4 Reasons To Stop Doing Pull-Ups

Back 3 min Read

Written by

Keith Hansen

They say you must do pull-ups.

They say pull-ups build the biggest lats

They say it is the “King of Upper Body Exercises”

Let me tell you something: They say a lot, and a lot of it is shit.

Below are 4 reasons you may want to take a break from pull-ups.

Pull-ups are incredibly easy to do wrong.

Look around at your fellow gym-goers and you’ll see most of them doing half reps.

Look again and you will see the other half doing something worse—full reps. The full reps I’m talking about are those where someone drops to the absolute bottom, stressing their shoulder ligaments, and then do whatever they can to get their chin over the bar.

Every good pull-up starts by pulling the shoulders down, followed by the arms, and ends when the lats have reached full contraction—not when the chin goes over the bar.

Exercises should always be learned with a manageable weight so form is in focus. An exercise that uses your full bodyweight is rarely manageable for a beginner, and is not a good way to learn the pattern.

A pull-up done properly is a beautiful thing.

A pull-up done poorly is horrifying.

Pull-ups are a member of the court, not a part of the royal family

Upper body pulling exercises are accessory work. Always. These exercises are for enhancing your performance on the other big lifts.

And how do we perform accessory work? Medium-to-high rep ranges to promote hypertrophy. Always.

Do you know the beauty of accessory work? There is always a substitute, and an accessory exercise that doesn’t allow you to perform medium-to-high reps comfortably deserves substitution.

Choose something that lets you focus on good movement instead of one you struggle through.

Lat Pull-downs are better for beginners

Lat pull-downs are a perfectly acceptable substitute for the pull-up. The upper body mechanics are identical which means it will build all of the same muscles.

The lat pull-down allows you to start at a manageable weight, learn the form, and progress in measured increments.

Quantifiable progress in the form of consistent reps, sets, and load is the basis of any good strength training program. 

Your body weight will change from day-to-day, and over your training career, but a 100lb stack of iron always weighs 100lbs.

Feel like taking it to the next level? Hop on the assisted pull-up machine. This wonderful piece of equipment does what bands can’t—provides consistent assistance throughout the entire movement just like a real pull-up.

They just aren’t necessary


Vertical Pulling is a luxury movement for strength training. Not a necessity.

Horizontal pulling (think row variations) should always take priority on back day and moves like pull-ups are just icing on the cake.

And about that lat building comment earlier: tell that to Dorian Yates, 6x Mr. Olympia winner, renowned for his impressive lats.

His secret? Yates Rows, his variation of barbell rows.

There are a ton of other back exercises to do, and none of them are as technically demanding or difficult as the pull-up, but all produce major back growth.

Final Thoughts

Am I saying never do pull-ups? Not at all.

What I am saying is save them for later in your training career.

Learn proper mechanics using the lat pull-down (then with the assisted pull-up tower) and build strength there before moving on to pull-ups.

In The Seriously Strong Beginner Program we have wrote a program that is the perfect start to building strength and muscle in your back and whole body.  Click below to download it for free:

Download The Seriously Strong Beginner Program

Keith Hansen

Keith was an All-State wrestler in high school and in 2007 hung up his singlet to attend Florida State University to pursue a B.S. in business management. He wasn't sure what industry he wanted to be involved in at the time, but soon realized after graduating in 2011 that fitness was the ever-constant activity in his life. Keith began studying to become a personal trainer and in 2013 earned the National Strength and Conditioning Association's Personal Trainer certification. After a short stint as a big box gym trainer he realized he wanted to bring something different to Tallahassee. Keith competes in Powerlifting, Olympic Weightlifting, and Crossfit.