The pull up – a coveted skill, the holy grail for many and definitely one of the most challenging exercises out there. There are not many exercises that will fill you with elation the way a first pull up does. Before we get stuck into training talk, let’s get a basic understanding of what we are dealing with.
PULL UP VS CHIN UP
A pull up is a lat dominant exercise (the large muscles in your back). The palms face away from you just beyond shoulder width apart. The pull up has a smaller range of motion than the chip up and can be a bit more challenging depending on posterior chain strength of the individual.
A chin up is a variation of a pull-up which is slightly more dominated by bicep strength. The biggest difference is that the palms face toward the body, in an underhand position, with a grip that is narrower than shoulder width.
NAIL THE TECHNIQUE
Now that we know the main difference, let’s see how to execute a pull up perfectly…
1. Start from a passive position (dead hang), squeeze the knees together, contract the quads, squeeze the belly button into the spin and squeeze the glutes to create tension (that’s a LOT of squeezing I hear ya!)
2. Depress the shoulder blades and lift the chin to assist with lat activation
3. Rotate the elbows out and externally rotate forearms as you pull chest to the bar or rings, to ensure lats lock in as tight as possible.
4. Envision trying to stick your elbows together at the back when you reach the top of the movement.
5. Slowly lower yourself through the eccentric movement back to a passive hang in the bottom position of the movement. Arms fully extended.
6. Do it all over again 😉
WHERE TO START
Alright Rebels – grip strength is where it’s at. It’s the one thing that usually proves difficult for people when they first start training. Holding your entire body weight with your hands is something the forearms need time to become accustomed to. Simply hanging from your bar or rings for extended periods of time will work, alternatively, another great way to train your grip strength is holding heavy kettlebells in both hands. Seems straight forward huh?
Two great methods to then build towards your chin or pull up is Isometric Holds and Negatives.
Isometric Holds are simply getting yourself to the top of the movement by way of a step, jump or chair, and holding. If you are confident holding your bodyweight already perhaps just hang out there for 3 sets. If you’re not confident yet, maybe think about keeping a chair there for support until you become strong enough to step away from it.
Negative sets are repeating step 5 above over and over again. Similar to the isometrics – start in the held position at the top and slowly lower yourself down to the passive position at the end. When you reach the end, let go and start at the top again. This can be a pretty fatiguing exercise so don’t be surprised if you can’t do as many as you thought – remember go as slow as possible in this one – aim to feel everything!
Most people start with a chin up, however, if you lack wrist mobility you may find this gets in the way of your progress. The shoulders and arms are externally rotated during a chin up so if you find this painful, perhaps starting with hanging and mobility work would prove more effective.
If a major muscle group is switched off during your pull phase, you are disregarding the potential power output. Notoriously the lazy glutes are the last thing on people’s minds – remember SQUEEZE !
So that’s it team, crash course in Pull ups done. Remember you don’t always have to start at the bar, you can start on the floor building up scapula strength and getting used to handling your own bodyweight.
There are so many regressions and progressions to a pull up as it encompasses total upper body strength, so grit your teeth and put the work in, and I promise it will be worth it. Like I said at the beginning – there is no better feeling than when your chin goes over that bar, well maybe when it goes over twice. Happy Pulling!
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