Why Don't Bodybuilders Do Pull-Ups?

Man lifting weights at gym

The common conception of a training program for bodybuilders is one focused on heavy, complex exercises that push or pull a lot of weight. Basic bodyweight exercises -- like pull-ups -- don’t seem to be a part of the plan. However, many bodybuilders do use pull-ups and other bodyweight exercises to help develop their physiques in conjunction with free-weight exercises and other types of training.

Bodybuilding Basics

The main principle of bodybuilding is to develop a firm, distinct and muscular physique. Strength training helps build mass and improve musculature, while a strict fat-shredding diet maintains the low body-fat percentage needed for the bodybuilder to achieve the visibility of truly defined muscles. While some bodybuilders strive for the biggest muscles or the most chiseled definition, most metrics for competitive bodybuilding take a comprehensive approach to scoring the overall success of each contestant.


The standard pull-up is a bodyweight exercise that works multiple muscle groups in the upper body, including the latissimus dorsi, both sections of the trapezius, the deltoids, the biceps, the triceps and the sternal portion of the pectorals. The nature of the form requires these muscle groups to pull and control nearly all of the body’s weight through the lift and control stage of the movement. The pull-up is performed with a wide overhand grip.

Uses in Bodybuilding

Pull-ups are effective for developing many of the upper-body muscle groups that are important to bodybuilders, especially the lats. While bodybuilders will also perform free-weight exercises that target important muscle groups as well, pull-ups are an excellent method for adding variety to a bodybuilder’s routine and helping maintain flexibility. Pull-ups are an excellent warm-up/cool-down lift for upper-body workout sessions. To increase the difficulty of pull-ups, some bodybuilders perform weighted repetitions of the exercise by wearing a weight vest or tying a rope with a free-weight plate attached to a belt around their waist.


For bodybuilding, pull-ups alone aren’t enough to develop the upper body. The exercise must be performed in conjunction with free-weight lifts for optimal results. Even when performed without additional weight, pull-ups directly target muscles that will require rest and recovery time the following day. When performing weighted pull-ups using a weight plate tied to your waist, use a spotter to prevent tangling and to ensure that you maintain proper form.