Can pull-ups cause lower back pain?

Can pull-ups cause lower back pain?

In the world of fitness, pulls are probably one of the most common and among the hardest exercises, as they involve pulling your entire body weight with just your arms and legs. It’s no surprise that not many people can do it multiple times but still continue to do as many as they can, thanks to the many benefits it comes with, such as strengthening your back, shoulders, arms, and even your core. However, with its benefits also comes some concerns For instance, some people have experienced lower back pains with pull ups especially when they do it without the proper form and that is a topic that we will be covering in this blog. 

Understanding Pull-Ups

A very popular upper-body strength exercise, pull-up is a type of workout that primarily targets the muscles in your back, arms, and core. In simple words. It is where you hang from a bar and then pull yourself up. You grip the bar with your hands, which are a bit wider than your shoulders. While doing this, your elbows bend, and your shoulders move closer together, bringing your upper body up towards the bar.

A study found that doing pull-ups twice a week for 6 weeks improved performance by 39%. In fact, the same participants in this study showed a 65% increase in their pull-up performance after continuing the same routine for 12 weeks. As you can see from these findings, pull ups can definitely strengthen your muscles while at the same time increase your endurance over time. 

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Mechanics of Lower Back Pain

Your lower back muscles are key for bending, twisting, and lifting, which makes them quite essential for many core exercises. Also known as the lumbar spine, your lower back is essential for supporting your upper body and transferring weight between your upper and lower body. Let’s take a quick look at the anatomy of the lower back:

  • Five lumbar vertebrae (L1-L5): These vertebrae are the largest and strongest in the spinal column as they bear most of the body’s weight.
  • Intervertebral discs: These discs are crucial for cushioning and flexibility between the vertebrae.
  • Erector spinae and multifidus muscles: These are major back muscles. The erector spinae group helps with extension (backward bending) and posture, while the multifidus muscles provide stability and control to individual vertebrae.

There are exercises that can strain your lower back if you use too much weight or do them incorrectly. Moreover, not using the right form during exercises like pull-ups or deadlifts can put extra stress on your lower back, and this can easily lead to pain. With pull-ups, in particular, many muscles involved are linked to your mid and lower back. If these muscles are tight, they might send signals of discomfort, causing lower back pain. 

So, if you’re new to exercise, your muscles aren’t used to the work, you are probably going to want to start slow, warm up and find the proper form for each and every exercise.

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Proper Form for Pull-Ups

Pull-up, which as we have mentioned earlier is an upper-body exercise where you get to hang from a bar and pull your body up, targeting various muscles like your back, arms, and core, is actually quite ideal for enhancing muscle definition and functional strength. 

Like everything else in life for first-timers, pull-ups may seem easy at first but require proper form to avoid injuries. Seeking guidance from personal training can ensure beginners learn the correct techniques and reduce the risk of injury.

1. Feet Position

Believe it or not, your foot position can significantly impact your lower back during pull-ups. The usual way, crossing your feet behind during pull-ups, might seem normal. But in tight spaces like a doorway, it can stress your lower back unintentionally.

A smarter move, especially when space is tight, is bending your knees in front, in line with your hips. It might be a bit tougher on your abs, but it significantly lowers the risk of lower back pain during pull-ups.

Picture the usual feet-crossed pull-up – it tends to stress your lower back. Now, think about bending your knees in front – it lines up your body better, reducing the strain on your lower back.

Trying the knees-in-front approach during your next pull-up session can make a real difference. It’s a small change, but it puts your lower back first, making your workout safer and more effective.

2. Hyperextending the Back

A common mistake that many people make is hyperextending their back, essentially arching it. This can happen in various ways during a pull-up. For instance, tilting your neck all the way back can lead to that unwanted arch, putting a ton of stress on your lower back.

This hyperextension can also happen if your feet are positioned behind you during a pull-up. Keeping your feet behind can unintentionally arch your back, adding even more stress to your lower back.

A smart move to avoid this is to record yourself while attempting pull-ups. It’s an excellent way to ensure that your back isn’t arching and that your spine is aligned properly. The key reason for lower back pain during pull-ups is often improper spine alignment, so keeping your back straight is crucial.

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3. Core Engagement

Your abdominal muscles play a crucial role in maintaining the right curve in your spine and keeping your pelvic tilt in check. Just by giving your core some attention, you can cut down on injuries, especially those sneaky lower back pains.

So, if you’re feeling that little ache in your lower back during pull-ups, here’s the trick: engage your core muscles. It’s like giving your spine a little extra support, keeping everything in line.

Other Potential Causes Of Lower Back Pain

If you’re experiencing lower back pain, it may not be solely due to your pull-up routine. Back pain can be complex and has various underlying causes. Let’s explore some potential factors:

  • Lifting Heavy Objects: Sometimes, it’s not the pull-ups but that heavy box you tried to lift. Awkward lifts can strain your back, causing discomfort.
  • Sleeping Positions Matter: Believe it or not, how you sleep can play a role. A weird sleeping position might just be the culprit.
  • Weak Abs, Bad Posture: Weak abdominal muscles can mess with your posture, leading to lower back pain. Check out our abs workout for a little help.
  • Exercise Gaps: If you’ve been on a workout hiatus, unused muscles in your back and abs might be protesting with pain. Regular exercise is your friend.
  • Watch Those Deadlifts: Weight lifting exercises like deadlifts can be back pain culprits if not done right. 

All in all. proper forms matter. So, under the right guidance of a fitness professional trainer, you can perform your pull ups without experiencing any lower back pain. That’s where 6262 Fitness comes to the rescue. For further information and assistance, call 9076306262. 

Read more : Why Should You Use Kettlebells For Functional Training?

Exercises for Lower Back Pain Relief

You will be glad to know that there are some exercises you can do should you ever experience back pain from pull-ups or any other workout routines. Let’s take a look at some of them here, shall we?

1. Aerobic Exercises:

Go for aerobic exercises like swimming, cycling, or walking. These activities boost your cardiovascular system, elevate your heart rate, and get you moving. Swimming, in particular, is excellent as the water’s buoyancy provides relief from the weight on your back. In addition to aerobic exercises like swimming, cycling, or walking, incorporating functional training into your routine can enhance overall fitness and mobility. Functional training focuses on exercises that mimic movements you use in everyday activities, helping to improve strength, balance, and coordination. Personalized classes or online zoom classes with a fitness instructor can be highly beneficial for individuals seeking to optimize their workout regimen.

2. Knee to Chest Stretch:

Follow the steps below for this one to perform it correctly – 

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent.
  • Lift one knee towards your chest, holding it with your hands.
  • Maintain this position for a soothing 30 seconds.
  • Bring the knee back to the starting position and repeat the process with the other knee.

3. Cat Cow Stretch:

Again, just stick to the steps below, just like with the knee-to-chest stretch – 

Start on your hands and knees, aligning wrists with shoulders and keeping knees hip-width apart.

  1. Cat Pose: Arch your back by lifting your belly button towards the spine, letting your head drop forward. Hold this cat pose for a calming 10 seconds.
  2. Cow Pose: Raise your head towards the ceiling, letting your pelvis fall forward. Curve your back towards the floor in a cow pose.


Yes, pull ups can cause lower back pains. So to avoid this, it’s crucial to do them the right way, engage your core muscles, and gradually increase the difficulty. Understanding other reasons for back pain and adding exercises for relief is also key for a pain-free fitness journey.

Always remember that 6262 Fitness is here to help you with expert training, ensuring your pull-ups and overall fitness align with your health goals. If you need guidance, just give us a call at 9076306262.

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