Pull Chain

Your pull chain is comprised of the muscles in your upper body that pull your hands closer to your torso. These include all of the muscles in your back such as your latissimus dorsi, rear deltoids, infraspinatus, biceps and the forearm muscles that close your hand.

Pull Chain Exercises

Pull-ups and rows are the most common pull chain exercises practiced by calisthenics athletes. Other moves include levers, biceps curls and rear flys on suspension trainers, and any other exercise where you hang your bodyweight.


Pull chain exercises work every muscle in your back while placing minimal stress on your spine and lower back making them ideal for those who suffer from low back pain. Exercises that hang your body vertically from a bar are also a great way to improve flexibility in your shoulders while decompressing the spine.

Pulling calisthenics are also a good way to develop the muscles in the biceps and forearm. Proper rows and pull-ups can also do wonders for your biceps and forearm muscles.

Pull Chain Training Tips

Resist the temptation to fragment your muscle tension with various pull-up and row techniques. All pulling exercises should engage your entire back and all muscles in the pull chain, but a lot of training ideas suggest otherwise. A common example is how various hand positions should make certain muscles work harder than others. Some say you should feel it in your lats when you use a wider grip, or that turning your hands inward works your biceps.

Different hand positions will change the “flavor” of the exercise and it will alter where you place tension in your pull chain. However, these differences should decrease over time as you improve your tension control. Your lats should engage with all pulling movements, and the same goes for your shoulders, biceps and so on. Beware that feeling a strong change in tension due to grip doesn’t just mean you’re turning certain muscles on. It also means you’re turning other muscles off. Concentrate on putting tension in your whole pull chain with every move to minimize this effect.

Also, don’t settle for just pulling your chin over the bar. There are various reasons why I don’t use the term “chin up” and this is one. You’ll reap more benefit when you focus on pulling your chest up to your hands while driving your elbows down and back into your sides. It requires more strength in your upper back and tension control in your shoulders which helps ease stress on the elbows and wrists. Check out the video down below to learn more.

It’s also helpful to pay attention to the position of your shoulder blades with all pulling movements. In general, pull your shoulder blades down and inward to engage more muscle in the upper back, improve shoulder stability and decrease elbow strain. It’s helpful to practice hanging while just moving your shoulder blades as part of a pull chain workout.

Learn More


Check out this video on the left to improve your chest-to-bar pull-ups to build more muscle and strength. Also, check out Convict Conditioning and Al Kavadlo’s Raising the Bar for more advice on pull chain exercises.

Videos on Pull Chain Exercises