Next to the push up, the pull up is one of the most recognized bodyweight movements. If you’re a beginner and can do one assisted pull up, you’re already showing great strength potential. Below, I will discuss the correct way to do a pull up, variations, and benefits.
Proper Form – Technique Is Key
You can tell when someone is a newbie to the gym just by watching them do pull ups. They’re swinging their bodies, their legs are all over the place, and they’re not doing full reps. Here is the proper setup and execution of a pull up.
- First things first, you need a pull up bar. It can be any horizontal bar that will hold your weight. If you have a gym membership, great, there will definitely be a pull up bar there. If your gym doesn’t have one, I suggest going to a new gym, because what gym doesn’t have a pull up bar? There’re also ones you can buy and setup at home, like in your door frame, or ones you can install on your wall or ceiling.
- Now that you have a bar, it’s time to do a pull up. First thing is hand placement. You want your hands to be just outside of shoulder width. You also want your palms facing AWAY from you. If you face your palms toward you, then you’re doing a chin up. Chin ups are a similar variation of pull ups, but I’ll discuss that later on.
- The next thing you want to do is engage your core. This will help prevent you from swinging so much. Tighten your abs as if your about to take a punch, and squeeze your butt.
- The final step in the setup is to slightly raise your feet off the ground. You don’t want to begin a rep from the ground as you will subconsciously want to jump. The extra momentum from jumping will cheat your muscles out of doing all the work.
Now that you’re all setup, it’s time to execute the pull up:
- Begin to pull yourself up until the bottom of your neck, or collarbone, is level with the bar. Imagine trying to pull the bar towards you.
- Slightly pause at the top, so you know you’re in control of the rep.
- Slowly lower yourself down back to the starting position. Be sure to lock your arms out at the bottom, to prevent from doing half reps.
- Congrats, you just did a full pull up!
Pull Up Variations – For When It’s Too Easy or Hard
So maybe you’re not strong enough to do a complete pull up yet, or you’ve gotten to the point where pull ups are too easy. Not to worry, there is always a way to challenge yourself. Here are a few different variations of pull ups.
For when pull ups are too hard:
- Australian Pull Ups
- Australian pull ups, or horizontal pull ups, are an easier variation of the pull up because it allows you to keep your feet on the ground, therefore you’re pulling less weight.
- To setup, you need a pull up bar about waist height. Preferably an adjustable squat rack, but if you can make a table or bench work, go for it. Next, lie down under the bar, with the bar just above your rib cage. Place your hands about shoulder width apart, and engage your core, just like a regular pull up.
- To execute, pull your chest to the bar, and slowly lower yourself down to the starting position. Be sure to keep your body straight and to keep your heels on the ground.
- Kipping Pull ups
- You may see some people at the gym claim that they’re doing “pull ups” when actually, they’re doing kipping pull ups. Kipping pull ups are when you use momentum from your hips to assist yourself up. They are mainly used for getting those last few reps in a set of traditional pull ups that you’re unable to get. You should only do kipping pull ups when you’re able to do 5-10 reps of traditional pull ups. If you rely on kipping pull ups too much, you’re training your muscles to rely on the momentum.
- There’s really no specific way to setup for kipping pull ups. Just setup the way you would do a regular pull up.
- To execute, slightly drive your hips forward, then drive them back while at the same time beginning to pull yourself up. Slightly pause at the top, then slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position.
For when pull ups are too easy:
- Weighted Pull ups
- Just as it sounds, weighted pull ups are pull ups with extra weight added. These will really add your strength to your back. The setup and execution is all the same as a regular pull up. All you need to do is simply place a weight between your knees, or for when you’re lifting heavy, invest in a weight belt or weighted vest.
Bonus variation, the Chin Up.
- The chin up is another great back building exercise, which also acts as a bicep exercise.
- The setup is similar to a pull up, but instead you want your palms facing you instead of away. You also want your grip to be about shoulder width instead of slightly outside of it.
- Execution is exactly the same as a pull ups. Engage your core, pull yourself up, then slowly lower yourself back down.
Pull Up Benefits – Build a Strong and Wide Back
There are many benefits to the pull up. The benefit is that it is a sign of true strength. Not many people are able to do a strict, unassisted pull up. So if can do a pull up, you’re in an elite group. The pull up also acts as a compound exercise, meaning it works multiple muscles at once. The muscles worked are:
- The Latissimus Dorsi, or simply, the lats.
- These are the main muscles worked. The lats are what give that wide appearance when they are strong and well developed.
- To get more bicep work, do chin ups, as it activates the biceps more than a regular pull up.
- By engaging your core, you’re keeping your body stable and also strengthening it during the exercise.
Now You’re the Pull Up Expert
The pull up is one of the most effective compound exercises there is. If you’re looking to strengthen your back or challenge yourself, performing pull ups is definitely something worth a shot. Follow these pull up tips and I can assure you that you will notice huge strength gains in your back.
I hope this article helps you on your fitness journey! Leave a comment below.