Are Pull-ups Good For Weight Loss?

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The pull-up is a good exercise for growing and strengthening certain muscles. Find out if pull-ups are also good for weight loss.

To lose weight you need to get to a point where your body needs more energy than is coming in from food.

Two important ways pull-ups help with this include burning calories by moving more intensely and building extra muscle mass.

When it comes to the number of calories they burn per minute, pull-ups are decent but not great either.

That being said, a lot of the weight loss results from resistance training exercises like pull-ups come from the extra muscle mass you can build.

Since one of the main target muscles of pull-ups, the latissimus dorsi, is relatively big, this exercise can help you build a nice amount of muscle mass.

In turn, you can consider pull-ups to be good for weight loss.

At the same time, it is worth noting that there are more exercises that are more effective for weight loss too. If you only have a small amount of time and don’t like pull-ups that much anyway, you can also consider other options.

Additionally, you may need to make changes in other lifestyle habits like your diet to lose weight while doing more pull-ups. Exercising is no guarantee for weight loss.

Are pull-ups good for weight loss?

Losing weight is the result of making it so your body requires more energy than is coming in from food. At this point, you start using up energy stores like body fat to get the difference.

Exercises like pull-ups mainly help in this process by increasing how many calories you burn in different ways.

You do want to keep in mind that lifestyle habits like your diet still play a big role in whether or not you lose weight and to what extent.

The first way exercises help weight loss is by making it so you use up more calories during the workout. This happens because you move more intensely than usual which requires more energy.

Secondly, one of the benefits of pull-ups and other resistance training exercises is that they can help you build extra muscle mass in combination with a good workout program.

How much you weigh plays a big role in how many calories you burn. By building more muscle mass, you use up more energy during everything you do.

There are other ways workouts benefit weight loss but these are often the most important ones.

So pull-ups can definitely help weight loss. How good they are depends on how they compare in these areas to other exercises.

Man doing pull-ups to lose weight

How many calories pull-ups burn compared to other exercises

The easiest way to put a number on how good exercises like pull-ups are for weight loss is by estimating how many calories they burn during the workout.

Something important to note is that the numbers below are just rough predictions. In reality, the number can vary for you because of differences in body composition, hormone levels, exact intensity, etc.

Additionally, the estimations below are for during the time you spend working out. Any extra calorie burning due to extra muscle mass or afterburn is not included.

The following numbers are estimations for a 155-pound person exercising for 30 minutes (1).

  • Bodyweight pull-ups: 220 calories
  • Water Aerobics: 149 calories
  • Stretching (Hatha Yoga): 186 calories
  • Rowing, Stationary (moderate): 260 calories
  • Bicycling, Stationary (moderate): 260 calories
  • Elliptical Trainer (general): 335 calories
  • Running 5.2 mph: 335 calories
  • Jumping rope: 372 calories
  • Swimming (breaststroke): 372 calories

Most people will not be able to do pull-ups for 30 minutes. You can also check the article on how many calories pull-ups burn for different time intervals and body weights.

Besides that, again, these numbers don’t tell the complete weight loss story.

At the same time, it becomes clear that pull-ups are not the best exercise for burning a lot of calories in the next 30 minutes.

Especially not if you compare this pull-up fact to exercise alternatives like running and jumping rope.

Do pull-ups help you build a lot of muscle mass?

A lot of the weight and fat loss results of resistance training exercises like pull-ups come from the extra muscle they can help you build.

As mentioned, this extra muscle mass will help you burn more calories throughout the day. Including during the other workouts mentioned above.

Pull-ups work muscles like your latissimus dorsi (middle/upper back), biceps, and forearm grip muscles. The latissimus dorsi are actually relatively big muscles with a lot of room to grow.

In combination with the calories burned above, this makes pull-ups a good exercise for weight loss.

One thing to note is that you still need to do pull-ups with the right resistance, repetitions, and sets to grow your muscles. This will be important to see a lot of fat loss results.

Additionally, there are other resistance training exercises that work more and bigger muscles. Some examples include deadlifts, squats, bent-over rows, etc.

Woman doing pull-ups

How many pull-ups you should do to lose weight

By now, it should be clear that most of the weight loss effects from pull-ups will come from the amount of muscle mass they can help you build.

That means how many pull-ups you should do to lose weight is the same as the recommended set and repetition ranges for building muscle mass.

More precisely, to grow your muscles, you should do around 3 to 6 sets of 6 to 25 pull-ups at a resistance level where you can barely complete these ranges.

Many people will need to do assisted pull-ups to get within these ranges. A few more experienced lifters may need to do pull-ups with weights to make the exercise challenging enough.

Something important to note is that your muscles still need time (and nutrients) to recover and grow.

It is typically recommended to give your latissimus dorsi muscles at least one extra day of rest before focusing them again with resistance training exercises.

Do pull-ups help you lose belly fat?

Many people are interested in doing exercises like pull-ups to lose body fat from specific areas like their bellies. Unfortunately, it is generally not possible to target fat loss in significant amounts.

That being said, it is still possible to lose belly fat. There are just a few steps you have to follow.

First of all, you need to get to a point where your body starts using energy stores. Doing more pull-ups can help with this but you likely have to pay attention to other lifestyle habits too.

After that, you want to get to a state where the energy comes from burning body fat.

Lastly, you continue burning body fat until your body “decides” it wants to use up the fat on your belly.

When this happens and to what extent depends on details like your genes and how far you are in your weight loss journey.

So pull-ups do not necessarily help you lose belly fat but they do help you get to this point. To make this happen, you may need to make changes in other lifestyle areas too.

Should you do pull-ups when trying to lose weight?

At first sight, pull-ups may not look like a good exercise for losing weight because they don’t burn that many calories during the workout.

However, if you take the extra calorie-burning from building muscle mass and afterburn into account, it becomes clear that pull-ups can be a good exercise for weight loss anyway.

Another benefit of pull-ups is that many people can do them at home by investing in a doorway pull-up bar.

At the same time, there are better exercise options for weight loss too. This includes in terms of burning calories during the workout, building extra muscle mass, and being an at-home-friendly exercise.

So whether you should do pull-ups when trying to lose weight depends on how much time you have to exercise, what the rest of your workouts already look like, and your personal preferences.

Additionally, keep in mind that other lifestyle habits like your diet are important in the weight loss process. You can have a good workout program and not lose weight with suboptimal habits in these other areas.

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Do pull-ups boost metabolism?

Doing pull-ups with the right resistance, repetition ranges, and set ranges can help you build muscle. In turn, this will boost your metabolism.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.