Isometric Pull Ups: A Must-Try Pull Up Variation To Build Muscle

Pull ups are among one of the best upper body exercises for building muscle in the biceps, lats, and forearms. What makes pull ups so great is that they are a compound exercise, unlike bicep curls and lat pulldowns. Compound exercises involve more than one joint and muscle group, allowing you to effectively train more muscles in less time. It is important to structure your workout around compound exercises, but also to include exercises that work the “little” muscles.

If you cannot yet do a pull up, isometric pull ups are an awesome way to prepare you for your first pull up. Isometric pull ups can also be modified for those who are looking for ways to make pull ups more challenging. Isometric pull ups are a great way to turn a compound exercise into a multi-purpose, muscle building movement that is sure to help you get that “V” tapor and sculpt the muscles in your upper back and biceps.

How To Perform Isometric Pull Ups

  1. Grip the pull up bar tightly with a pronated grip (palms facing away from your body).
  2. Perform the concentric portion (the way up) of the pull up as you normally would.
  3. When your chin is above the pull up bar, hold yourself there.


  • As with any compound movement, be sure to keep your core tight.
  • Do your best to ensure that you do not allow your chin to drop too far below the bar.
  • Breathe! It can sometimes be difficult to remember to breathe during isometric exercises–focus on it.

Make Isometric Pull Ups More Difficult

If isometric pull ups become too easy, there are many ways to make them more difficult. Here, I will discuss 3 different techniques that will allow you to continue to maximize the muscle building potential of this superb back-sculpting exercise.

  1. Perform isometric pull ups as a “finishing” exercise at the end of your workout. By waiting until your muscles are pre-fatigued to perform isometric pull ups, you will increase the difficulty and potentially increase muscular hypertrophic response, as well. If you’re really looking for a challenge, you can also superset isometric pull ups with an isolation exercise such as bicep curls or lat pulldowns.
  2. Add weight. Increasing the amount of weight you have to hold above the bar will obviously make isometric pull ups more difficult. There a few ways to do this: if you have a spotter, cross your legs at the ankles and have your spotter insert a dumbbell between them. If not, most gyms have a weight belt that will allow you to attach weights to hang from your waist. You can even use a weighted vest or backpack full of books. Be creative.
  3. Incorporate side-to-side isometric pull ups. This exercise is an excellent way to increase the difficulty of isometric pull ups and help you continue to build muscle and get stronger. Side-to-side iso pull ups are similar to regular isometric pull ups, except instead of holding yourself in place, you bring your chin back and forth between your right and left hand. Check out the video below to see side-to-side pull ups in action.

Your Turn

Isometric pull ups are a great exercise for the weak and strong alike. If you would like to perform regular pull ups but cannot, they are a great way to help you finally achieve your goal. There are plenty of ways to increase the difficulty of isometric pull ups, making them a perfect exercise for people who can perform regular pull ups with ease, as well.

If you have never worked on isometrics, you will be shocked by the amount of muscle building potential you have been missing out on. Give them a try and let me know how it goes.

Dedicated to your success,

Colby Smith

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