Hello! Today’s article is focussing on how to do the perfect pull up and if you can’t do one at all, how to build up step by step from beginner to being able to complete sets of ten.
Pull ups (and their many variations mentioned in the guide below) are an excellent upper body strength exercise that should be included in everyone’s workouts. Without getting too technical the benefits of pull ups are increased pulling strength, healthier shoulder joints (most people do far too much pushing in the gym and don’t balance it out with pulling), bigger and stronger upper back muscles and biceps. Not to mention that being able to haul your entire body weight up to a bar feels pretty cool and may come in useful if you’re ever in a hanging off the edge of a building predicament.
Girls, don’t be fooled into thinking this is a macho exercise just for guys wanting big muscles, pull ups are a ticket to lean and defined arms and back. Remember that resistance training is the most effective way to lose fat and get the body that 99% of my female clients desire. Take a look at the picture above, does she look too big and muscular?
How to do perfect Pull Up technique and form
A pull up is completed with palms gripping the bar away from you and focuses more on the Lats, a chin up utilises the opposite grip, with palms facing towards you and brings the biceps more into play as well as the lats.
- A full range rep should start from a dead hang (arms straight) and finish with your chin clearing the bar.
- When pulling up, lead with your chest and keep you shoulders pulled back to keep your shoulder joints healthy. Try not to concentrate on pulling with your arms, instead focus on pulling from your lats (upper back) as these are much stronger.
- Look up at the bar, not down at the floor.
- Don’t swing your legs and hips, this is cheating (also known as crossfit pull ups). Instead brace up your abs and squeeze your glutes to stop yourself swinging around and keeping the emphasis on the correct muscles.
- Pull yourself up explosively and control your drop back down to the floor. Repeat.
Now, if you’ve followed this technique advice and still no matter how hard you strain gravity always seems to win you’ll want some kind of guide on how to get good, a guide like the one right below this paragraph. Enjoy.
How to get good at pull ups
Pull ups are hard, no doubt about that. There are two things that hold most people back- lack of strength and poor strength to weight ratio, if you’re just not strong enough this guide will get you completing sets of 10 like a boss in no time. If you’re also overweight you’ll need to focus on your diet to reduce excess weight as well as completing the Sculpt pull up guide.
By the way- “But I’m a girl” is not a good reason for not being able to do pull ups! I hear this all the time and find it hugely satisfying when I get a female client to achieve her first unaided pull up!
Step 1: Start with Lat Pull downs.
These will strengthen your lats and arms, the muscles that pull you up to the pull up bar, complete 3×10 as part of your strength training routine 2-3 x each week. When you can do this with 75% of your body weight move onto step 2.
Step 2: Eccentric pull ups.
Replace your lat pull downs for 3×8 sets of just the lowering phase of the movement. To do this get a step that allows you to start the pull up from the top position (arms bent, chin above the bar) and lower yourself slowly (3-5 seconds) to the bottom position (arms straight), making sure you are resisting gravity primarily with your lats. When you can complete 3×8 fairly comfortably move onto step 3.
Step 3: Assisted pull ups.
There are two ways you can do these, either by attaching a resistance band around your ankles or by getting your gym buddy to give you a push on the pulling phase. Do not use assisted pull up machines as they are a poor imitation of the real thing. When you can complete 3x 8 with good form move onto step 4.
Step 4: It’s time for the real deal.
Start by completing as many good form pull ups as you can, we’re going to use 5 reps as an example here. We minus one rep to make 4 and then complete 3×4 full pull ups as part of your training sessions twice a week. The following week you should be able to complete 3×5 reps and so on until you hit 3×10 reps. Mission accomplished!
Step 5: Keep improving.
There are two ways you can go to keep improving , either keep trying to add reps to your sets or by adding some extra weight to yourself (either by holding a dumbbell between your feet or using a weight belt). If really want to test yourself check out the Sculpt Elite 20 pull up challenge via the link below, here’s my first attempt at it, I bomb out at 15! I’ll post again when I complete it.
The Sculpt Elite Challenge: 20 Pull Ups