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Are Pull-Ups Effective?

Recent BackI have to admit, before P90X I had never spent too much time developing my back. My legs and back were my two weak areas in college, and looking back I wish I would have dedicated more time to developing those two muscle groups. Monday and Wednesday were usually my chest and back days when going to the gym, but my back exercises consisted of lawnmowers and lateral pull-downs, and that’s it. I rarely did pull-ups, mostly because I hated them. However, the reason I hated them was because I never could do them, and would get embarrassed when one of my friends would bust out 15 wide grips when I could only do 7. When I started P90X, though, that all changed.

Are pull-ups effective? To be honest with you, if you want to get ripped in your back (which is possible), there is no better back exercises than pull-ups. When I started P90X, I dreaded Chest & Back and Legs & Back, only for the sole reason that I had to do pull-ups. During the first few weeks, I was only able to do around 4-5 wide grip pull-ups during the first half of each workout, and then after that I was done. I was able to maybe do 1-2 during the second half. As much as I just wanted to stop doing them all together and substitute them with other back exercises, like lawn mowers and back flys, I knew that they were placed in the program for a reason, so of course I sucked it up and kept chuggin’ along. After a few weeks, I noticed that the pull-ups kept getting easier, and I was able to do more and more. Finally, by the end of my 90 days, I was able to do close to 22 wide grips. Since then, the most I’ve gotten is 32, and that’s using proper form too, which is very important with pull-ups. Too many people like to cheat by not going down all the way or only going up to a certain point. The picture above is of me around the 10 month mark of doing P90X. As you can see, I’m not using the P90X Pull-Up Bar because it wouldn’t fit anywhere in my house!

So are pull-ups the best back exercises? I think so. The great thing about pull-ups is that you can use many different grips (as long as you have the right pull-up bar of course), which will develop different parts of the back. I’ve had many people tell me that it looks like I have abs in my back, which I attribute solely to the thousands of pull-ups I have done while doing P90X. If you are looking to develop your back and want to get ripped, pull-ups are the way to go!


  1. Josh,
    You look awsome dude, congrats!! I understand that in order to get the full results of p90x, it is important to stay with the program. Now, if in the case that you just so happen to miss a day or two rarely within the 90 days, is that gonna really effect your final results. I have misased a day here and there but have always made up for it the next day by not only doing the day I missed but including another cardio routine, almost like the doubles program. I also own the p90x+ and try the intervals workout on those days that I miss. What would be your best suggestions in regards to this?
    Thanks again bro, your a big inspiration!!
    -Julian Fallon

  2. Thanks man! Whenever I would miss a day, I would usually make it up the next day like you’re doing. If you are going to double up on your workouts, doing the resistance workout and then doing either Interval X Plus or Kenpo Cardio Plus would be best because of how short the workouts are.

  3. Coach, how did you do towel pull ups and underhand chin ups?

  4. Not sure what you’re asking here. I watched how Tony did them on the videos and did the exercises that way.

  5. I mean how did you those types of pull ups using your doorway? Because I don’t see how the towel would go on the doorway like that.

  6. There was a little ledge.

  7. scott /

    Is it a good idea to use the perfect pull-up when I first start the program?

  8. I recommend the P90X Pull-Up Bar, which is what I use. However, that should work.

  9. scott /

    I am 6′-1″ at 227 pounds as of right now, I can commit to a healthy nutrition plan without a problem. I would like to be at 205-215 pounds “BUT Ripped the HELL UP”

    what do you recommend I do, as far as eating goes?

  10. I recommend that you follow the Nutrition Guide! You can find great tips on how to follow it in the “Q&A” section of this site.

  11. austin /

    are pullups good bicep exercises too?

  12. @Austin. The reverse grip pull-ups will work your biceps, but not as good as curls will.

  13. austin /

    what if you use a weighted vest on the second round and keep going up on weights for it

  14. @Austin. You could do that.

  15. Orhun /

    my second week just started, i am working pull-ups with chair help is it bad? cuz with chair i can do like 15, but without chair its like max 3 4..

  16. Josh /

    @Orhun. No, it’s not bad at all to do the modified versions. However, if you can get 3-4 you should be doing as many as possible unassisted.

  17. Jesse /

    Josh, my legs are weak. I read that you too had weak legs in college. How much can you squat at a gym now that you have completed p90x?

  18. @Jesse. I actually don’t do squats at the gym, but do have very strong legs.

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