Do Pullups Help to Burn Fat?

Pullups can help you lose fat.

Pullups can help you lose fat.

Pullups may not be the first exercises you think of when you’re building a fat-reducing plan. Then again, because pullups are so challenging, you may not have thought about them at all. If not, think again, because pullups can burn calories quickly, and they deserve consideration for inclusion in any woman’s weight-loss routine.


The terms “pullup” and “chinup” are often used interchangeably, because in either exercise you pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar. But a chinup is performed with an underhand grip, while a pullup begins with an overhand grip, with your palms facing away from your body. To perform a pullup, spread your hands a bit wider than shoulder width as you grasp and hang from the bar, take a deep breath, then pull yourself up. Exhale on the way down. Cross your ankles when you grip the bar and don’t kick your legs to assist your upward motion. If you need help, have a spotter place her hands beneath your ankles, then push off of her hands on the way up. Alternatively, wear a weight belt or secure a dumbbell between your ankles to increase the exercise’s intensity.

Muscles Worked

Pullups are considered back exercises because they target the latissimus dorsi muscles in your middle and lower back. They also work several other back and shoulder muscles, along with your chest and biceps. Pullups also require stabilization from your triceps.

Burning Calories

As long as you’re breathing, you’re burning calories. A 155-pound woman, for example, burns about 28 calories by sitting and watching TV for 30 minutes. But if you want to know where pullups rank among other common exercises in calorie-burning potential, the answer is that they rank fairly high. A 150-pound woman can expect to burn approximately 280 calories by performing pullups for 30 minutes. In reality, pullups are such a challenging exercise that it’s highly unlikely you can do them for 30 minutes straight. But if you break them down into five-minute sets, that same 150-pound woman should burn approximately 48 calories per set. If you perform pullups as part of a vigorous, 30-minute calisthenics routine, you can expect to burn around 298 calories in 30 minutes, if you weigh 155 pounds.


You may consider the pullup a strength exercise rather than a fat-burning activity. But muscles consume more calories than fat, even when they’re at rest. Therefore, if you develop bigger, stronger muscles by doing pullups, you’ll burn more fat around the clock, even when you’re sitting in front of the TV.

If you can’t perform any standard pullups, begin training by doing negative pullups. Have a workout partner help you up, or use a bench to position yourself with your chin above the pullup bar and your feet off the floor. Lower yourself slowly until your arms are extended, then let go of the bar and repeat the exercise.

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About the Author

M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.

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