How to do barbell pull ups

Barbell pull ups will strengthen the back and shoulders and are also an introduction to pull ups.

What are barbell pull ups?

The barbell pull up is an upper body bodyweight exercise. This exercise is great for beginners to build the required strength for pull ups. These two exercises work the same muscles and have similar movement patterns. It’s much easier because it uses less bodyweight as you’d have to lie underneath the bar with your arms straight and heels on the ground, which reduces the strength needed to pull yourself up.

Benefits of barbell pull ups

Barbell pull ups have many benefits, here are few of them

Practice for pull ups

Pull ups are one of the harder bodyweight exercises. If you can’t do them already, you can start with barbell pull ups. It works on the same muscle groups as regular pull ups. They’re great to build muscle strength and prepare for pull ups.

Improve your posture

Barbell pull ups engage muscles responsible for the forward head posture and rounded shoulders. By strengthening them you can avoid muscle imbalances and improve your posture.

No equipment needed

Barbell pull ups don’t require any weights or machines to do them. That makes them great for home workouts. You can do them anywhere, you only need something waist-high to grab. They can be done even under the table.

Muscles worked during barbell pull ups

The barbell pull up works most of the major muscles in the upper body

The primary muscles worked in barbell pull ups are:

  • latissimus dorsi
  • rhomboids
  • middle trapezius
  • biceps brachii

Additional secondary muscles worked include:

  • forearms
  • glutes
  • core

Step-by-step guide on how to do barbell pull ups

  1. Stand in front of the bar with your feet shoulder-width apart
  2. Grasp the bar and lean back, keeping your arms straight, your hips steady, scapula retracted, and your spine in a neutral position. The feet should rest on the heels
  3. Keep your core and glutes taut
  4. Inhale and exhale, pull yourself to the bar until it is as close to your chest as possible
  5. Lead the elbows tightly against the body
  6. With a breath in, lower yourself to the starting position, controlling the movement
  7. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions

Barbell pull ups tips

Few tips to help you progress faster

Bar height

The lower the bar the harder it will be. So if you’re a beginner start with waist-high or even higher. With time slowly lower your bar.

Raised legs

If your bar is already so low that you barely can straighten your arms. Then you can make it harder by raising your legs, for example on a chair.


Proper technique is much more important than the number of reps. Training is not about the number of reps, but a slow and controlled movement to feel the muscles.

Common mistakes

  • training without the warm up
  • Not fully extending elbows
  • moving too quickly
  • not keeping elbows close to the body

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