Pullups: you either love them or hate them. Some folks bang them out by the dozen; others struggle mightily to get one rep.

They’re the ultimate test of vertical pulling—the capacity to pull a load from an arms-overhead position downwards to shoulder height. But as vertical pulls go, the bodyweight pullup is a tough customer: it doesn’t just torch your lats and biceps, it forces you to stabilize your entire bodyweight as you cling to a bar, lighting up your grip, abs, even your glutes in the process.

It’s a full-body challenge—and unless you’ve been practicing them regularly since grade school, you might well need to look to a regression or variation to build size and pulling strength in your back and arms.

On the surface, all vertical pulling variations look the same, but there are differences—some subtle, some glaring—among the major variations of this move. Here’s how the pullup stacks up against its two closest rivals—the pulldown and the assisted pullup machine:

Vertical Strength & Stamina

Test Your Vertical Strength & Stamina

Measure your upper body strength and endurance with this fast but challenging routine.

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