Pull-ups are often thought of as the pinnacle of calisthenics fitness because it requires you to lift all of your body weight with no assistance. So, does that mean that people who weigh less have an easier time doing pull-ups?
So, are pull-ups more difficult with a higher body weight? Carrying extra weight does make pull-ups more challenging. The more you weigh, the more your muscles will have to work to lift you during a pull-up.
Sure, your weight does have something to do with your ability to do a pull-up but sitting at a heavier weight doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to achieve this fitness milestone! There are a lot of different factors that contribute to your ability to do a pull-up. Keep reading to find out the different ways to improve your pull-up game no matter how much you weigh!
Is It Easier for Skinny Guys to Do Pull-ups?
Pull-ups are pretty difficult, and they take a lot of upper body strength to achieve. The actual movement is quite simple, but it uses muscles in the back and shoulders that some people don’t even realize exist!
So, if pull-ups are just about lifting your own body weight, then for skinny guys, pull-ups must be a breeze, right? Not necessarily! While it is generally easier for people sitting at lower body weights to do pull-ups, if you don’t have the muscle to make it happen, you won’t get too far off the ground.
In order to do a pull-up, you’ll need to build muscle in your shoulders, back, and biceps because those are the muscles that help lift you. Here are some of the specific muscles that help with pull-ups:
- Latissimus dorsi (upper back)
- Trapezius (tops of shoulders)
- Rhomboids (between spine and shoulders)
Even for people who have pretty low body fat percentages, like bodybuilders, a pull-up could still be difficult for them if they’re building muscles over the rest of their body but ignoring the muscles in their back and shoulders. Muscle actually weighs more than fat, so someone who is very muscular could have a harder time doing pull ups than someone who was leaner.
How to Build Muscle for Pull-ups
If you’re thinner and don’t have much muscle, you can start going to the gym regularly to lift weights. Lifting weights builds muscles and makes you stronger and leaner. And in turn, this will make pull ups much easier.
In order to build muscle, the most beneficial workout plan would include hypertrophy training. This style of training will help you grow in strength and muscle size. Hypertrophy training typically involves lifting weights for 3 sets of 8-10 reps.
It’s important to choose a heavy enough weight that will encourage your muscles to grow. If the weight is too light, and too easy to lift, you won’t make any progress. You should be lifting a weight that’s heavy enough to really give you a challenge.
Work hard, but never to the point of exhaustion. While you want to give your muscles a good workout, your rest days are just as important as your days in the gym. After every workout, your muscle cells are tired and damaged from heavy lifting. Rest is where muscle building really happens. If you don’t take proper rest days, you won’t see the greatest results because you haven’t given the muscle tissue time to repair itself and get stronger. (Source)
In order to build the muscles necessary to do a pull-up, do exercises that mimic the movement of a pull-up. There are a lot of different exercises that use dumbbells and other equipment to strengthen your back and shoulders and build muscle:
These exercises can be done with dumbbells, or on cable machines. Check out your local gym to see what equipment works best for you. As you get stronger, you will build more muscle and soon you will be able to do a pull-up!
How Can I Do a Pull-up if I’m Heavier?
Many calisthenics athletes are very lean because it makes bodyweight exercises easier. Without a lot of extra body fat, they weigh less and can more easily lift their own bodyweight. This doesn’t mean that you have to be lean to do a pull-up, but being leaner can certainly make it easier.
If you are overweight and want to do a pull up, the best thing to do is start lowering your body fat. Lowering your body fat will make you weigh less overall, so that it will be easier to lift yourself. Your muscles will have less work to do, and a pull-up will be much easier to achieve.
How to Get Lean Enough to Do Pull Ups
In order to lower body fat, it is best to start incorporating more cardio into your workout routine. Cardio raises your heart rate, and helps burn fat. But cardio doesn’t just mean running on a treadmill! Here are some other types of cardio that are great fat-burners:
- Jump rope
- HIIT training
And while cardio is important for a well-rounded workout regimen, cardio alone will not get you lean. Cardio burns fat, but it can also burn muscle too, if you’re not careful. So, always mix in weight lifting (using some of the moves listed above) to work your muscles so they don’t get metabolized during cardio.
Another important part about getting leaner is your diet. The most important part of eating healthier is to avoid processed foods and added sugars. Your diet should be based on:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole (unprocessed) grains
- Nuts and seeds
Many people think that you have to cut your calories very low to see results, but if you eat whole foods, and avoid packaged foods and added sugars, you will have better health and lose weight! Cutting calories too low can scare your body and actually make it hold on to weight instead of losing it.
How to Train for Pull-Ups
As important as it is to do cardio and eat a healthy diet in order to lose body fat, if you’re not putting in the work at the gym, you won’t get the gains you want! In order to build the muscles for pull-ups, you have to train them by lifting heavy weights and getting your body used to the movements.
You might already think that you have the muscles necessary to do a pull-up. Maybe you’ve got the muscles, and you’re pretty lean, but this is the move that you just can’t master. Well, now that you have the strength, it’s important to train your body to get used to the movement of actually doing a pull-up.
There are a bunch of different easier pull-up variations so you can grow the muscle memory in your back to make it easier. Try these modifications to help you improve your pull-up game:
- Dead hang
- Negative pull-ups
- Resistance band assisted pull-ups
- Machine assisted pull-ups
You should incorporate these movements into your workout routine because it will get your body used to hanging from a bar, and holding your weight off of the ground. Along with cardio and building muscle through weightlifting, with these moves you’ll be on your way to a pull-up in no time!