The 3 Pillars of Health: Fitness, Food, Sleep

Pull Ups – How to do a Perfect Pull Up


Do you want to learn how to do the perfect pull up? Many people view the ability to do pull ups as an important measure of overall strength and fitness.

The pull up or chin up is a difficult exercise to do. Therefore, it’s important to learn how to do them with proper form.

If you can’t do many pull ups, then it’s especially important to learn the form for a perfect pull up. Using the right form will make doing pull ups easier.

You don’t need much equipment to practice pull ups at home. All you need is a bar that’s a good height off the ground.

Related Articles

Before we get into how to do the perfect pull up, I want to mention some other articles that may interest you.

If you’re interested in adding the ability to do pull ups to your home gym, then take a look at my review article about power towers.

I searched around and found some power tower workout routines for you to try. I also created one of my own. Read about them here.

If you struggle to do any pull ups, then you’ll love these 5 pull up variations for beginners.

Pull ups are hard to do. The good news is, there are lots of benefits to adding pull ups into your workouts.

Pull Ups or Chin Ups

One source of confusion these days is about the terms pull up and chin up.

When I was in the Marine Corps, we called the exercise a pull up when your palms faced away from your body. A chin up was when you reversed your palms and had them face toward your body.

I see some people are now calling a chin up a “reverse pull up.” The names don’t matter that much, just so long as we all know what we’re talking about.

What muscles do pull ups work?

It may surprise you to hear that the pull up is primarily a back exercise. The main muscles used for a pull up are the lats (latissimus dorsi). You also use your biceps as a primary muscle.

In addition, pull ups work your upper back, forearms, deltoids, and abs. You can learn more details about the muscles used to do a pull up here.

The following videos will help you perform the perfect pull up. Even if you can’t do any pull ups, follow the steps in these videos and soon you’ll be doing pull ups.

Video 1: The Perfect Pull Up

The narrator in this video is Shawn Arent. Shawn is the director of the Center for Health and Human Performance at Rutgers University and a Fellow in the American College of Sports Medicine.

They begin with a demonstration of the proper form for the pull up.

If you’re not yet able to do a pull up, then they show some tricks to start building up the muscles you need for a perfect pull up.

Video 2: Navy SEAL Pull Ups

Navy SEAL Stew Smith wants you to do pull ups the right way.

His first trick is how to hold your thumbs. He says many people will grip the bar with their thumbs underneath the bar. He wants you to hold your thumbs on the same side of the bar as your fingers.

Stew says that placing your thumbs under the bar means you’re using additional arm muscles. You can hold the bar longer by putting your thumbs above the bar.

Stew demonstrates several pull up variations:

  • standard pull up,
  • reverse pull up (what I would call a chin up),
  • close grip pull up,
  • wide-grip pull up, and
  • the mountain climber pull up.

Starting at 2:55 in the video, he teaches you how to do negative pull ups. Negative pull ups are for men and women who can’t yet do any pull ups.

Video 3: Tutorial – Pull Ups for Women

This video is a pull up tutorial for women. Let’s face it, women often have a hard time doing pull ups.

This video shows you 4 steps on how to build up the strength you need to do pull ups.

The first step is to grab the bar and hang for about 5 seconds. You can use a stool or bench to make it easy to reach the pull up bar.

The second step is to do negative pull ups.

The third step is an interesting move called band pull ups.

The fourth step is what she calls a reverse grip pull up, also called a chin up.

If you lack upper body strength, then these exercises will help you develop it. You may have to work on a particular step for several weeks before you’re ready to move to the next step.

However, it is possible to do a full pull up if you’re willing to put in the time and the effort.

Video 4: Perfect Pull Up in 3 Steps

This video is not for beginners. It’s to help someone who can already do a pull up do it with perfect form.