What Pull Ups Work Chest, Back and Shoulders?

February 15, 2024

Few exercises compare to the pull up when it comes to building a strong, lean upper body. The move works multiple muscles including the chest, back, shoulders and biceps. It’s no wonder it’s considered one of the best calisthenics workouts around, and it can be done at home or in any park where there’s a set of monkey bars.

Standard pull ups primarily work the middle to lower section of the pectoralis major muscle in your chest. But if you perform a variation known as a chest-to-bar pull up (aka kipping pull-up), or hold your hands much wider apart on the bar, you’ll engage more of the upper chest muscles as well as your lats and deltoids.

Grip strength is a crucial part of the exercise, so it also strengthens your forearms and the intrinsic and extrinsic muscles that support your grip. This is important because research suggests that grip strength is a good predictor of total upper-body strength, mortality and overall quality of life1.

The pull up also trains the biceps, rhomboids and shoulders, as well as the latissimus dorsi and trapezius in your back. And if you do chest-to-bar pull-ups, it targets your core as well, helping with stabilization and control of the movement. To complete a chest-to-bar pull up, hold on to the bar with your palms facing each other and your hands about shoulder-width apart. Then, without swinging your body, pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar, then slowly lower yourself down until your arms are straight.

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