While doing a pull-up, the major muscle that you are using is your latissimus dorsi (lats). However, other muscles that will help you stabilize yourself while doing this exercise are your bicpes, trapezius, rhomboids and obliques. Therefore, you are using a variety of muscles when performing this exercise.
In the picture above, I am performing a pull-up with my hands shoulder width apart. The shoulder width apart approach emphasizes my biceps to pull myself up and lower myself down. However, you can perform this exercise while doing a wide grip (moving your hands further apart) to emphasize the use of your lats.
If this exercise is too challenging using just your body weight, try these exercises:
-Assisted pull-up machine
-Lat pull down machine
-Pull-up using resistance bands (you will get more assistance from the bands that are thicker) Loop the band over the bar and put one knee or your foot in the band for more assistance.
If this exercise is not challenging enough:
- Add a dipping belt which will allow you to put weight plates on the belt for more resistance.
Hang on the pull-up bar and grasp with an overhand grip shoulder width apart. ( bend knees or cross lower legs so your legs don't hit the ground).
Pull your body up until your chin is over the bar and your chest nearly touches the bar.
Lower yourself down and repeat.
Make sure you do not sway your body or arch your back when performing this exercise.
Challenge yourself each week to see if you can do 1 more than the week before!