Pullups & Ultimate Upper-body Exercises

Pullups provide a challenge even without added resistance.

Pullups provide a challenge even without added resistance.

It's not uncommon to see pullups classified among the ultimate upper-body exercises, and for good reason. Pullups help strengthen a number of your upper-body muscles simultaneously and can provide an intense challenge even without added weight. But many other contenders for the throne of ultimate upper-body exercise exist that you may wish to include in your workout.

Effectiveness of Pullups

Many factors contribute to the classification of the pullup as an ultimate upper-body exercise. It targets your entire upper body -- your chest, shoulders, back, upper arms and forearms. And the exercise doesn't just work small muscles; it helps strengthen major muscles such as the latissimis dorsi, triceps, trapezius and biceps. Pullups are quite convenient, as they require no special equipment other than a bar and are relatively safe because you aren't moving any weights.

Clean and Press

The clean and press is another candidate for ultimate-upper body exercise because it works a number of muscle groups and is dynamic. The clean and press helps build explosive strength, as it requires two quick and powerful movements: the clean, in which you bring the barbell from waist level to your shoulders; and the press, in which you boost the barbell up from your shoulders above your head. The clean and press works your shoulders, arms and back. It also provides a cardiovascular workout.

Bench Press

The bench press is a staple exercise of many workout plans -- it strengthens your shoulders, arms and chest, as they all contribute to the movement of the barbell. Muscles in your back help to stabilize and support the movement. The bench press also allows for certain variations, such as narrow or wide grip, that can help you put more emphasis on certain muscles to encourage progress.

Plank Row

The plank row deserves consideration as an ultimate upper-body exercise because it is safe, easy to learn and works numerous upper-body muscles. To perform the plank row, grip one dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand and place both weights on the ground as you assume a pushup position. Lift one weight, bracing your abdominal muscles and the stationary arm to support your body. Lower the weight and alternate your arms as desired. This challenging exercise works your back, biceps and shoulders during the lifting motion and your triceps, forearms and abdominal muscles as they support your body and keep it stable.

Sets, Reps and Resistance

No number of sets or repetitions is ideal for everyone in every case. When performing pullups and other ultimate upper-body exercises, consider your goals to determine the appropriate number of sets and repetitions as well as the amount of resistance. To build muscle size, the American Council on Exercise recommends performing three to six sets of six to 12 repetitions, choosing a weight you can lift for that range without straining. For muscular endurance, try 12 to 16 repetitions and two to three sets with a lighter weight. To build muscle strength, use two to six sets of four to eight repetitions each with moderate resistance.

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About the Author

Brian Willett began writing in 2005. He has been published in the "Buffalo News," the "Daytona Times" and "Natural Muscle Magazine." Willett also writes for Bloginity.com and Bodybuilding.com. He is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer and earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of North Carolina.

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