We’ve had a lot of interest and question on this topic, so we decided to put our heads together and come up with the best possible informations that will help you excel at pull-ups whether you are about to do your first 1 or 100. Please enjoy the information below and go and become the Pull-Up Beasts we know you can be!
Pull-ups work all of the “pull” muscles in your body: your back, biceps and forearms. Interestingly pull-ups are actually indicative of your overall fitness… for example anybody that can do a pull-up is in pretty good shape; anybody that can do 10 or more is in great shape. However, pull-ups are also tough as hell, especially if you’re just getting started.
One of the main reasons people have problems doing pull-ups is that they have weak posture. Chest caved in, upper back rounded. All caused by sitting still all day long.
Another issue is that unlike other exercises that can be completed with just your body weight (squats, lunges, and push ups etc.), pull-ups and other exercises that strengthen your pull muscles require at least one piece of equipment which is one of the reasons so many people are unfamiliar with the satisfaction of completing them.
We’re going to show you how you can gain those ‘Pull Payloads’ and build into what can become an amazingly addictive and rewarding exercise to add to your routines. First we’ll start with the 4 simple mistakes that people encounter so you don’t fall into the same trap. Then we’ll move onto completing your first sets and developing on your first sets with exercises to build you to your best.
Lets begin!4 Biggest Mistakes In Pull-Up Form
It’s important to remember that the back muscles are supposed to be the primary focus when performing pull-ups. Doing partial reps doesn’t allow the lats to come to a fully lengthened position between reps, which encourages the arms to kick in and do most of the work. If you can’t do as many pull-ups from a full hang, make it your new starting point. Even finishing the rep with a slight bend at the elbow is cheating.
If you want your lats to become stronger and more developed, then keeping your elbows under the bar matters. It will also make it much easier to get your chest up when the elbows aren’t held too wide. All of this means more back stimulation and a good quality pull.
The hardest part of a pull-up is actually learning to control your scapulae, or shoulder blades. Each and every rep should begin with a notable depression and retraction of the shoulders. This tightens up the back muscles and prepares you for a proper pull using less of the biceps than you would otherwise. There is more online about ‘Setting your shoulder blades before pull-ups’.
Many bloggers out there claim that the body should be held completely straight from head to toe in order to perform a good pull-up. If you’re starting off though, this can set you off on the wrong path. Pull-ups are intended to be a back developer, and we know that hitting the back requires the shoulders to be retracted and set to engage the posterior muscles. Try pulling your shoulders back without mildly arching your back. It’s not possible. To hit your back properly during pull-ups, think of raising the rib cage toward the bar. Arch the back, and set the shoulders. You’ll feel the difference.6 Steps To Mastering Your First 5 Pull-Ups
If you’re starting from absolutely square 1, start with bent over dumbbell rows. These are the most basic of back exercises
Note: If you are a little overweight at the moment, it’s ok. You might want to stick with this step until you lose a little bit more weight and get stronger – maybe go to 35 or 40-pound (18kg) dumbbells and then increase the intensity until you’re happy to move onto step 2.
Body weight rows are the PERFECT precursor to pull-ups. The body weight row works the same muscles at a different angle. You can also make adjustments to the weight or height with ease.
Notes: If you use a squat rack you can adjust the height of the bar, you can adjust how difficult the exercise is. If you’re just getting started, put the bar very high, so you only have to lean back slightly. If you’re stronger, you can start with a lower bar.
You can use the assisted pull-up machine in a gym. It doesn’t give you the full feeling of a pull-up, but it’s certainly better than nothing. Or, try doing one of these alternatives:
Assisted Pull-Ups Variations:
Now, let’s say you don’t have a rubber band, you don’t have somebody to hold your feet, and you don’t have a chair – you ONLY have a pull-up bar. That’s okay – you can do what we call negatives. When doing a negative, you jump above the bar and try to lower yourself slowly and in control until you’re at the bottom of the movement. This can be very dangerous if you’re very overweight, so move slowly through the previous steps first. However, once you have a decent amount of back strength, doing negatives is a great way to build arm and back strength. You can either jump above the pull-up bar, and then begin to lower yourself back down IN CONTROL, or you can hop up on a chair to get above the bar and then lower yourself back down. Again, the name of the game is “in control.” You don’t need to lower yourself so slowly that one repetition destroys you…lower yourself in a controlled speed – Counting to three during the movement is a good tempo.
For MANY people, especially if you have spent time in the gym in the past working on your biceps, you might find it easier to start with chin ups (with your palms facing toward you) for your first exercise before trying pull-ups (with your palms facing away from you).
Depending on your weight, your level of fitness and strength, and how far along you are in these progressions, you might be able to start with more than one pull-up.
Once you’re able to do 3 sets of 10 pull-ups or chin ups, you have a few options:
Continue to get better at doing more reps – 3 sets of 12, 3 sets of 15, 3 sets of 20, etc.
Start doing other types of pull-ups – like wide grip pull-ups (grab the bar WAY out with both hands), side to side pull-ups, uneven pull-ups, etc.
Add weight and do weighted pull-ups or weighted chin ups; if you’re at this level and interested in doing so, here’s what you need to do:
5 More Drills To Help Build On Your First Pull-Ups
This exercise is not recommended for people with back problems. A Low Pulley Row is a better choice for people with back issues.
Also, just like with the bent knee dead-lift, if you have a healthy back, ensure perfect form and never slouch the back forward as this can cause back injury.
Be cautious as well with the weight used; in case of doubt, use less weight rather than more.
You can perform the same exercise using a supinated (palms facing you) grip.
As you become stronger lower the rings to increase the difficulty of the exercise.
This takes advantage of the fact that eccentric training is far stronger than concentric training – in other words, you are much stronger while lowering a weight than you are while lifting it.
The key is to make sure not just to pull with your arms. Instead, just like with the rows, focus on pulling your arm as far back behind you as you can. The sled can be a good transition to hard pulling work, as it’s possible to load it with as much or as little weight as needed.
A way to develop great arm strength is rope climbing.
Just like we used eccentric training to quickly boost strength with the jumping pull-up idea, we can do the same with rope climbing. Don’t worry about climbing the rope – just use your feet and climb in the most energy-efficient manner possible.
Once you get to the top of the rope, come down using only arm strength. This is a great way to build both the grip and arm strength required for strong pull-ups.