Everyone should be able to do pull-ups, with very few exceptions. The pull-up is by all accounts one of the best back and upper body strengthening exercises. It is an exercise of the ages, if there ever was such a thing.

The pull-up punishes those with excessive body fat, and, interestingly enough, it may even be used as a sort of body fat analysis tool. For example, if you gain weight and your number of pull-ups stays the same, chances are the weight you’ve gained is muscle. But if you gain weight and your pull-ups go down, well, you’ve likely gained fat. The reverse also holds true when you lose weight.

If you can’t do a pull-up, make it a priority and be diligent in your pursuit.


Take a shoulder-width grip on the bar and assume a full dead hang position.

Initiate the pull-up by sucking your shoulders down, bracing your abs, and squeezing your butt (try to flatten the arch out of your back).


Drive your elbows down hard to your sides.

You may find it easier to engage your back if you imagine you’re trying to “rip the bar apart” or “bend the bar in half” (like the bench press) while performing a pull-up.


Continue to pull until your throat is against the bar.

Control back down to a full dead hang position and repeat.

Don’t just drop back into a dead hang because you may injure yourself. Control the descent.

Pull-ups make for a great exercise to practice intermittently throughout the day. Hang an easily removable pull-up bar, such as the Iron Gym brand, in your bathroom door. Every time you go to the bathroom, do five pull-ups.