Pull ups have been a crucial part of fitness routines for centuries, first used in Prussian physical education programs in the 1770s.
A pull up is an excellent exercise that boosts strength and offers many health benefits. Though challenging, this exercise can be incorporated into everyone’s workout routine, no matter their fitness goals.
To perform a pull up, start by hanging from a bar with your palms facing away from you. Depending on your skill level, you can keep your hands shoulder-width apart or wider to give yourself more of a challenge.
Next, pull yourself up over the bar. For a complete pull up, your chin should reach above the bar before you slowly lower yourself back down.
Pull ups are typically considered an advanced exercise, but assistance machines help make the exercise easier.
So we know that they’re hard, but do pull ups actually get results? How will they change your body in 30 days? Longer?
Once you start incorporating this exercise into your workouts regularly, here are some of the results you can see from pull ups in one month and beyond:
- Strengthened back muscles
- Improved grip strength
- Built strength and size in arm and core muscles
- Improved shoulder health
- Potential weight loss booster
- More functional physique
- Improved mental health and mood
Before we discuss what results you can expect to see from your pull up routine in further detail, I asked two personal trainers for their insights and advice on how a beginner can get started.
Getting Started with Pull Ups as a Beginner
While pull ups are an excellent exercise, truth be told—they aren’t easy.
In most cases, a beginner will not be able to perform multiple pull -ups in a single set.
Some experts suggest starting with chin-ups instead.
You perform a chin up just like a pull up, but with your palms facing towards you instead of away from you. This exercise incorporates more bicep work and is easier for beginners.
Then when you’re ready, you can start working on your pull ups.
“The main focus should be on feeling the target muscles, establishing smooth movements, progressing the range of motion, and consistent body postures,” recommends personal trainer Marco Walker-ng.
Here’s what Walker-ng suggests beginners aim for in a six-month time frame:
One month: multiple sets of one repetition of smooth-looking chin-ups with full range of motion.
Three months: Three to five sets of three to five repetitions.
Six months: Three sets of eight reps full range of motion, smooth technique, consistent body position.
Personal trainer Joshua Lafond recommends that beginners focus more on consistency than specific results as they get started:
“There’s no golden standard for how fast you should be progressing.”
Lafond says to just aim for a little more each month than you did the month before:
“I usually tell my clients to aim for one more pull up per set than they were able to complete last month. This is a great challenge that’s very attainable for many and helps clients strive towards improving their goals.”
(Learn more about how long it takes to get your first pull up here.)
Once you establish your pull up routine, here are some of the results you can expect to see:
Strengthening Back Muscles
Adding pull ups to your routine is a great way to gain strength and build muscle.
Pull ups are a complete back exercise that target the following back muscles:
- Latissimus Dorsi: Often referred to as your “lats,” this muscle is the biggest on your back and aids in pulling motions.
- Trapezius: Located on top of your shoulders, your trapezius muscles help to stabilize your head and elevate your shoulders.
- Infraspanatieus: This muscle is located on the shoulder blade and plays an integral part in shoulder mobility.
- Thoracic Erector Spinae: These three muscles run along your thoracic spine and help to stabilize the area.
Improved Grip Strength
Increasing your grip strength is another benefit of pull ups, one that will translate into all areas of your fitness abilities.
A strong grip is a good indicator of overall body strength. In a Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research study, handgrip strength was closely linked with muscular endurance.
Some studies suggest it may be an accurate indicator of overall physical health too.
As you incorporate pull ups into your weight training routine, you may begin to notice the benefits of increased grip strength when performing other weighted exercises like deadlifts.
For those just starting out with a weak grip, try adding additional grip-training exercises.
Hanging from a pull up bar for long durations for a few sets is one easy way to add a quick grip-training exercise to your pull up routine.
Increased Size & Strength of Arms, Core Muscles & More
While isolation exercises like bicep curls and rows have their place, compound movements like pull ups should be the core of every routine.
That’s because pull ups target multiple muscle groups.
When you perform a pull up, you recruit the muscles in your:
- and shoulders.
In other words, you’re using your entire upper body to stabilize your body and pull your chin up and over the bar.
As a personal trainer, Walker-ng has seen clients strengthen major muscle groups.
“Your entire arm muscles will grow. Both the biceps and the triceps are stimulated by this exercise as well as the forearms. This exercise also deeply stimulates the muscles of your abdominals.”
Depending on the grip you use during the movement, you can emphasize different muscle groups more.
A wide grip pull up will target the Latissimus Dorsi muscle more than a narrow grip, for example.
If you want to improve your bicep strength, a chin-up may be a better option since this exercise requires a lot more bicep muscle activation.
To keep your workouts challenging to your muscles, you should alternate hand positions to achieve better results.
As you become more advanced, you can always find a pull up variation that gives you a challenge. Here are some of the most common pull up variations you can try for yourself:
- Standard Pull up
- Chin up
- Wide-Grip Pull up
- Mixed-Grip Pul up
- Close-Grip Pull up
- Machine-Assisted Pull up
Improved Shoulder Health
Pull ups are a great way to improve shoulder health and protect against injury.
If you work a desk job, you probably sit in a hunched over position for long durations, which can put a strain on your back and shoulder muscles.
But with consistent pull ups in your fitness routine, you can work to counteract the stresses on your shoulder muscles from daily life.
To avoid injury, pay close attention to your exercise form when learning to do pull ups.
Improper exercise form can lead to stress on your shoulders if you don’t correctly activate your lat muscles and scapula.
Shoulder muscle imbalances are another potential pitfall to avoid.
These can lead to an unstable shoulder joint that is more susceptible to injuries.
But you can avoid these injuries by making sure you have an equal balance of both pushing movements like push-ups and pulling movements like pull ups in your routine.
You also want to be careful to slowly build up your exercise abilities before attempting difficult movements like wide-grip pull ups.
As you develop your back muscles, your shoulders will be better able to sit stabilized in the joint safely.
Aid in Weight Loss
Weight loss is a goal for many of us looking to achieve a healthy body.
While pull ups alone probably won’t help you lose weight, they can be effective calorie-burners, according to a 2014 study.
In the study conducted by Arizona State University, the researchers calculated that the participants burned close to 10 calories per minute while doing pull ups.
To compare, the average person burns 11.4 calories per minute while running at a moderate pace.
If you want to burn calories and develop stronger back muscles, you should implement pull ups into your fitness routine.
To start, you should perform pull ups once a week until your muscles get used to the movement.
With proper exercise and nutrition, it’s usually considered safe and achievable to lose 1-2 pounds per week.
Build a Functional Physique
While feeling good about your body is an important part of fitness, it’s also important to improve your body’s functionality.
Doing pull ups is a great way to improve your overall athleticism. You’ll soon see improvements in other exercises as well.
By developing a more functional core and a strong back, you’ll soon see how every other physical task you perform is easier.
A strong core is also a great way to reduce the instance of back pain and injury concerns.
A strong back will also help you improve your performance in weightlifting exercises like dumbbell rows or other rowing movements.
Improved Mental Health and Mood
Pull ups are a great way to boost your mood, which can improve your overall mental health.
According to a collection of studies on resistance training, it’s been found you will receive these benefits:
- Reduced fatigue
- Improved self-esteem
- Reduced anxiety symptoms
- Improved cognitive function
Pull ups are a classic exercise that can be included in everyone’s fitness routine.
A strong and muscular back can help you avoid pain and injury and improve your overall physical and mental health.
While they can be difficult for beginners, the benefits and results are well worth the effort to improve your back muscle strength.
Start with performing chin-ups if you are a beginner, as the movement is easier than a standard pull up.
But with consistent effort, you’ll soon be able to can knock out a set of 10 pull ups with ease. You’ll be well on your way to developing a more athletic physique.
For more like this, check out:
- Results from weight lifting in one month
- Results from CrossFit in one month
- Results from bicep curls in one month
Hope this helps!