Step-by-step tips on how to do a correct pull-up and chin-up.

So you wanna do a chin-up huh?

Well you have arrived In the right place!

Pull-ups are one of my favorite exercises and a critical movement that we teach. It is so important to us that we have specially developed a pull-up adventure in our new app. You can test it for free here:

Don't worry, even if you're not interested, we'll teach you everything you always wanted to know about pull-ups:

There's a lot to talk about, so let's get started!

If you're just getting started with your strength training, check out our comprehensive guide Strength Training 101: Everything You Need To Know. You can get hold of it for free if you sign up for the Rebellion (that's us!) By signing up below:

Download our comprehensive guide

  • Everything you need to know to get strong.
  • Exercise routines for body weight AND strength training.
  • How to find the right gym and train properly in one.

What are the benefits of pull-ups? Which muscles work pull-ups?

Pull ups are one of the best exercises you can do.

Here's why:

# 1) Pull ups work every muscle in your upper body. Pull-ups are what we call a "compound exercise," which means they work multiple muscle groups at the same time.

The muscles in your back, arms, and even your abs will get stronger with pull-ups.


Yes! You attack your abs while stabilizing your body as you lift yourself up.

# 2) Pull ups are a good indicator of overall strength. Since you are only against gravity, when you can do a chin-up or pull-up, you have a greater strength to body weight ratio.

When doing push-ups, some of your body weight is carried by your feet.

Not so with pull-ups. It's just you and the bar.

# 3) Pull-ups help you improve your posture.(1) By strengthening your PULL muscles, we strengthen and tone your back muscles.

This, of course, leads to pulling your shoulder blades back and down into the correct position for better posture.

# 4) Pull-ups improve grip strength. The grip strength is another indicator of all in all health. In fact, a strong grip has been correlated with lower death rates. (2)

Pull-ups are a great way to improve your grip because your hands and fingers have to support the weight of your body as you move.

If you're looking for a stronger handshake, regularly Pull-ups will go a long way towards this goal.

A quick note: We have a complete guide to improving your grip strength if you want to learn more.

# 5) Pull-ups are practical. Some other large compound movements require a fair amount of equipment, such as the deadlift or bench press. That said, if you don't have weights, barbells, and power racks at home, chances are you're going to the gym for a workout.

Not so with pull-ups.

A pull-up bar really only requires a pull-up bar, but this can also be replaced.

You can use climbing frame on a local playground, a towel around a strong beam, or even a sturdy tree:

If it's bigger than you and can support your weight, you can do pull-ups out of it. (3)

Okay, enough about why you should be doing pull ups. Let us show you how to do it.

How to do proper pull-ups


  1. Take a pole with a handle that's slightly wider than shoulder width and with its hands pointing away from you.
  2. Hang all the way down.
  3. Pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar.
  4. Light break
  5. Lower yourself all the way back down.

That's it!

You may think: "That's all well and good, Steve, but what if you can't even do a chin-up? What should I do?

No panic!

I've covered you.

I'm going to share with you the exact pull-up progress plan that we are using in Nerd Fitness Journey (which you can try out here):

Here's how to get your first pull-up

This section is from our Get Your First Pull-Up Guide.

If you can't fully straighten yourself up yet, don't fret!

We will work on building your "pull" muscles through a series of exercises.


Level 1 chin-up training: bent over rows of dumbbells

Bent rows of dumbbells:

  • 8 reps per arm (or as many as possible)
  • Take a break of 2 minutes
  • Do another sentence
  • Repeat until you hit 3 sets

What weight should you start with first?

Whatever allows you to get at least 5 reps per set.

Once you can do 3 sets of 8 reps (each arm), it's time to pick up a heavier dumbbell.

This allows you to get stronger and stronger.

If you can lift a 10kg or heavier dumbbell, you should consider moving up to the next level.

Level 2 pull-up workout: reverse body weight series

Body weight series are the PERFECT precursor to pull-ups – You train the same muscles and just let yourself lift your own body weight at a different angle.

Our goal here will be to work towards a lower and lower angle, which increases the difficulty of the movement.

First we make lines higher with the bar:

Then we'll lower the bar:

Once you do a body weight series where your body is at an angle of 45 degrees or less, you can move on to the next level.

Level 3 Pull-Up Workout: Supported pull-ups

At this point, you'll start doing pull-ups … with a little help.

We have a few options for you.

# 1) Assisted pull-ups with a chair

Either one or two feet on the chair as needed. Your feet are ONLY for support, use your upper body as often as possible.

# 2) Assisted pull-ups with an exercise band

You can get different types of exercise bands with different strengths or a variety package for easy advancement.

Put your foot in the exercise band and pull yourself up.

# 3) Assisted pull-ups with a partner

Have a friend hold your feet behind you and help you complete each rep. Let them use as little help as possible to get you through your workout.

Once you are comfortable with some form of assisted pull-up and can do about 10 reps, it is time to move on to the next level.

This is probably the WORST level before you even get your pull-ups. If you get stuck with "assisted pull-ups" and "assisted pull-ups", you are not alone. Most people are stuck here.

That's why we created a special program as part of the Nerd Fitness Journey to get people to the bar. You can try it for free here:

Level 4 pull-up workout: negative pull-ups

Our next level on our way to doing a chin-up is what we call "negative pull-ups."

  1. Grasp the bar with an overhand grip
  2. Jump so that your chest touches
  3. Slowly lower yourself under control until you have reached the end of the movement.

As you lower yourself further, you will build strength and eventually build enough muscle to pull yourself up.

For more specific instructions on these levels or movements, see our “Get Your First Chin-Up” guide for more information.

Pull-ups versus pull-ups (what's the difference?)

The terms "chin-up" and "chin-up" may be used interchangeably.

However, since there is a difference, the definitions are in the correct order:

A PULL-UP is when your hands are pointing away from you

This will work your back and biceps.

A pull-up is when your hands are facing you.

While this works for your back as well, the focus is more on your biceps.

Are chin-ups easier than pull-ups?

Yes, pull-ups are generally easier to do than pull-ups. The wider grip of a pull-up isolates your lats, which means you get less support from your biceps.

We recommend including both pull-ups and pull-ups in your workout. This is explained in our section on incorporating pull-ups into your workout.

5 common mistakes when pulling up

Mistake # 1: You don't stretch deep enough or don't pull high enough.

Full stretch and freedom of movement are big problems for many people who practice pull-ups and pull-ups. Most of the people I see in the gym do half pull-ups. Either not pulling up enough, not falling low enough, or both! It is not complete repetition and it robs your body of effective work.


For each repetition, you want your body to be in a straight line at the bottom – Keep your elbows straight and your shoulder slightly relaxed up to your ears. Full freedom of movement for victory! It's better to do a few proper pull-ups than doing more pull-ups with half repetitions.

Mistake # 2: You're not attacking your shoulders at the beginning. Another problem I see in people is that they don't properly adjust their shoulders when they start doing the chin-up, which can put unnecessary strain on your joints / tendons / muscles. It can also make the difference between getting your first chin-up, chin-up, or spinning around on the bar!


Imagine pinching a pencil between your shoulder blades and then pulling up. In other words, pull your shoulders down and back before bending your elbows to pull up. This puts us in a far more efficient position. If we don't make full use of our back and shoulder muscles, we are weaker in the long run and are at greater risk of injury.

Mistake # 3: You're making a variation too hard. Whether it is a lack of strength or too much body mass, you should choose a variant that allows you to have great shape and get stronger at the same time. Use a box, assisted band, or assisted pull-up machine to start with a light weight and build your strength.

Solution: Always do proper pull-ups and pull-ups. With each rep, get your chin over the bar and keep in good shape. If you find that you made the mistakes on this list, make your variation easier.

Mistake # 4: Don't reach up with your shoulders. Many people will get a good extension at the bottom of their pull-ups and start out in great shape. But then, when you do the move, you will find your shoulders on top in a bad position.

A classic sign of this is that the chest / neck is not touching the bar or that the body curves inward significantly at the top.

Is your shoulder raised to your ears or rolled forward? Do you shrug your shoulders as you struggle to get over the bar?

Solution: Make your variation easier by working on an assisted chin-up while maintaining a strong shoulder position at the top.

Keep your shoulders down and back and engage yourself as you move.

A chin over the bar is a chin up – we're not trying to take your chin up away if you don't bring your chest to the bar. However, think of this as advancing to even better shape so you can eventually work on tougher skills like pull-up variations or the legendary muscle building.

Mistake # 5: You are using violent tilting motions to do your chin-ups or chin-ups. We know CrossFitters use the Kip to get more pull-ups in a short amount of time.

NOW, our team's humble opinion is that you shouldn't tip until you are able to do perfectly functional and safe chin-ups and pull-ups (in fact, many CrossFit gyms require you to be qualified to do rigorous pull-ups before you can tip).

Solution: Before you worry about speed, build strength and a good position (the foundation!). You want to know how to drive a car before you learn how to drive a race!

In summary, you are not sacrificing good form for more pull-ups or pull-ups. This way you create bad habits.

To review your form, simply record a video of yourself doing your pull-up variation and compare it to the gifs and videos here.

Extended pull-up variations

Once you are able to do 3 sets of 10 chin ups or pull ups, it is time to think about increasing the difficulty.

You have two options:

OPTION 1: Get better and better at doing more reps – 3 sets of 12, 3 sets of 15, 4 sets of 20, and so on.

OPTION 2: Start doing other types of pull-ups.

Here are some advanced pull-up variations to get you started:

# 1) Wide-grip chin-ups:

Take out the rod with both hands. Having your grip farther out requires even more strength from your back (think of our discussion between pull-ups and pull-ups).

# 2) Side to Side Pullups:

# 3) Ring pull-ups

Rings hanging from the ceiling are inherently less stable than a pull-up bar. This is how ring pull-ups engage your core more when you stabilize yourself while moving.

Do you want to take part in some ring action? For more information, see our complete guide to training with gym rings.

# 4) Towel pull-ups

Whenever you're trying to improve your grip strength, use some towels for your pull-ups. You will build a lot of strength in your hands as you grip the towels while moving.

# 5) L-sit pull-ups

Raise your legs straight forward as you pull them up. This will challenge your core like you would not believe it.

# 6) Clap pull-ups

The trick here is to have enough strength to explode over the bar so you can clap your hands. The next trick is to grab the bar in time to bring yourself back down.

Be careful here.

# 7) One-armed pull-ups

This is the toughest pull-up you can do when using only one arm.

To keep yourself stable while moving, keep your inactive arm close to your body as you pull.

When you start doing one arm pull-ups, email us. Seriously.

With this you should start experimenting with pull-up variations to increase the difficulty.

The other way to "progressively overload" your pull-ups is to add weight to the exercise, which we'll cover in our next section.

How to do weighted pull-ups

Personally, I prefer to do weighted pull-ups in a gym:

If you are at this level and interested in it, here's what you need to do:

  1. Get a weight belt. I bought this from Amazon and it worked out incredibly well for me. I've tried doing all of "putting weights in a backpack" and it definitely works. But the angle of the weights hanging from your back is strange. A weight belt has the weight hanging between your legs (not a euphemism), so it feels more natural.
  2. Add small amounts at a time. Most gyms weigh about 1 kg. You might feel stupid putting on a large weight belt and only hanging a tiny weight on it, but you have to start somewhere.
  3. Consistently add more weight. I will warm up with two sets of 5 pull-ups with no extra weight and then do 3 sets of 5 weighted pull-ups. When I can do all 3 sets of 5 reps (with my chin over the bar for each rep), I'll make a note to add 2.5 or 5 pounds (1 or 2 kg) to my weight belt for the next time.

If you need help scaling your workout, check out Nerd Fitness Journey. We designed our pull-up adventure for all skill levels: from someone who is just starting out to someone who can do pull-ups without help. No guesswork is required to scale your workout. Just jump into the app and follow the next steps.

Include pull-ups in your workout

You now know how to do a chin-up, a chin-up, and tons of variations.

The only thing left to discuss is when to do pull-ups.

To do this, let's talk about creating your own workout.

Unless you've been strength training for years and don't know what you're doing, we recommend that you choose a full body routine that you can do 2-3 times a week.

You want a workout routine with at least one exercise for:

  1. Quads (in front of your legs).
  2. Buttocks and hamstrings (hind legs).
  3. Chest, shoulders and triceps: (push muscles).
  4. Back, biceps and grip (pulling muscles).
  5. Core (abdomen and lower back).

Chin-ups, chin-ups, and all of the variations covered are great additions to your draw muscles (back, biceps, and forearms).

An example exercise routine with pull-ups could look like this:

  1. Barbell Squats: 5 sets of 5 reps.
  2. Barbell Deadlift: 3 sets of 3 reps.
  3. Pushups (or dips): 3 sets of 15 reps.
  4. Pull-ups (or pull-ups): 3 sets of 8 reps.
  5. Planks: 3 sets, hold for 1 minute each.

Boom! Five exercises you can do in the gym, then go home.

Do you want to avoid the gym and train at home first?

No problem! Many of our coaching clients train and do pull-ups in their homes. All you need is:

Seriously, you don't have to leave your home to do pull-ups and get in shape.

Do you want evidence?

Meet Christina:

Through our coaching program, Christina has learned to literally stand up and now destroy her workouts without ever setting foot in a gym. You can read her full story here.

Start doing pullups on a regular basis and I promise you that your life will get better for the better.

If you're interested in making progress but need help with the next step, we've developed three options for your boat to float:

# 1) If you want a step-by-step guide, a customized strength training program that increases as you gain strength, and a trainer who will hold you accountable, check out our killer 1-on-1 coaching program:

Our coaching program changes your life. Learn how!

# 2) Do you work out at home and need a plan to follow? Check out Nerd Fitness Journey!

Our fun habit-building app will help you exercise more, eat healthier, and (literally) improve your life.

Try your free trial here:

3) join the rebellion! We need good people like you in our community, the Nerd Fitness Rebellion.

Sign up in the box below to sign up and receive our guide. Strength Training 101: Everything You Need To Know. It will help you incorporate pull-ups and pull-ups into your workout:

Download our comprehensive guide

  • Everything you need to know to get strong.
  • Exercise routines for body weight AND strength training.
  • How to find the right gym and train properly in one.

That should get you to master the pull-up.

Okay, your turn:

Do you go to the gym to crush pull-ups?

Do you have a pull-up bar in your own home?

Any tips or tricks that we missed?

Let us know in the comments!

For the rebellion


PS: Check out our other two articles on pull-ups:

PPS: Would you like to learn more? Read the rest of the Strength Training 101 series:


Photo Sources: Scenes from an empty lot in Brooklyn, Volume 1, Morning run with the Fitbit, Tampa Bay AirFest 2018, girls on climbing poles, weighted pull-ups, sunset nature climbing, animal tree, monkey wilderness.

GIF source: kipping pull-up, L-sit pull-up, clap pull-up, one-arm pull-up.

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