Pull-ups are a difficult exercise and so are often avoided in favor of more popular bench presses and curls. But the fact they are difficult should serve as an indication they are extremely effective, galvanizing a multitude of muscles and muscle groups throughout the upper body.
The primary muscle pull-ups focus on is the latissimus dorsi, or lats. These muscles are also sometimes called "wings," and run from the outside of the shoulder down the back. The motion of pulling your arms downward so that your elbows approach your sides is a function of the contraction of the lats; the lats are the biggest beneficiary of any pull-up workout.
Pull-ups are also an extremely valuable workout tool because they work such a variety of muscles and muscle groups. Doing a pull-up requires the bending of more than one joint, and therefore requires the flexing of more than one muscle. Forearms are worked out holding on to the bar; biceps and triceps are used in controlling the bending of the elbow; traps control the shoulders; and the core back and abdomen muscles are extensively utilized in keeping the body stable while the exercise is performed.
The back is often overlooked in standard workouts, but the quintessential V-shaped torso bodybuilders strive for is achieved by the fitness of muscles in the back. The lats and rhomboid muscles are specifically important for achieving this effect. In terms of attaining and maintaining the appearance of fitness, perhaps no exercise is more helpful than the pull-up.
Pull-ups are also beneficial for a cardiovascular workout. This is especially true for regular practitioners who are able to work in longer sets. But even for those who are fully strained to perform shorter sets, any workout of the larger muscle groups will also provide benefits for cardio fitness.
Pull-ups work a great variety of muscles; as a result, they are extremely helpful in other lifting. If you do pull-ups regularly and increase your sets and reps, you will notice the difference in other exercises, such as bench press and especially curls. Every exercise that uses the muscles of the upper body will be easier for you if you improve your pull-ups by performing them as regularly as possible.
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