Pull-Ups 101

The Rack Front doors

Pull-ups are a great muscle-building exercise. But there’s a reason why so few can accomplish this impressive feat of strength and are unable to do enough reps to truly maximize the muscle-building benefits of this exercise. Let’s begin by covering why pull-ups are so difficult in the first place. First, with pull-ups, whether you weigh 100 or 300 pounds, that’s the weight you’ll have to overcome with each rep. For example, even some of the strongest men in the world can barely hit 4 repetitions. Second, pull-ups are not just a back exercise. No matter how strong your bigger back muscles or biceps get, if you have weak links in the chain, it will limit you from improving your pull-ups.

So how do we get better at them? First, let’s look at body weight and composition. Most individuals achieve some form of progression when losing weight. Wait what? Yes, losing weight can help you move closer to your pull-up goals. This tip only applies to those who may be overweight based on their anthropometrics. When you weigh less, there is less body mass to pull. Second, building a stronger grip, back, and core can exponentially improve your pull-up game. Use a variety of techniques and accommodating resistance to build the musculature: machines, bands, negatives, isometrics, etc. all can help your pull-up game. Lastly, what does your form look like? Have a coach watch and critique your form and it can be a flip switch in gaining your first pull-up or stringing reps together. Good mechanics will always trump over weight lifted. Changing foot and grip position, body alignment, and activation order are just a few a coach can guide you through.

What are you waiting for? Want to get your first pull-up? Ask a coach what are the first steps to achieving this goal!

Brandon Bailey
MS, CSCS, CPPS, USAW, CFL2

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