The pull-up routine, you’ve seen it everywhere from Men’s Health magazines to your favorite fitness lifestyle Youtuber.
The concept is simple and straight forward: you do pull-ups either daily or every trip to the gym, working your way up to 10 per day, then 20, then 30.
*Pro Tip: This is MUCH easier to do with a home pullup bar instead of having to drive to a gym. Self-installable bars and stands are going to be on sale here for Black Friday if you’re so inclined to give the pull-up workout a go.
The goal is to eventually max out the amount of body weight pull-ups you can do and start adding weight via a dumbbell chained to the waist.
The result is a significant improvement in latissimus dorsi development, which is visually noticeable when doing bodybuilding poses like lat spreads.
Now research is actually showing that plain old fashioned pull-ups are go beyond just aesthetics and can actually be an integral part of a strength training routine as well.
How Humble Body weight Pull-Ups Build Help Strength
Research conducted by J. Strength Conditioning Research has shown that there is a direct correlation between the number of body weight pull-ups a trained individual can perform and their overall strength figures.
People who can do more pull-ups can generally also lift more weight in the deadlift and row more weight with the barbell row as well.
Pullups were often ignored by pure power lifting focused individuals as the relatively “light” weight of the human body was thought to not provide enough stimulus of the power-lifting associated fast twitch muscles in the back.
Traditionally pull-ups have been done primarily as a warm-up exercise for strength related sports.
This new research however opens a whole new world of training methodology for athletes and Olympic lifters alike.
To sweeten the deal even more the greatest aspect of this research is that pull-ups don’t require expensive specialized equipment like so many other compound movements, making it an extremely cost effective form of training.
Which Type of Pull-up Is Most Effective?
So now that we have convinced you that pull-ups are indeed worth doing, for both bodybuilders and strength trainers, you may be asking yourself which type of pull-up is best?
Supinated grip? Regular pronated grip? Neutral grip? There are about as many ways to do pull-ups as there are to cook a pig.
When it comes to muscle target groups, using different grips can subtly target different parts of the back and it is good to mix up grip variations regularly.
When it comes to the actual “how” of doing the pull-up, there is even more debate.
Some people say you should use free-moving grips, like the grips used on cable machines for flyes to hang from.
This is why many say gymnasts often have such impressive upper body development, because the rings they hang from and use are entirely free-moving.
Other more old-school minded trainers say hanging from something like a towel is better as it also involves arm strength.
Finally, traditionalists say you should just stick to a metal bar that is in a fixed horizontal position.
Well, the data is in and it does turn out that doing pull-ups with a fixed horizontal bar is indeed more beneficial than using rings or towels for hand placement. See below for what this looks like:
As you can see, back muscle activation was measured in multiple places using electric signal sensors.
The rings and towel variations were effective, however they were not quite as effective as the traditional fixed bar.
What Does This Mean For You?
Well, first, if you are a bodybuilder and have been doing pull-ups regularly then good work, keep doing them as they are great mass builders for overall back development.
Second, if you are a strength trainer and you were excluding body weight pull-ups because you thought there wasn’t enough resistance to make them worth while in your sport you were wrong.
Start incorporating pull-ups into your back-related training days. You can do them after deadlifts as a type of “finisher” to fully exhaust the back muscles and empty your energy reserves simultaneously.
Finally, when it comes to what to do your pull-ups on we recommend a fixed bar with varying grips. This includes wide pronated, medium pronated, and close pronated as well as supinated and neutral grips.
We hope this article and new research is enough to convince you to invest in the pull-up and take your back gains to the next level.