This movement is not easy folks. Pull-ups are badass for a reason.
Everyone knows it requires skill and strength to pull off well-executed pull-ups and chin-ups.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty - it's important you understand that the best way to get better at pull-ups is to simply do them. Do them more, and more, and more. Like any exercise, a good approach is to nail the technique before anything else. Nail the technique before adding weight, before adding intensity and before adding new variations. It's a lot harder to unlearn bad habits and bad technique rather than take the time to practise good technique and develop from there.
Today, we're focusing on the pull-up. This is an overhand or pronated grip movement that requires you to securely grip an overhead bar and control your way up and down for repetitions.
It takes a lot of strength, practise and repetition to master raising and lowering your body while suspended! Everyone starts somewhere, so we're going to run through our top three tips to getting better at the pull-up.
How to do a pull-up
- Grip a chin-up bar or monkey bar with your hands slightly closer than shoulder width and in a pronated position.
- Keep your torso as straight as possible while creating a curvature on your lower back and sticking your chest out. Your arms will be holding the weight of your body as your feet leave the ground.
- Breathe out and pull your torso up towards the bar until your chin is level with the bar. Keep your elbows close to your body.
- Keep your upper torso stationary as it moves upwards with only the arms moving. The forearms should do no work other than hold the bar.
- Slowly lower your torso back to the starting position, by extending your arms.
These are our TOP THREE tips to making you suck less at pull-ups.
1. Depress and retract your shoulder blades.
This is a cue to help you recruit the right muscles. Imagine your shoulder blades going downwards and backwards as you pull yourself up. This will help you to avoid the rounding of your back you often see.
2. Practise using a band instead of an assisted machine.
The plane of motion when doing a pull-up on an assisted machine is not the same as the plane of motion unassisted. When you grab onto that pull-up bar or chin-up bar, your body is almost angular, with the chest shooting upwards. On a machine, your body is perpendicular to the machine and the padding where your knees are fixed does not offer much freedom to move around.
A band is less rigid, providing you assistance without restriction. There are different resistances available depending on your level of ability too.
3. Activate the muscles you're working
Remember, the strength of your pull-up will come from your back, and not your arms.
When performing a pull-up, the latissimus dorsi (lat muscles) and core need to be SWITCHED ON. If you struggle to feel these working, we recommend doing some activation drills to reinforce mind muscle connection.
Many people rely heavily on their biceps and forearms to get them through the sticky or difficult parts of a pull-up. You can do activation movements like a plank, single arm pull down or just by simply visualising and feeling your shoulder blades retracting and depressing.
What helped you most when you started practising pull-ups? Are you a newbie to this movement or pro?
THE BOD App has step-by-step instructions detailing how you can perform exercises like the pull-up with great technique. Each exercise in our glossary also includes a video for you to refer to at the gym.
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