Pull-ups are a popular exercise to train a variety of important muscles. There are a variety of interesting statistics and facts about this exercise.
This exercise simply involves pulling yourself up from a bar while holding the bar with your hand palms pointing forward.
Below you can find some of the most popular findings and statistics about pull-up-related subjects and where this data comes from.
Keep in mind that the figures below are often estimations from smaller studies, data sets, and surveys. These things generally come with a lot of biases, suboptimal sample selection, and measurement errors.
In reality, some numbers will likely vary for the overall population, sometimes by a lot. When it comes to records, keep in mind that comparing yourself to your performance of yesterday is generally more productive.
1. What percent of the population can do a pull-up?
For the average person, pull-ups can be a really challenging exercise. So challenging that a good amount of people can not do a full pull-up. Many people are interested in the exact percentages on the subject.
Unfortunately, the exact data about what percent of the population can do a pull-up is rather lacking.
To get more statistics, we conducted a quick 24-hour poll on our own Instagram page with the question “Are you strong enough to do a full pull-up?” that could be answered with “Yes” or “No” on January the 17th, 2022.
79 people responded to this poll. 20.3% of these people answered yes, 79.7% of these people answered no.
At the time of the poll, the posts on our Instagram page were mainly about nutrition-related topics. These people are likely at least a bit fitter than the overall population but not as much as the followers of pages about gym or calisthenics workouts.
2. How many pull-ups should you be able to do?
Something else many people wonder about is how many bodyweight pull-ups they should be able to do for their gender, weight, age, and skill level. Again the statistics are not the most exact but there are a few ways to get a better idea.
The website strength level has a pull-up standards calculator. This compares your pull-up performance to, at the time of writing, 1,756,000 lifts by users.
For example, to perform better than 50% of the 170-pound (77.1 kg) males, you would have to do more than 13 pull-ups. To perform better than 50% of the 150-pound (68 kg) females, you would have to do more than 6 pull-ups.
They also offer numbers for a variety of bodyweights and other percentiles like 5th, 20th, 80th, and 95th.
One thing to keep in mind is that this database (very likely) compares you to more experienced weight lifters. Compared to the average person you would have to do a lot fewer pull-ups.
Younger individuals who want to get a better idea of how they compare to their own age can check the pull-up statistics of The Presidential Physical Fitness Test.
3. Pull-up world records
Once you have an idea about the more standard pull-up numbers it becomes easier to respect the tremendous performances of some of the pull-up world records.
First of all, there are the records for the most consecutive pull-ups. For men, this was 238 pull-ups achieved by Jan Kares in 2017 (2). For women, this was 48 pull-ups achieved by Irina Rudometkina in 2014 (3).
Additionally, there are a wide variety of records when it comes to the maximum number of pull-ups in a certain time frame. Some of these include (4):
|Time Limit||Record For Men||Record For Women|
|1 Minute||74 Pull-ups||34 Pull-ups|
|3 Minutes||106 Pull-ups||Not mentioned|
|1 Hour||1124 Pull-ups||725 Pull-ups|
|12 Hours||5,742 Pull-ups||2,275 Pull-ups|
|24 Hours||7,715 Pull-ups||3,737 Pull-ups|
4. Weighted pull-up standards
For some individuals, a bodyweight pull-up is not challenging enough. If that is the case you can do weighted pull-ups. This is the same exercise but while holding/wearing extra weight.
When it comes to the “standard” amount of weight for a weighted pull-up, the website strength level again offers some statistics. In their pull-up standards calculator you can also show the one-rep max option.
This shows how much extra weight people can hold during 1 repetition of a pull-up.
For example, to perform better than 50% of the 170-pound (77.1 kg) males, you would have to do be able to do a pull-up with 71 extra pounds (32.2 kg).
To perform better than 50% of the 150-pound (68 kg) females, you would have to do be able to do a pull-up with 21 extra pounds (9.5 kg).
You can also see the weighted pull-up standards for a variety of bodyweights and other percentiles like 5th, 20th, 80th, and 95th. Again, the individuals in this database are very likely more active than the average person.
Besides the weighted pull-up standards, there are also world records. Currently, the world record for heaviest weighted pull-up is 230.49 pounds (104.55 kg) by David Marchante achieved in 2016 (5).
5. Pull-up vs chin-up muscle engagement
Some people use the terms “pull-ups” and “chin-ups” interchangeably but these two exercises are not the same thing.
For pull-ups, you grab the bar with your hand palms pointing forward, with chin-ups your hand palms point backward. This may sound and is a relatively small difference but it does change in what ratio your muscles get engaged.
One study measured observed that pull-ups engaged the latissimus dorsi, infraspinatus, and lower trapezius muscles slightly more (6).
On the other hand, chin-ups engaged the biceps brachii, pectoralis major, erector spinae, and external oblique muscles slightly more.
In short, these two exercises have very similar effects but with slightly different amounts of engagement of certain muscles.
Additionally, below you can find a short table comparing some of the statistics about the pull-up and chin-up world records (4).
|Time Limit||Pull-up Record||Chin-up Record|
|1 Minute||74 Pull-ups||57 Chin-ups|
|1 Hour||1124 Pull-ups||993 Chin-ups|
|12 Hours||5,742 Pull-ups||4,649 Chin-ups|
|24 Hours||7,715 Pull-ups||5,340 Chin-ups|
6. How many pull-ups to join the U.S. military?
The Candidate Fitness Assessment (CFA) is a physical test made to evaluate someone’s potential to complete the physical programs at the United States Military Academy, United States Naval Academy, and United States Air Force Academy (7).
One of the 6 exercises on this test is pull-ups. The goal when it comes to pull-ups is to do as many repetitions as possible within two minutes up to a certain number.
The CFA also gives maximum performance scores. Once you reach these you get the maximum 100-point score for that exercise. After that, doing more repetitions does not offer any benefits.
For males, the maximum performance score is achieved if you can do 18 pull-ups in 2 minutes. For females, the maximum performance score is reached at 7 pull-ups in 2 minutes (7).
You still need to perform well enough on the other exercises and other tests. That being said, if you can achieve the numbers above, you should meet the U.S. military requirements when it comes to pull-ups.
7. How many pull-ups should you do a day?
Knowing how your pull-up performances compare to other people and world records can be fun. However, keep in mind that for the most popular goals doing as many pull-ups as possible each day is often not recommended.
A typical pull-ups session to build back muscle mass will look something like 4 sets of 10-40 repetitions depending on how advanced you are.
Between each session, you want to give your muscles at least 48 hours of rest to repair and grow.
Most of the weight loss effects from pull-ups come from the extra muscle mass. So even if that is the main goal you would still do about the same number of pull-ups as for muscle mass.
8. Pull-up vs lat pulldown muscle engagement
The standard version of the lat pulldown is an exercise where you pull a bar down towards you. This bar is connected to resistance, usually with cables, so the exercise becomes more challenging.
In short, the lat pulldown is very similar to pull-ups but instead of your body moving, your hands which hold the bar move. While very similar, this does lead to a few differences. One example is muscle engagement.
Generally, pull-ups engage the biceps brachii and erector spinae more. On the other hand, lat pulldowns tend to engage the rectus abdominis more. The latissimus dorsi engagement tends to be similar (8).
Overall, both exercises are a great way to train a variety of upper back muscles and biceps to some extent.
9. Popularity pull-ups vs other exercises
Pull-ups are a relatively popular type of bodyweight exercise but they are not the only option. You may wonder how this exercise compares in popularity to some of the other typical options.
Google Trends is a tool that shows you how much interest in certain search terms evolves over time for the given region and time. A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term. A value of 50 means that the term is half as popular.
Below you can find a worldwide search volume comparison from 2004-2021 between “pull ups”, “push ups”, “sit ups”, “squats”, and “crunches”.
While pull-ups are definitely popular on their own, as you can see, some of the other bodyweight exercises like pushups are even more popular.
This could be partly because you do need some form of pull-up equipment to be able to do this exercise.
10. Typical pull-up vs pushup performance
With all of these different exercises, you may wonder if these are equally hard as pull-ups. The quick answer to that is no. One study even tried to compare the strength difference in pushing vs pulling of recreationally active individuals.
They recruited 180 individuals to do as many pushups as possible in 3 sets of 15 seconds with a 45 second rest period. Additionally, they did as many modified pull-ups as possible in the same time period.
These “pull-ups” were done with a “bar” relatively close to the ground and with their feet elevated. So basically an upside-down pushup/inverted row with elevated feet.
The sequence of these two tests was decided randomly for each individual.
This study concludes that for their recreationally active individuals, the push muscles are about 1.5 – 2.7 times stronger than the pull muscles (9).
Add to this that during real pull-ups you carry all of your body weight and it is straightforward that pushups are easier to do than pull-ups.
11. Pull-ups offer many health benefits
While enjoyment and looking more muscular are also reasons, many people also do pull-ups because of all the health benefits this offers. This goes from more muscle mass to stronger bones to improved cognitive function, etc.
Another popular reason is that doing pull-ups can help you lose weight.
10 minutes of pull-ups at a vigorous pace can help you burn around 59-102+ calories depending on your weight, intensity, and much more.
If you want to learn how to burn more calories while doing pull-ups, make sure you read the article on how many calories pull-ups burn.
12. Pull-up bars come at a variety of prices
Before you can do pull-ups you do need some form of bar to do the exercise on. Most commercial gyms have these but if you are at home you likely need to invest in your own pull-up bar.
In a different article we looked at the prices of 66 pull-up bar models. Of these, the average pull-up bar cost was $88.65.
That being said, pull-up bars are an equipment option that comes in a variety of prices. Some models of the cheaper types of pull-up bars come around $30. More premium options can cost around $130 and more.
Back muscles can be challenging to work out at home so if you are in a situation like that a pull-up bar can be worth it.
13. At least 10 types of “pull-ups”
The bodyweight version where you hold the bar with your hand palms pointing forward is the “standard” version of the pull-up. There are also a variety of other types of “pull-ups” where you change the movement or grip. Some of these include:
- Assisted pull-ups: In this beginner version you have some type of force pushing you up so the pull-up becomes easier to do.
- Weighted pull-ups: Pull-ups where you hold or wear extra weight during the pull-up.
- Single-arm pull-ups: As the name implies, pull-ups but with one arm.
- Chin-ups: The same exercise but you hold the bar with your hand palms pointing backward.
- Mixed grip pull-ups: Pull-ups but one hand implements the chin-up grip, the other the regular pull-up grip.
- Commando pull-ups: Mixed grip pull-ups with your hands right next to each other. Hold your body sideways and touch the bar with one shoulder.
- Behind-the-neck pull-ups: You bend your head forward and softly touch the bar with the back of your neck.
- Archer pull-ups: Keep one arm straight throughout the pull-up.
- Kipping pull-ups: An easier type where you use the momentum of your swinging body to make the pull-up easier.
- Muscle-ups: In this variation you pull yourself up fast enough so at the top of the pull-up movement you can push your body up even higher.
These are some of the most common types of pull-ups. There are other types too but this does give you a better idea of some of the most popular options out there.