Get the V-Shaped Upper Body by Doing a Pullup Bar Exercise

The humble pullup bar is the perfect workout-from-home option. Here’s why and how to make the most of it.

Photography Zaky Akbar / Styling Paul dela Merced / Model Anton Balaganskii / Location Jatomi Fitness Club, Kuningan City Mall 2nd floor, Jalan Dr. Prof. Satrio Kav. 18 Setiabudi, Jakarta,, +62 21 3048 0800

The pullup bar has been a staple of gyms—and plenty of homes—for basically forever. It’s simple, straightforward and, with the right know-how, it can be an incredibly effective exercise kit. There’s a reason why pullups are part of just about any top workout program, why they’re ever-present in military workout deals and why so many fitness fanatics have installed one or more in their homes.

Now, we’re not going to cover how best to install a doorway pullup bar or the merits of an outdoor one for your backyard, but we can definitely share some insight into why and how you should do more pullups.


Bench presses, deadlifts and squats are often lauded as some of the best compound exercises—those that use multiple muscles or muscle groups at once. Pullups actually fall in this same category. Sure, your lower body isn’t involved that much, but just about every major upper body muscle—from your forearms and triceps to your deltoids and lats—are engaged.
But wait: there’s more! Not only can you engage multiple muscles at once, you can easily modify the way you do pullups to target specific parts of your physique. Want to put extra focus on your biceps? Use a closer grip. Want to engage your lower back a bit more? Extend your legs and keep them extended. Another way of seeing this is that you can keep doing pullups even when some of your muscles are sore after exercising the day before simply by changing your grip or posture, thereby shifting the focus on your not-so-sore muscles.

All that being said—especially the part about pullups being a compound exercise—there are two major areas of your body where this particular workout really shines. The first one is your back muscles, particularly your lats or the latissimus dorsi if you want to get technical. Pullups are also great for building up the notoriously-hard-to-develop deltoids. So, if you’re gunning for a badass V-shape physique, pullups are the way to go.

The second major benefit of pullups, and perhaps the most obvious one, is building grip strength. This, in turn, will help you perform better in other exercises such as deadlifts. The best part is, you don’t have to do isolated grip exercises, since your gripping muscles and forearms are trained together with many other muscle groups while you’re doing pullups.
Last in the “why” part of this writeup, pullups are also surprisingly easy on your joints. This actually applies to just about any bodyweight movement, but pullups are even better at this as they’re done in the air, so the body doesn’t have to engage the knees, lower back and midsection to keep your body in place while you exercise.


As mentioned earlier, there are actually a lot of different ways you can work out using a pullup bar. The changes might appear to be subtle and slight, but they can be gamechangers in your fitness routine. As always, it’s highly recommended that you consult with a qualified fitness trainer or coach to help you understand the proper body mechanics, the best way to incorporate pullups into your overall fitness routine and so on and so forth. But, just to give you a basic, broad-strokes idea of what you can do after you install a pullup bar in a doorway or when you walk up to one in your gym, here are the basic varieties of this simple exercise:

Pullup: The most basic form. You start from a dead hang, with your elbows straight and palms facing away, then pull yourself up (keeping your chest up and shoulders back) until your chest reaches the bar. Great for your back muscles.

Chin-up: Much like a basic pullup but with palms facing towards you. Works wonders for your biceps and lats.

Burpee pullup: Stand in front of the bar, drop into a squat with your hands on the floor, kick your feet back and get into a pushup position, do a pushup, jump back to a squat position then jump up, grab the bar and do a pullup. Definitely an intense workout.


Hanging knee raise: Grab the bar with your palms facing away from you, then bend your knees and raise your legs until your thighs are parallel to the ground, then lower them again in a slow and controlled motion. In fact, the slower, the better.

Negative pullup: Stand on a chair and hold the bar with palms facing towards you. Step off the chair and slowly lower yourself until your arms are fully extended. Again, the key here is to do the motions in a controlled manner. This will positively affect your forearms and grip strength.

There are, of course, plenty of other, more creative ways to use a pullup bar, including the climber pullup where you shift left or right during the top half of the move, hanging leg raises, L-sits and so on. And you can do all of these by using a simple bar, plenty of grit and a healthy dose of willpower—which will really help you get into shape.


STYLING Paul Dela Merced
OUTFIT AND SHOES by Under Armour
MODEL Anton Balaganskii
LOCATION Jatomi Fitness Club, Kuningan City Mall 2nd Floor, Jalan Dr. Prof. Satrio Kav. 18 Setiabudi, Jakarta,,
+62 21 3048 0800