March 9, 2021

11 ways to Improve your Pull Ups

1) Don’t go to failure – As soon as you can’t get as high as the previous rep, the set is over. If your speed slows down noticeably the set is over. If you can’t go all the way of the previous rep, then your set is over. After that your form gets worse.

2) Start in the proper position – Often people start in the dead hang position with their scapula elevated and their shoulders touching their ears. This is dangerous and incorrect. When you do this all of the tension is placed on your tendons and ligaments instead of your muscles. When you get on the bar you want to pull your shoulder blades down and lock your shoulders into their sockets. This is a far safer position and ensures that the stress will be placed directly on the muscles and not the tendons and ligaments.

3) Maintain a slight elbow bend throughout the set – Before starting your set you want to bend your elbows ever so slightly. This bend should barely be noticeable, but it will have a huge impact on your elbow health. Do not start with your elbows completely locked. This, again, places all of the stress on the tendons and ligaments instead of on the muscles. On each successive rep you should lower yourself until your arms are nearly straight, stopping just short of lockout.

4) Initiate with the lats – When you start to pull, be sure that you fire your lats first; not your biceps. If you have trouble feeling your lats, focus below and through your shoulder blades

5) Pull your chin to the bar – You only need your chin to clear the bar. That last few inches does very little for your lats and instead focuses the stress on the smaller, weaker muscles of your upper/middle back. The pull up should be used to target the lats, first and foremost. Don’t waste energy struggling with that last few inches at the top. Get your chin over while keeping your back arched and then lower yourself. Use other rowing exercises to target those smaller upper back muscles.

6] Use a variety of grips – There are multiple ways to pull your body up. You can do chin ups with your palms facing you at a number of different grip widths. You can also do chin ups with your palms facing each other, or pull ups with your palms facing away at multiple grip widths.  You can pull up on bars, rings, fat bars, ropes, towels, suspension straps, beams or  balls attached to ropes. The variations are endless. Use as many different chin ups as possible to avoid burnout or overuse injuries.

7) Use a variety of rep ranges – To do a lot of pull ups you need strength and you need endurance. Strength is built with low reps. You can do low reps with a weighted vest or dip belt or you can simply perform more difficult variations of pull ups. Endurance is built with high reps. This is where the use of bands comes in handy. Having a few different levels of band tension will allow you to vary your rep range greatly. This will help you boost your chin up numbers a lot faster. Some days you train in the range of 1-5 reps for maximal strength. Some day you train in the range of 6-12, and others you train in the range of 15-30, with a band, to improve your endurance.

8) Strengthen your grip – The stronger your grip is the easier pull ups will feel. I suggest getting a Captains of Crush Gripper and using it a few times per week. You can also add in some more specific grip work at the gym like fat bar holds, hexagon dumbbell holds, as well as various pinching and crushing exercises.  

9) Use your lower body – Remember that as your focus is on your lats, the supporting role of the rest of your body can assist you to lift your body in a pull up. Synchronise your pull up with a leg raise, bendimg your knee as you lift. Feel the extra lift achieved.

10) Vary your pace –  Establish your range first with a few standard pull ups, then try lifting slower, or drop down slower or even pause halfway up or halfway down.

11)  Vary your lift angle. Lift to one side then back down. Try a lift to one side, then while at the top of the lift, slide your body to the other side then back down to the start position