Ben Emanuel II
Pull ups are a beneficial exercise to learn for any person looking to improve their fitness. If you’ve never done a pull up before, the task can seem very daunting! Rest assured–with the proper training and dedication, any person can achieve one pull up. (or more!!)
There are many advantages that come with learning how to do pull-ups. For starters, pull-ups are a compound exercise–one in which more than one muscle group is involved. Pull-ups target a large range of muscles from your lats to your biceps and forearms, to muscles in your shoulders such as the teres major and trapezius. Pull-ups even work your abs and pelvic floor muscles! That’s why I consider them as one of the most effective exercises for your upper body. In fact, there’s no other exercise quite like it!
Adding pull-ups to your exercise routine will increase your grip strength. Pull-ups also quickly increase your heart rate which aids in fat loss. Not to mention, pull-ups are a convenient exercise. You can do them just about anywhere! All you need is your body and a bar (or something similar).
Before we talk about how to properly perform this exercise, let’s start with some common mistakes.
Many people wrongly assume that the best way to build the proper strength necessary to perform a pull-up is by training the muscles required on other workout machines. This is not the case. The best way to achieve a pull-up is by getting off the assist machine and onto a pull-up bar.
Your brain and central nervous system need to become familiarized with the motor patterns of a pull-up so it can repeat the same motion again and again. Learning to pull up one’s own body weight is a task that requires, well, the practice of pulling up one’s own body weight.
When it comes to any exercise, quality takes a higher priority than quantity. It is important to ensure you are lifting correctly. So, how do you do it?
The bar should be grasped about shoulder-width apart but you can choose to perform your pull-up with a closer grip. Be advised that too wide of a grip can lead to injuries in the shoulders. This exercise can be completed using a few different grip variations. In a classic pull-up, your palms will be facing forward. A couple other grip options are to have your palms facing back
ward (commonly referred to as a chin-up) or both palms facing in.
You always want to aim for the full range of motion. Make sure your arms are fully extended at the start and completion of each rep. Hang your body and if your feet touch the floor, raise them up by bending your knees.
To begin, engage your lats, squeeze your shoulders, and tuck your ribs under. You want to be in a tight vertical position. Always remember to keep your core and glutes engaged. When performing a pull-up, never shrug your shoulders. The best way to keep everything aligned properly is to pull your sternum towards the bar. Briefly, hold yourself at the top and slowly lower back down.
Make sure to always breathe through exertion. Inhale when you begin the exercise and as you pull yourself up. Exhale as you lower your body down. Breathing appropriately is crucial to any lift!
Your pull-up should be performed using strength, not momentum. Avoid any swinging and try to keep your body engaged at all times. Hinging your lower spine can cause back pain later on so make sure you’re keeping a vertical position.
If you get to the bar and can’t pull yourself up quite yet, practice by simply hanging from the bar for a few seconds at a time. Repeat this exercise and continually increase the length of your hangs. Another option, if you can’t pull yourself up quite yet, is to place a bench in front of you and utilize it as a step up. You even can keep a foot (or two) on the bench while performing the exercise. But, make sure to keep your knees bent so you can fully extend your arms. Having the proper form will make pull-ups much easier. Practice makes perfect!
Once you can successfully complete a single pull-up, pat yourself on the back! The initial pull-up is over half the battle!! One method to increase reps is by performing pull-ups regularly (every day if you can), but not to muscle failure. By not overworking your muscles, you can delay that onset muscle soreness and do pull-ups more often. Another approach to increasing your reps is performing a max set of pull-ups several days a week.
The most important part of pull-up training is to keep at it! Each body is different and when you find a technique that works well for you–stick with it!!
Having excess body fat could make learning how to do pull-ups harder for anyone. Learning how to do your first pull up might also involve some clean eating and cardiovascular training. High-intensity exercise like circuit training or sprints are good for decreasing body fat while sustaining strength.
Strength is a skill. And, like any skill…it is developed with practice and determination. If you can’t do a single pull-up, completing just one is your goal. If you can perform a few pull ups, aim to complete three sets of ten reps.
Your first pull-up is the most difficult, by far. Once you master one, you can start adding repetitions. Your pull-up game will improve by performing them correctly and often. Remember you gotta do the work, to get the results!