love to write. If you happen to read my articles and enjoy them I would love to hear about it!

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