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Why Are Pull-Ups Hard to Do?

author image Stan Mack
Stan Mack is a business writer specializing in finance, business ethics and human resources. His work has appeared in the online editions of the "Houston Chronicle" and "USA Today," among other outlets. Mack studied philosophy and economics at the University of Memphis.
Why Are Pull-Ups Hard to Do?
A muscular man's back as he does a pull up. Photo Credit Ibrakovic/iStock/Getty Images

Pull-ups are an effective exercise, but many people have difficulty performing them, even if they are in overall good shape. For example, very muscular people might have difficulty lifting their body weight. The best way to increase the number of pull-ups you can perform is to practice. If you can't do any, start off with easier variations and perform exercises that build the necessary muscle groups.


Pull-ups require many different muscle groups, so it's no wonder they are so difficult. The latissimus dorsi, or lats, is the major muscle group used in pull-ups Secondary muscle groups include trapezius, rhomboids, biceps, serratus anterior, transverse abdominus and obliques. Developing these muscle groups makes pull-ups easier, though the process takes time.

Developing Strength

Choose exercise machines that target the muscle groups that pull-ups incorporate. For example, a lat pulldown machine has a sitting bench and a bar that hangs above your head. Start with a low weight setting. To use the machine, sit down so that your thighs are underneath the padded leg bars. Reach out and grasp the handles. Pull down slowly to simulate the movement of a pull-up. Choose higher weight settings as your muscles develop over time. Eventually, you will be strong enough to perform actual pull-ups.

Easier Variations

If you don't have access to expensive exercise machines, perform easier variations of pull-ups to build strength. For example, set up a chair near your pull-up bar. Grasp the pull-up bar firmly with both hands. Step on the chair to raise yourself. Hold yourself up for as long as possible. Repeat this exercise often to develop the necessary muscle groups.


Pull-ups are a good exercise for overall fitness, so they are worth the effort. Also, the necessary equipment is relatively inexpensive compared to other strength-training products. If you don't have much space for a workout area, you can install a pull-up bar in a doorway. Some models rest on the top and sides of the door frame, so you don't have to drill holes or use screws.

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