We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
The two "ups" are the classic back exercises. The other basic upper back exercise is bent-over rows. (Arms, pecs, and shoulders are secondary for both.) You can consider pull ups calisthenics because they are body-weight, but, approached right, they are strength-builders. Like push-ups can be. I do them on calisthenics days, once or twice/week.
Few fitness beginners can do many, or even one, pull up, and having excess weight makes it even harder. That's why gyms have assist machines, and bands for the pull up bars. Check your ego at the door, because we all suck. You begin with assists, and gradually reduce the amount of assist. (Pull-down cables are ok for upper back maintenance, but pull ups are the gold standard for fitness.)
If an ordinary guy over 35 can do 10 unassisted pull-ups, that's pretty good. Most gals need to use the assists, due to less upper-body muscle development. Some fit guys strap on weights to make their pull ups more challenging, but that ain't me. I see guys in their 70s doing a few sets of 10 as part of their strength rotations. That's cool. Some people will not give up on vigor and strength because they are part of the basic American values. In Euroland, people do not work out like Americans, but my pal in Switzerland tells me gyms are growing like weeds in Zurich where everybody has a desk job.
Funny thing about those 5 a.m. guys in their 70s is that after their workouts they shower and dress and leave for work in their suits and ties at 6:15 am, looking magnificent and powerful. It's a positive attitude towards life and I intend it for me. Not quitters. Quitting is not the Yankee way, not the Yankee ethic for men or women.
Mentally, the way to think about these ups is thrusting your elbows down rather than focusing on your arms. Best way to work on pull-ups (or chin-ups) for strength? Determine the amount of assist you need to do 5 - not quite 6 - good reps. With rests, do 5 sets each session. Over time, reduce the assist, still doing 5 sets of 5. When you can get to 5 sets of 5 with minimal assist (say, 20-40 lbs), work up to 8-10 reps. Then quit the assists and work up to whatever you can do. Nobody wants to be a twink.
If you're doing something like the Maggie's general fitness program, you will not have time to work on this more than once or twice/wk. A good challenge, though. We all need challenges or we decay.
This below is a bit technical. For me, sometimes pullups and sometimes chin ups. Doesn;t matter to me.
Trigger warning: these two guys have damn little body fat so they might make you feel bad about yourself. Too skinny, in my opinion, but clearly strong and healthy. What makes them useful specimens is that you can see the anatomy.