Pull ups are one of those exercises that you probably tried in your youth, realised they were really tough and never contemplated doing again. And who can blame you, they are seriously hard work, but mastering or even just developing pull ups is hugely beneficial to your exercise regime. Here are some of the major benefits of incorporating them into your workout :
An effective upper body workout
Most people who exercise go the cardio route, this is great and has many benefits, but most cardio workouts leave your upper body un worked and underdeveloped. As I covered in my last article “what muscles do pull ups work out?”, these exercises work and tax most of the muscles in the upper body to some degree.
The pull up is a compound exercise, that is, it recruits more than one muscle group. Your finger grip will be taxed, your forearms will be stretched and worked, biceps, triceps and shoulders will come into play, your back will take most of the load and even your abs will feel the heat the next day. Hell, if you angle your pull and go for a chest up rather than a chin over the bar even your upper chest gets a workout. If you could choose only one upper body exercise, this would have to be it.
They get you fit
Lifting your bodyweight through the air against gravity is a true feat of strength and like many feats of strength the demand on your heart and lungs is intense. With this type of compound exercise so many muscles are recruited and screaming for oxygenated blood your respiratory system has to respond. Putting an increased demand on your heart and lungs on a regular basis trains and strengthens the heart and lungs. This makes them fitter and your whole system stronger and more optimal, think how HIIT works.
Using lots of muscles at the same time burns calories, big calories. If you are burning calories and monitoring your diet you can run a calorie deficit and lose weight. With pull ups because you are recruiting the muscles the weight you lose won’t be muscle weight, it will be fat weight. This means that this exercise can be an effective tool to improving lean body mass and people with higher lean body mass or alternatively a lower body fat percentage tend to be healthier and therefore generally fitter as a result (body fat percentage/fitness).
Develop a V shape back
If your looking for the classic v shaped back you need to master pull ups. Wide grip, narrow grip or even chin ups…..doesn’t matter, all these exercises based on the bog-standard pull up contribute to developing a v shaped back through improved musculature which in turn contributes to the appearance of a more slender waist line. If you want the look do the exercise.
They have an anabolic effect
If you are looking to build muscle either for strength improvements, for vanity, for toning or for improved weight loss you want to do exercises that produce an anabolic effect that help promote muscle growth. Big compound exercises like pull ups, (squats and dead lifts are others) generate an anabolic effect. Essentially using lots of big muscle groups at once in demanding circumstances leads to an increase in the natural production of testosterone and human growth hormone. These hormones are natural and stimulate muscle growth throughout the body.
Plenty of variety
The problem with many exercises is that they just get to be plain boring. Often the exercise is the same old routine and the only motivator is seeing how your endurance improves, variety is often missing. With this exercise things are a little different. There are numerous variations of grip that tax different muscles to different extremes.
Often you will find you are better at one pull up method than another, this has it’s benefits, when your are bored of one style or not making satisfactory progress you can change grips and get a different workout and improve in different but similar areas. Initially I could not do a pull up to save my life but I could do the best part of a chin up, so rather than remain deflated I took the easy option and focussed on improving chin ups, by the time I got to five chin ups I suddenly was able to do three pull ups without any training.
Pull up strength contributes to your overall upper body strength. Master these and you will find that overhead press and bench pressing exercises show improvement also. On a more day to day basis, get these nailed and you will be lifting boxes and small children with easier movements and less risk of injury.
Last but not least, pull ups are convenient to do. Find a tree branch or playground whilst on your run, buy a cheap doorway bar off the net or in your local store, that is the full extent of the equipment you need to do a whole variety of exercises that will build up your upper body strength. The only other way to build upper body strength so effectively is with expensive weights or by using highly skilled upper bodyweight exercises like handstand push ups.
The benefits of pull ups are pretty awesome all round, if your exercise regime doesn’t include these beauties you need your head checked out, go express your genes, buy/find/steal a bar and get working.
Image Credit : Aaron Guy Leroux on Flickrr