Do Pull Ups Build Muscle?

The pull up are one of the most famous and easy exercises to add to any fitness routine.

However, a common question asked by newcomers to fitness and bodybuilding is, do pull ups build muscle?

This article will consider this question and look at how you can benefit by adding this well known and fairly simple exercise to your daily routine.

Do Pull Ups Build (Real) Muscle?

In practice a pull up is a simple exercise and ideal for anyone to add to their fitness routine, requiring only a solid and well anchored bar on which you can pull yourself up and lower yourself back down repeatedly in order to accomplish.

This YouTube video explains how to perform the perfect pull up:

Despite the relative simplicity of the motion involved and equipment involved the exercise is actually invaluable in helping to build muscle in the upper body.

The pull up actually targets a whole range of upper body muscles in the:

  • Back
  • Chest
  • Shoulder
  • Arms

This results in the building up of the muscle in order to increase strength. They are effective at building the latissimus dorsi (lats) muscles, the pair of large, triangular shaped muscles which spans from under the armpits to the lower back.

However, pull ups are most associated with building the bicep muscles and are perhaps the best possible exercises you can perform if you wish to build muscle in this specific area of your body.

With pull ups providing a good workout for all the muscles already mentioned, you will build these muscles on the proviso that you do enough pull ups on a regular basis.

As with any form of bodybuilding exercise, repetition is key to success and if you are serious about building up your muscle mass by doing pull ups then including these regularly in your daily routine is vital.

It is also worth considering that other forms of exercise, such as resistance training with heavy weights, are likely to build muscle faster than pull ups will.

It is also important to note that you will reach a point when doing pull ups where your muscle building will plateau. This can only be resolved by adding weight to your body while doing your pull ups through the use of devices such as ankle weights or a weight vest.

Despite this, whatever you weigh will ultimately hold you back and limit the amount of muscle you can build through doing pull ups.

Do pull ups build muscle mass?

They stimulate more muscle growth in more overall muscle mass with no real downside, even to your lats.

The exercise is easy on the joints and can be varied in numerous ways in order to maximise the building of muscle mass.

However, it’s true that pull-ups will force your lats to work proportionally harder than your other muscles.

Can you get ripped by just doing pull ups?

You most definitely can get ripped with pull ups though pull ups alone won’t be enough to build your leanest and meanest body.

While pull ups are an excellent exercise for complete upper body strength and development, you need a balanced full body programme in order to maximise your muscle building.

This will need to include resistance training with heavy weights as well as lighter, repetitive forms of muscle building activity such as pull ups in order to build muscle most effectively.

It is also important to remember that building core strength is vital to getting ripped and, while pull ups can build this to a degree, it will not be enough to successfully help you get ripped without a more all round workout.

How many pull ups build muscle?

You generally want to ensure that your workout routine includes 5-20 reps per set for muscle growth and long term chin up gains.

Beginners (those with less than 18 months of regular training) will generally manage best with 2 or 3 days of back training (pull ups) per week, with 15-20 or so sets spread across those 3 sessions.

Those with more experience should work up to two to four sets of 20 or more reps pull-ups, or may consider doing pull ups for a period of time (for example for 3 minutes) rather than for a set number of reps.


Hopefully you now know the answer to the question: do pull ups build muscle?

This is a summary of the article:

  • The pull up is a simple exercise to perform for beginners and those who are more advanced
  • The pull up targets and successful builds muscle in the upper body, including the back, chest, shoulders and arms.
  • To successful build muscle using pull ups they need to be regularly included in the exercise routine and enough repetitions need to be completed.
  • The weight of the person performing the pull up will restrict the amount of muscle that can be built and so additional weight may need to be added artificially after some time.
  • Pull ups do build muscle mass but should be part of a balanced exercise regime to maximise results and ensure a ripped body