The Science Behind The Pull Ups

The Science Behind The Pull Ups

The pull up has long been one of the most challenging moves at the gym, even for the fittest amongst us, and it has come to receive some sort of status that can only be achieved by the physically superior.

However, contrary to popular belief, the pull up isn’t just for the shredded and bulky members of the gym and it’s all thanks to the science and physics behind it.

While you might assume that any bulky gym lover can perform a pull up, it’s actually not this simple.

These larger varieties usually have mass working against them, a critical component in the science behind a pull up.

Black and white photo of people doing pull ups.

To perform these timeless workout moves correctly, you need the right equipment and the science behind you to get it right.

The Science Behind It

This exercise is one that might seem so easy to some, but when it comes time to execute it you find you can barely move up the bar. This is because the pull up has an extremely finicky science behind it and relies a lot on the laws of physics to achieve.

Firstly, mass is important as you need to have enough strength to be able to support your weight, which is why heavier and bulkier people struggle so much regardless of their fitness levels. Secondly, your arm length matters as this will determine how much energy you have to use to pull yourself up.

Finally, gravity plays a huge role in the difficulty of your pull up so it’s likely that if you tried to do one on Mars it would be a lot easier due to the lower rate of gravity.

Different sizes of pull up bars.

All of these things work together to make this the challenging exercise it is, and it’s all about performing it correctly and with the right positioning.

For these reasons, many people assume that their strength and toned muscles will assist them in doing the perfect pull up without practice, but it’s usually very far from the reality.

The good news is, this exercise can be just as hard whether you’re just starting out or a professional athlete, so it can be learned by everyone.

How Do You Perform The Perfect Pull Up

Once you understand the physics behind it and all the things working in your favor, or against you, you can then try to perfect the pull up form. Here are a few steps to get you started on pull ups, remembering that this is an exercise which takes practice to perfect.

  • Set yourself up with a grip on the bar that’s a little wider than your shoulders;
  • Squeeze your glutes and hold yourself steady, especially if you’ve had to jump to a high bar and are still swinging;
  • Bend the bar to remove slack in your upper body and set your shoulder blades in;
  • Pull your elbows inwards toward your waist and aim to move your chin above the bar before descending down to a dead hang under control.

Once you’ve completed one correctly you may feel that’s enough, and this is still a huge achievement. Some people might feel compelled to go for more, but if you can’t then still know that doing just one is more than a lot of people can achieve.

Once you understand the science behind it and the correct technique, you can build on this every day.

What Is Targeted During A Pull Up

The reason behind the popularity of the pull up is where and how it targets your muscles, as when compared to other exercises in this area it can achieve quite a lot. Although you might think that you can achieve the same results doing a lat pull down on a machine, there’s a lot more to be gained by mastering the science and technique behind a pull up.

The difference between the two has to do with how your muscles are activated because the two actually target the same areas.

With a pull up, however, you’re moving your own body weight and therefore getting a more thorough and challenging workout.

This, in turn, gives you greater relative strength and which is how well you can move your body weight through a plane of motion.

What to do and what not to do in pull ups.

This exercise is all about upper body strength, with the main area being worked out latissimus dorsi muscle of the back. In addition, you’re also targeting your biceps, trapezius, and pectoralis major, among others, so it’s highly efficient and getting most of your upper body in.

When you can achieve the perfect pull up, it’s really one of the only workout moves you’ll ever need.

A Timeless Workout Move

Once you understand the science behind a pull up and how gravity, mass, and arm’s length all work together to allow you the perfect execution, you’ll understand that this isn’t just a workout move reserved for the super fit and bulky.

Knowing that even the fittest among us need to practice just to achieve a singular pull up can give anyone hope that this exercise can be achieved by them.

Although the pull up might target similar areas to the chin up or using a machine, performing a pull up yourself on a bar is a far more effective workout and ultimately more challenging.

This is one workout move that suits all fitness levels, provided they’re willing to put in the practice, and once you find that you can achieve one you’ll be pushed to perfect them even further and go for more each time.

All exercises have a delicate science behind them that can be harnessed to perform them for ultimate results, and the pull is a particularly tricky one to master.

Woman doing pull ups on the machine.

However, once you have the exercise learned you’ll see amazing results in your upper body without having to rely on anything else.

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