How to get better at pull ups

awesome home based pull up bar kit

awesome home based pull up bar kit

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How to get better at pull ups introduction

Have you every wanted to know How to get better at pull ups. If you have this article is for you. I will go through the process of improving your pull ups with a progression program. For those who have tried to progress to the infamous pull up. You may have found that it is quite a challenging movement to perform. Due to the lower use of the lats and forearms in every day life. We as humans are susceptible to be weaker in this area. However if you are to achieve success in performing the pull up you have mastered one of the most difficult exercises for any new fitness junkie. It can be quite an excellent work out on it’s own to build lats, shoulders and the arms.

For others the question is often how to do 20 pull ups. The 20 pull ups is quite a sort after fitness challenge. You should hopefully be a lot closer to those 20 pull ups after following the progression workout plan. You could even try to challenge yourself to 25 pull ups.

The chin up whether it being the under hand or over hand variation could seem somewhat less challenging. Purely do to the disengagement of the lats which is being removed from the exercise. Chin ups are generally more focused on the biceps and can create huge amounts of gains in this area if you employ chin ups for building biceps.

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What are pull ups good for

Pull ups are really good for developing the lats on the back of your upper body. It creates that wideness and thickness of the back which gives you that v-taper look. It builds the shoulders and forearms as well. Pull ups are excellent for upper body if you are just doing pull ups at home, this can be a really great and cost effective way to start training at home if you can’t get to a gym.

How to do pull ups correctly

If you are unsure if you are doing pull ups correctly. You need to ask yourself these questions.

  1. Do I feel more strain in the shoulder than in the back.
  2. Am I feeling strain in my forearms.

The important thing here is to lift with your lats not your shoulders or arms so much. Even though these will be engaged your lats should be doing a lot of work. It is really good to do a drill before you start your pull ups. Where you have no weight and you do a pull up without your hands on the bar. Just stand where you are raise your arms straight up with a wrist over position and do a pull up in the air. Make sure you focus on your lats. Do this a few times. Imagine squeezing your lats. After about 10 of these try doing pull ups with this sensation in mind. A lot of your work out will be mental and you need to make sure you mind it focused on the muscle you are trying to work out.

How to do pull ups for beginners assisted pull ups

If you are a beginner lifter in general here are some tips. Let me just go through the different types of pull ups for beginners which you can try. You can try assisted pull ups. For these you will need a partner at home if you are performing your pull ups at home. Hang on the bar and bend your knees and ask your partner to help lift you off the ground.

How to do pull ups for beginners slanted pull ups

If you don’t have a partner to help you with your assisted pull ups you can start with a more basic version of the pull up. You can do this by hanging on the bar and placing your away from the bar as if you are slanted. The further away your feet are from under the bar the more intensity you will have. You can perform these lying down if you have a barbell you can do barbell pull ups. Alternatively you can do these standing on your feet doing the pull up. Even though this won’t directly engage the lats, there will be some engagement which will allow you to improve over time.

How to do a pull up for beginners band assisted pull ups

The other option you have if slanted pull ups are not challenging enough for you. Otherwise you can use band assisted pull ups to progress. Get some resistance bands and slot your feet into them and tie the bands onto your bar and use them to counter your weight when doing your pull ups. Band assisted pull ups can really be a great pull up work out for beginners who want to improve at home and don’t have the money for a gym or don’t have access to one.

How to get better at pull ups

In order to improve your pull ups we need to first examine which muscles are worked by pull ups.  One of the main muscles being engaged in the pull is the brachioradialis which is the muscles just below the elbow on the top of the forearm. The easiest way in which to start building up to pull ups is to strengthen this muscle. You can do this with the reverse overhand barbell curl. Which does not just benefit this area but also the biceps as well.  Another method is to use the isometric to slowly strengthen the muscles involved in the pull up over time. Performing an isometric movement involves performing the pull up as far as you can and holding that position for ten seconds at a time. This should strain the core muscles involved enough to strengthen them up for which attempt there after.

How to get better at pull ups from other methods

Some other methods include making use of counter weight machines which allows you to lift less weight when doing your pull ups. However these machines have a tendency to create an instance where you are cheating and compensating for the remainder of the weight. It is preferred to strengthen the forearms and lats using other compound movements in order to prevent cheat lifts.

Another method of eventually moving towards correctly formed pull ups is to start with a wider grip. Usually a bit wider than that of a chin up which will engage the lats and forearms to a certain extent. Slowly you can progress by widening the grip further and further. Until the grip eventually is in the correct position for the pull up.

How to get better at pull ups using the chin up to become stronger

By switching hand position on your chin ups to an over hand position. This will engage more of the lats purely due to the way your body will move as you pull yourself up.  With the over hand position your legs and torso tend to stay in the backward position which prevents your body from moving forward which engages the lats somewhat more than usual. This is still quite an easy movement to perform as opposed to a full pull up.

Other factors slowing your pull up progress

One of the things many people struggle with when it comes to the pull up, is the fact that the body needs to be kept quite straight. Ideally in the movement to get the most benefit from a pull up the body needs to be straight to create the tension in the right places. This mainly is important for the force gravity places on the body to create enough time under tension to benefit from the exercise. It is always good to try and tighten the core when doing these super back building exercises.

Pull up progression program

The plan for better pull ups. In order to improve you will need to start with a program which will allow you to build strength over time. Unfortunately there is no quick fix to doing more pull ups and will require some work. This is great a pull up workout for beginners.

If you are at the point where you can not do any pull ups where most of us are. We will need to start off small.

Week 1

  • 3 sets of 8 overhand bar bell curls. You may want to initially stick to lower weight. In the beginning as the forearms are not built to handle heavy weight.
  • 8 sets of 1 minute stiff planks. This mainly is to promote the form you will be needing in your pull ups.
  • 3 sets of 8 front barbell raises. In your pull ups your shoulders may not have the strength to cope. These front barbell raises will strengthen your shoulders to help you handle the load.
  • 3 sets of 8 seated lateral pull downs. Use lower weight and perfect your form. Straight back wide grip. Pulling the weight down slowly feeling the squeeze in the lats. It is also useful to make a connection between the mind and the muscle by imagining the muscle working. Just due to lower weight you may not feel as much activation as you would with heavier weight initially.

It is best to repeat this routine two to three times a week where your chest is not engaged in other work outs for the session.

Week 2

  • 3 sets of 8 overhand bar bell curls. At this point we will be bumping up the weight slightly. Generally go about 20% heavier than your previous week.
  • 8 sets of 1 minute stiff planks.
  • 3 sets of 8 front barbell raises. Once again push up the weight about 20% from the last session.
  • 3 sets of 8 seated lateral pull downs. At this point you should be pulling down about 50-70% of your body weight.
  • 3 sets of 4 over hand chin ups.
  • Incorporate the isometric. Get on that pull up bar using a wide grip. Pull your self up about half way and hold for 10 seconds from a dead hang pull up. Repeat this five times in this workout.

Once again perform this two to three times in your workout week.

Week 3

  • 3 sets of overhand bar bell curls. 20 % increase in weight.
  • 3 sets of 8 front barbell raises. 20% increase in weight.
  • 3 sets of 8 seated lateral pull downs. 60-80% of your body weight.
  • 3 sets of 4 over hand chin ups.
  • Once again bring in the isometric pull up from a dead hang pull up. This time hold for 10 seconds then try to pull yourself up slowly and lower yourself slowly. Repeat five times.

At this point the core should be strong enough to handle the pull up from the two weeks of planks. In week three we remove this as part of the workout in anticipation of the first pull ups to be performed in week four. Just to give your core some time to recuperate.

Week 4

  • In this week we want to keep the blood flowing to the lats and forearms where we will be performing the lift. So for the first and second session in this week. Stick to seated lateral pull downs on 40-50% of your body weight. With this movement you will for one correct any imperfections in your form. As well as stretch those muscles and keep them loose.
  • It is now the final session of week four. Go ahead and pat yourself on the back, you should be able to perform at least one well formed pull up. Challenge yourself and see how many you can do.

Other resources

Pull ups can be very challenging. If you do not hit your goals first time keep trying. Everyone’s body is different and for some it could take quite a bit longer to develop the strength.

Other resources on my blog : how to get bigger biceps

How to get better at pull ups infographic

How to get better at pull ups infographic

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