Pullups are a popular and effective exercise for strengthening your upper back and biceps. As with any great exercise, you may be tempted to do pullups every day, ostensibly to maximize your gains and improvement.
Performing pullups every day likely results in a massive total number of repetitions over a week or month. However, to build strength, there are many other considerations beyond performing as many repetitions as possible, as often as possible.
While you can still do pullups every day, at least for a period, you need to look at the bigger picture to ensure your training lines up with your goals and gives you the results you want.
This article breaks down everything you need to know about performing pullups every day, including the benefits, risks, and tips to balance your daily pullup routine.
Exaggerated tales of epic daily workouts performed by elite athletes are nothing new in the fitness world.
However, with the rise of YouTube influencers and other similar social media trends, 30-day exercise regimens involving daily training with high repetitions have become increasingly popular.
Unfortunately, many of these programs contain excessive volume — even for trained fitness enthusiasts — and are often way beyond what a novice fitness trainee could or should perform.
This does not mean performing these types of routines is impossible, but rather that this type of program is best thought of as a challenge as opposed to an optimal workout program for long-term results.
Consider an analogy to marathon running. While even the most elite marathon runners likely run on most days, they are certainly not performing full marathons daily.
Furthermore, recreational marathon runners will likely run full marathons only when competing, and most of their training runs will be shorter and structured to allow recovery in between hard training sessions.
Looking at research on resistance training, which is the category of exercise that pullups fall under, it’s clear that training every day is not the best way to optimize improvements, especially when performing the same exercise every day.
Consider a 2017 study looking at recovery time needed for training a muscle to failure versus not training to failure.
The study included men with experience in resistance training and found that, even when not training to failure, 24–48 hours of recovery was needed to see improvements (
Although this study looked at the squat and bench press, since adaptations to resistance training are biochemically similar among different muscle groups, you can assume a pullup workout likely requires a similar recovery time, particularly when performing repetitions to failure.
A few key points are that this study used men who already had resistance training experience, meaning that they were more equipped than the average, untrained individual to handle this type of training.
Furthermore, the methods of gauging recovery are not subjective. The study measured chemical and hormonal responses that indicate whether the body has recovered from the training session.
Additional research tracked evidence-based responses when manipulating different training variables, including the frequency of training per week.
While this meta-analysis does say more research is needed, the overall conclusion was that across multiple studies, a frequency of training two times per week using three standard sets of 7–9 repetitions was optimal for gaining muscle strength (
This result does not apply as directly to highly trained athletes, who likely require increased volume for further adaptations.
Unfortunately, there is little specific research on performing pullups every day, much less scientific recommendations on how you should structure a routine if doing daily pullups is your goal.
However, it is safe to say, in general, that training every single day is not the best way to improve strength or other fitness goals.
Performing pullups or any exercise every single day is not an optimal training method.
If you do decide to perform pullups every day, you will see some results, although they will likely be less than they would be if you allowed yourself time to recover between sessions.
Even so, you also put yourself at risk of overtraining-associated outcomes.
The potential results you’ll experience, both positive and negative, will depend on your background, current fitness level, and predetermined genetic response to resistance training.
The following are a few things you could expect to see when performing pullups every day:
1. You will get better at pullups for awhile
Since pullups are a technical movement, practicing them will improve your coordination and movement efficiency when performing the exercise.
Ultimately, you’ll experience diminishing returns as cumulative training fatigue begins eating into your ability to recover and improve.
However, you’ll still get better at the movement, particularly in the earlier phases of training
2. Your muscular strength and endurance will improve
Assuming you’re not already capable of doing 15–20 or more pullups in a single set, you’ll see improvements in your upper-body muscular strength.
This means that theoretically, you can lift more weight for the same number of repetitions.
However, you’ll also improve your muscular endurance, which means you can do more repetitions at the same weight. Since you’re likely using your body weight alone for the pullups, this translates to doing more pullups per set before you hit muscle failure.
3. The size of your muscles may increase over time
Over time, resistance exercises such as pullups cause your muscles to increase in size, provided you’re eating at a calorie surplus and get adequate protein intake.
This effect takes longer than the movement, strength, and endurance gains, as your body must make new muscle fibers from the amino acids you consume in food.
However, the increases in muscle size will likely be less than what you would experience if you had adequate recovery time because this process of muscle protein synthesis occurs at rest as opposed to during the workout itself.
4. You will have a semipermanent muscle pump
When you work out a muscle, blood and other fluid increase in the area, giving the so-called “pump” associated with lifting weights.
While this effect is temporary and different from the actual growth of muscle fibers. It will temporarily give your muscles an appearance of increased size and vascularity, thanks to increased blood flow and fluid volume in the area.
If you’re doing pullups every day, you should theoretically be in a near-permanent state of muscle pump in your arms and upper back.
5. You risk overuse injury in your elbows and shoulders
The primary joints involved in pullups are the shoulder and elbow joints. Any repetitive movement can lead to overuse injury. Performing pullups every day would, in most circumstances, lead to an overuse injury.
The overall risk of overuse will depend heavily on how many pullups you do relative to how conditioned your joints are at the moment.
If you’re used to performing a few hundred pullups per week in 1–2 training sessions, performing a few dozen per day will probably not push them over the limit.
On the other hand, if you’re very new to pullups or deconditioned, a few sets per day performed every day could lead to an overuse injury.
Additionally, other exercises that use the same joints can contribute to overuse.
There’s no formula for determining exactly how many repetitions will lead to overuse injury; however, a lack of recovery time and previous joint conditioning levels will be substantial factors.
6. You can develop muscular imbalances
Pullups train the upper back and biceps. While these are important muscles, you do not want any muscle group disproportionately strong compared with the rest of your body.
If you only do pullups, you will develop a muscular imbalance. Incorporating other exercises to counterbalance the pullups is key.
However, if you are doing pullups every single day, the involved time and energy restraints will most likely make it difficult to adequately train your whole body in a way that eliminates the potential for muscular imbalance.
7. You risk overtraining
Overtraining is a complicated phenomenon that involves interplay between the nervous, muscular, endocrine, and skeletal systems.
In general, overtraining is a spectrum of mild-to-severe effects that are associated with training volumes that consistently exceed your body’s ability to recover.
Researchers have not yet developed sufficient criteria for consistently diagnosing overtraining in resistance athletes (
Nevertheless, the available knowledge of overtraining would suggest that performing the same exercise every day, particularly at high volumes or to muscular failure, would put you at risk of overtraining.
8. You’ll progress less than if you recovered
This is probably the most key thing that happens, or rather that does not happen, when doing pullups every day.
Simply put, if you do not give yourself 24–48 hours of recovery after a pullup training session that has enough volume to matter, you will not achieve optimal results.
You will still see some improvements to strength, technique, endurance, and muscle size. Yet, these will be less than if you had taken recovery time. This, of course, assumes you do not get an overuse injury after a week or two of daily pullup training.
If your goal is specifically to do a certain number of pullups per day, this lack of optimal gain may not concern you.
However, most people who do pullups want the resulting strength and muscle development more than they want to do the pullups themselves.
If you do pullups for the physical gains, you should seriously consider the fact that doing them every day is likely to hinder your maximal improvement.
Doing pullups every day does have some benefits, but they’re mostly outweighed by the risks and limitations of doing the same exercise every day.
If you do decide to do pullups every day for some period of time, you need to know how many you should be doing.
There’s not a perfect answer to this question, as it all depends on your current pullup fitness level.
If you cannot do more than 1–2 pullups but are still set on performing them every day, starting with 3–5 sets of just 1 pullup is probably a safe place to start.
If you can perform 15 or more pullups in a single set before failure, doing a few sets of 10–12 pullups without going to muscular failure is probably safe to do every day.
If you already have some training experience, you likely fall somewhere in between those two levels.
In that case, stick to 3 sets of pullups and perform repetitions until you have 1–2 full pullups “in the tank” before stopping your set.
Performing sets of pullups not to failure is likely the safest option if you want to do pullups every day without suffering from major overuse or overtraining and minimizing the negative effects of insufficient recovery.
Regardless, you should not select your daily pullup target based on the title of the latest “X-day pullup challenge” unless it happens to line up with your current level per the previous discussion.
If performing pullups every day, aim for a few sets of pullups and stop before muscular failure.
So, despite the risks, you have decided to pursue a workout plan that involves pullups every day.
To minimize muscle imbalances, you must also plan to incorporate additional exercises. The recommendations for a balanced routine do not change simply because you’re doing pullups every day.
You want to complete exercises for all the major muscles of the body to ensure you do not develop muscular imbalances.
Even excessive upper-back strength without developing your lower body puts you at risk if you lift something heavy and overcompensate with your upper body.
Furthermore, it’s key that you hit the opposing muscle groups with enough volume to counteract the specific muscles used in pullups. In this case, these muscles would primarily be the chest, anterior shoulder muscles, and triceps.
Overall, incorporating the following exercises throughout your training week will go a long way toward minimizing muscular imbalances from your pullup routine and ensuring that your fitness program remains safe, practical, and effective despite heavily emphasizing one exercise.
- barbell or dumbbell overhead press or shoulder press
- dumbbell or barbell rows
Core and abdominal exercises
Try to pick 2–3 exercises from this list to add to each workout and cycle them throughout the week.
Perform 3 sets of 8–10 repetitions and increase or decrease the resistance as needed.
In the long run, a good fitness program will include heavier phases, phases using faster movement speeds, and phases of light weights focused on recovery.
However, given that you are performing a pullups-every-day routine, which is already not optimal, adding these exercises as described above will be effective enough to offset the pullup imbalances.
Regardless, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to do pullups every day for the long term. Eventually, your body, life circumstances, or sheer boredom and lack of continued results will force you to change up your routine.
Complementing your daily pullups with exercises that hit all the other body parts throughout the week will offset muscle imbalances, but it’s still not a permanent training solution.
Performing pullups every day is a catchy and trendy-sounding workout routine that is not optimal for long-term fitness goals.
Pullups every day is best considered a “challenge routine” that you can perform for a given time period primarily for social credit, but it will not be the best choice if your goal is maximal improvements to the many different aspects of fitness.
Should you decide to do pullups every day, keeping your sets to below failure and performing exercises that work the rest of your body will mitigate some of the potential downsides to doing pullups every day.
If your fitness goals are results-oriented, such as increasing your upper-body strength, adding more muscle, or improving your movement patterns and lifting technique, pullups are still a great exercise to have in your routine.
However, from a fitness gains perspective, taking 24–48 hours between pullup sessions and doing some workouts that do not involve pullups is your best bet.