Are Pull Ups Good For Triceps ?

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Last updated on September 5, 2022

Triceps are the large muscles at the back of your arms. If you’re focused on building your arms and upper body strength, there is no way you can go without working your triceps. This article will help you uncover whether doing pull-ups is suitable for your triceps, how to do pull-ups to build triceps, and what other techniques and exercises can help develop your triceps.


Pull-ups are good for the triceps. Even though the right pull-up variation, i.e. reverse pull-ups, can activate the triceps, what works these muscles best are exercises that are designed to push, not pull. Some examples of activities that work the triceps directly are push-ups, dips, bench presses, and overhead presses.


Triceps are the muscles that mainly determine the size of your upper arms. This is the muscle that allows your elbows to extend. Naturally, if you’re looking at building bigger arms and upper body strength, you’d want to work your triceps to the fullest. To work your tricep muscles directly, your body should perform a pushing motion. This includes exercises like dips, presses, and push-ups.


Reverse pull-ups are good to activate your tricep muscles, but they cannot build your triceps alone. Let’s look at how pull-ups can help you build triceps and what are some other techniques and exercises you can use to strengthen your triceps.

How to Do Pull Ups to Work the Triceps

According to the American Council on Exercise, pull-ups should be an essential part of your upper body workouts to activate arm muscles such as the triceps and biceps. You should do these 2-3 times a week. Do 2 to 4 sets of each of the following tricep pull-ups for 12 -18 repetitions to get the best results.


1.   Assisted Pull-ups

Assisted pull-ups are great for beginners, and they help you build enough upper body strength so you can do pull-ups on your own.


  • Use a super band around the pull-up handles and place both your feet or knees at the bottom of the band.
  • Do a regular pull up movement while allowing the band to help you keep the correct form for the move.


2.   Straight arm pull downs

Although these aren’t pull-ups, they will help you build the strength and stamina necessary for doing pull-ups. They help build trunk muscles which are necessary for doing pull-ups.


  • Place your hands at shoulder-width apart on a cable machine’s lat pull-down bar
  • Step back, bend the knees slightly, and hinge forward at your hips
  • Keep the arms straight and engage the lats (muscles located at the lower back). Now press the bar down towards your thighs.


3.   Eccentric Chin Ups

You can maximize the impact of this exercise by making a move a little slower on the downward motion. The slower you move, the more challenging the set will be.


  • Bring your chin up to the top of the pull-up bar with a step or band.
  • Slowly focus on lowering yourself as you extend your arms to the fullest.

How to Perform a Pull-up with Perfect Form?

So, how do you perform a pull-up to reap its maximum benefits ? Maintaining proper form is key to getting the most results out of any exercise. Here is a step by step guide to performing a pull up:

Step 1 -Stand directly beneath the pull-up bar. Place your hands on the overhand grip, palms facing away from the body, slightly more than shoulder-width apart. If you can’t reach the bar on your own, you can place a box under your feet.


Step 2 – Hang yourself up from the bar by lifting your feet from the floor or box. Pull your belly button in towards your spine to engage your core. Take a deep breath in and then exhale.


Step 3 – Engage your back and arms muscles to bend your elbows and raise your upper body towards the bar till your chin is above the bar. As you move up and down, avoid your legs swinging too much or shrugging your shoulders to maintain form. You want to ensure your shoulder blades are down and back during the entire movement.


Step 4 – At the top, inhale and slowly extend your elbows as you lower your body down to the starting position.


Remember that pull-ups are a challenging and advanced exercise move. No one is expecting you to perform it ideally in the first go. You can start with assisted pull-ups as you master the movement.

You may also want to read our article the best tricep exercises for women and men.

What are Some Benefits of Doing Pull-Ups?

Although pull-ups are an advanced form of exercise and mainly target your biceps, shoulder, and back muscles, they are still great for building overall upper body strength. If you’re a beginner, you can use supporting machines and techniques to perform the exercise. Here are some benefits of including pull-ups in your workout routine:


1.   Pull ups strengthen your back muscles


Pull-ups are one of the most efficient ways to strengthen your back muscles. Here is a breakdown of the muscles they target in your back:


Muscle Function
Latissimus dorsi Runs from the mid-back to under the arms and shoulders
Trapezius Originates from the neck out to both shoulders
Thoracic erector spinae Three muscles running along the thoracic spine
Infraspinatus Located on shoulder blade and assists with shoulder extension


2.   Pull ups improve your grip strength


Grip strength is essential when it comes to lifting weights. Pull-ups can help you improve your grip strength and increase your performance in sports like bowling, rock climbing, golf, and tennis. Strong grip strength can also be a blessing for simple everyday tasks like opening up tight jar lids or shoveling snow.

You may also want to read 5 Important Exercises to Build Unstoppable Grip Strength.

3.   Pull ups challenge your muscles

It might be a good time to start if you haven’t tried pull-ups before. Why? Because pull-ups are a challenging exercise move. They are great for building your overall body strength and fitness levels, not to mention that you’ll start looking and feeling pretty good.


Adding an exercise as challenging as pull-ups to your workout routine will eliminate your weight plateau and help improve your overall performance.


4.   Pull ups help improve mental health

Strength and resistance training exercises like pull ups have a positive effect on your mental health. According to a 2010 study, strength training has a positive correlation with the following:


  • Fatigue reduction
  • Reduction in anxiety symptoms
  • Depression reduction
  • Self – esteem improvement
  • Cognitive function improvement


Further research is required on the subject. However there is no denying the positive effects strength training can have on the mind and body.

Best Exercises to Build Triceps

Now that we’re past how pull-ups can aid in building your triceps let’s look at some exercises that target the tricep muscles and help build your upper arms. Exercises that require a pushing motion are great for building this large muscle behind your arms.


Here are 9 exercises that are proven to be the most effective ones for building your tricep muscles and strengthening them:



  1. Diamond Push-ups – These  are a variation of a narrow push-up and great for activating and working all three heads of the triceps.
  2. Triceps Extensions – These work the long head of the tricep muscle and works as the perfect complementary exercise to others in your workout. Doing these while sitting down can also add to your core strength.
  3. Kickbacks – This is more beginner friendly than the diamond push-ups and also works the three heads of the tricep. It may not be as effective as the diamond push up but it does a decent job of activating and toning the tricep muscles.
  4. Tricep Push Downs – These are great for working the lateral head of your triceps and is a very good complementary exercise
  5. Tricep Dips – Another great exercise for working your triceps. Dips are also great for adding stability to your overall body.
  6. Rope Pushdowns – Rope pushdowns are performed on a machine and activate almost 74% of tricep muscles.
  7. Bar Pushdowns – These are slightly less effective than the rope pushdowns at 67% and also performed on a machine.
  8. Skull Crushers – These are tricep extensions performed in a lying position. It is a challenging exercise but it mostly activates only 62% of the muscles.
  9. Close Grip Bench Presses – These activate 62% of the muscles but the chest muscles are more activated in this exercise and triceps experience a secondary level of activation.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.   What muscles do pull ups work?

Pull ups target your lats and biceps primarily. It also engages your core, deltoids and rhomboids.

2.   Can you do big arms by doing pull ups?

Pull ups and chin ups are the best for upper arm development. Pull ups work the small muscles beneath the biceps i.e brachialis and make them stronger.

3.   What happens if you do pull ups everyday?

You can injure your elbows  and shoulders by overworking them if you do pull ups everyday.

Final Thoughts

Pull ups are great for building upper body strength. However, they do not work the triceps directly. Rather, pull ups engage your shoulders, chest and core. Triceps are activated most by exercises that involve a pushing motion. We hope that our article helped you find out everything you need to build your triceps!

About the author  Steve

Steve Theunissen is from New Zealand and is a qualified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist with over 30 years experience. Read more about Steve in the 'about us' page.

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