Why The Pull-Up Is The One Exercise Every Man Needs In His Life

Transform your upper body - without even having to join a gym

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Like driving at night or chopping wood with an axe, there is something about the pull-up that possesses an innate appeal to men. 

But while it's easy to dismiss them as the preserve of gym nuts, fitness experts - including Esquire's own resident guru Harry Jameson - view them as the ultimate bodyweight exercise; one that can transform your torso whatever the current standard of your chassis.

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The beauty of the pull-up is that you don't even need a gym membership to do it - if you have a door frame then you're ready to pull. 

Here we break down why every man needs the pull-up in their life.

The Benefits

In terms of versatility, there really is no better exercise for your back, lats, biceps and even your abs than the pull-up - and you're working them all at the same time. 

If you're looking for that enviable V-shaped torso, then the pull-up has to be in your repertoire. 

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How To Prepare

It's vital that you work your way up to the pull-up slowly, rather than try to dive straight in and risk injury. 

Ideally your gym will have an assisted pull-up machine, which takes some of the weight-off. Otherwise lat pull-downs, bicep curls and TRX floor pull-ups (below) are all solid options to help you progress towards the real thing. 

When You're Ready

Once you're strong enough, you're going to want to be going with the wide-grip, palms facing outwards pull up variety. Palms facing in, and you're essentially just working your biceps. 

As Harry says: "Being able to do 10 wide grip pull-ups, along with two minutes of plank and being able to bench press your own bodyweight is a functional and realistic goal that every man can work towards."

No cheating, though. Your back should be straight and you should aim to bring your chin above the bar. If you start swinging your legs to get there, then you're 'kipping', a most heinous pull-up crime indeed.

How Often?

Make sure you don't get carried away once you're nailing pull-ups like Balboa. Harry recommends incorporating two sets of ten into your strength training twice a week, with at least 24-36 hours rest in between sessions.

As with all strength training, forego those rest days at your peril.

Finally

It may sound obvious, but that extra weight around your midriff might be what's holding you back from pulling-up. The heavier you are the harder it is to shift your own body weight. So if you're struggling to see results with pull-ups, it may be time cut back on the beers and bread, and incorporate some cardio into your routine. 

Take a look at our guide to getting the Brad Pitt Fight Club body if you're in need of more fat-burning inspiration.