Tip: Master the Pendulum Pull-Up

Build your upper back with a twist on this classic bodyweight exercise.


Pull-ups are great, but many people feel the tension in their arms more than their upper backs. This is suboptimal for back strength and hypertrophy... especially since the pull-up is primarily supposed to be a back exercise. To fix this, just take it through a full range of motion.

"But wait, isn't the pull-up already a full-ROM exercise?"

Unfortunately, it's not. In a typical pull-up, your spine remains relatively neutral. This doesn't allow the muscles of the upper back to go through their full contractile range of motion.

The Solution

That's where the pendulum pull-up comes in. With this variation, you'll extend and flex your spine at different portions of the rep. Take a look:

At the top of the rep, extend your spine and curl your legs up. This allows your shoulders to externally rotate and your shoulder blades to pull tightly down while your chest sticks up. This will fully shorten your upper back musculature.

Then, as you lower your body, unbend your legs, round your spine, and hang in a hollow body position at the bottom of the rep. This allows your shoulder blades to fully rotate upwards and lengthen the lats, giving them a nice loaded stretch, which has been shown to increase hypertrophy (1).

The flexing and extending of the spine will take the key muscles through their true contractile range of motion. You can do it this way with any grip you like.

Don't Cheat, Bro

Be careful though. The line of pull is still very strict. The leg curling is only to maximize muscle contraction. It's not supposed to help you swing for momentum. If you struggle with staying strict on normal pull-ups, these are probably too advanced for you. If you're a pull-up stud, give these a try.


  1. McMahon, Gerard, et al. "Muscular Adaptations and Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 Responses to Resistance Training Are Stretch-Mediated - McMahon - 2014 - Muscle & Nerve - Wiley Online Library." Muscle & Nerve, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 30 Oct. 2013, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/mus.23884.