You might not have the ability to do pull-ups right away, but that does not mean you won’t ever have the ability to. As with any type of acquired skill, you will need to begin from the ground up, building yourself up by doing so.
This article will give you some suggestions that can help you increase your pull-up capacity. You’ll be able to increase the amount of pull-ups that you do in increments.
Before we go any further, though, let’s go over how pull-ups should be done.
Muscles worked: infraspinatus, teres major, trapezius, brachialis, biceps brachii, latissimus dorsi.
How it is done: hang upward from a sturdy limb of a tree, pull-up bars, or a monkey bar with a double overhand grip.
Start pulling yourself upward until your hands are below your chin. You can then lower yourself down again until both your arms have been fully extended. You have just completed a rep.
Chin-ups versus pull-ups: chin-ups force you to supinate both your hands. In other words, your hands will have an underhanded grip, and your palms will face you. Some say chin-ups are easier to do than a pull-up.
They are also capable of working the biceps a lot better in comparison to pull-ups.
Once you get the hand of doing proper pull-ups, follow the suggestions below to perfect this highly functional move.
Hang directly from an overhead structure that is sturdy (for instance, a monkey bar or pull-up bar) if a single pull-up proves too difficult for you.
In doing so, the support grip you have will be worked on. This kind of grip is required to move your bodyweight or maintain a position while you’re hanging.
A chair or box can be used if you need help stepping up to reach the bar. Grab it using a double overhand grip after setting a timer. Allow your arms and legs to hang totally straight. Try to hang for about 10 seconds with minimal swinging.
After hanging for 10 seconds or so, make your way up to 60 seconds, adding 10 seconds at a time. If you are having difficulty holding on for 10 seconds, then you might have to improve various other facets involved with your fitness routine.
Your Back Should Be Trained Two Times a Week
In order to increase the pull-up amount that you do, some type of commitment will need to be made on your end. This is a skill, and it must be cultivated the same way as learning to drive or speaking another language.
If you are not very fond of the hanging aspect, increase the length of time dedicated to back muscle training.
The exact same rule will apply if the goal involves increasing the amount of individual pull-ups you’re capable of doing. The strength training workouts below should be performed for 3 or 4 sets involving between 10 and 15 reps for the sake of enhancing your back’s endurance.
- Back extensions.
- Dumbbell lateral raises (bent over).
- Reverse machine flies.
- Barbell rows.
- Dumbbell rows.
- Machine seated rows.
- Machine lat pulldowns.
Try Doing Assisted Pull-Ups
An assisted pull-up can be performed three different ways. For starters, there are assisted pull-up machines with overhead bars you hold onto. Weight stocks help you lift yourself up.
The greater weight that is added to the machine, the simpler it will be to perform a pull-up. That is because the machine is helping you do the actual pull-up.
Another variation of the assisted pull-up involves banded pull-ups. You simply connect a resistance band with looped strengths onto a pull-up bar. From there, you step on the band, then pull yourself upward.
To perform resistance band pull-ups, one of the band’s ends should be tossed over the pull-up bar. It should then be fed through the opposite end. This will create an anchor point that is fully secure on the pull-up bar.
A box should be placed beneath the bar. From there, step onto the box. One foot should be placed over the resistance band.
You’ll then need to sink down and make your way toward the ground. The resistance band will assist you on your way upward.
The last variation involves having a trainer or workout partner manually help you up using their hands. The spotter should be holding your ankles as you attempt to pull your body upward, to the point where your hands are beneath your chin.
The spotter should push you upward from the back as well, and do so for 1 to 3 reps. This will give you a basic feel for motion range. You will still have to build yourself up to performing pull-ups by yourself, though.
Row Your Body Weight
Besides weighted exercises, you will need the ability to shift your body weight while performing any given activity.
For instance, inverted barbell rows or suspension training rows are optimal approaches to preparing the body for a series of pull-ups.
Suspension training rows involve you grabbing a suspension trainer’s handles with straight arms. Your leg should also be straight, and your core should be tightened as you bring both handles toward your sides.
Basically, you are bending the elbows, putting them behind you once the movement has reached its end. After you feel your back squeezing, your arms can be straightened out again.
The move can be made harder by raising the handles. In doing so, you will hang directly under a suspension trainer’s anchor point; this is referred to as a suspension training inverted row.
Your arms will be straight, your knees will be either straight or bent, and your back will be barely over the ground. Row your body toward the ceiling, and keep doing so for 5 to 10 reps.
Inverted rows can also be performed with a Smith machine or barbell. The barbell should be placed 3 to 4 feet high on some type of squat rack. That way, safety bars under the rack will support it.
Your knees should be bent to simplify the process. You can also keep them straightened for the sake of making each pull harder to do. Your abs should be tight, and your back should be straight as you pull your body up to the point where your chest makes contact with the bar.
You can then release yourself all the way back down to the ground, maintaining the straightness of your spine. You have just completed one rep (which can be performed on your gym’s Smith machine, if you prefer).
Do between 3 sets of 5 reps. Your goal should be to make your way up to 3 sets of 10 reps.
Perfecting Grip Strength
You may not be able to do proper pull-ups or dead hangs if your grip strength is lacking. There are a few different grip types: pinch, crush, and support.
Pinch grip focuses on the area between your forefingers and your thumb. It recruits the extensor muscles and your forearm. Crush grip can be described as a grip that lies between your palm and your fingers. Support grip, on the other hand, requires holding onto something for an extensive duration.
Crush grip improvements will enhance your capacity to retain your hold on a bar for much longer, regardless of how tired the muscles in your back are.
Barbell deadlifts and dumbbell farmers walks should be done for sets consisting of 5 heavy reps. Barbell/dumbbell shrugs should also be done for crush grip training.
Support grip can be improved by lifting something with over the head/against the chest rotations (perhaps a sandbag or bucket). Dead hangs and bodyweight rows will also be effective. Support grip focuses on muscular endurance within the muscles in your arms, back, and abdomen.
Pinch grip builds finger and forearm endurance, as well as mental grit. See if you can pinch several weight plates right between some of your fingers. It won’t take you long to see how difficult it actually is.
For plate pinch holding, one weight plate should be lifted (begin with 10 pounds) off of the ground with each of your hands, but only using your fingertips.
The plates should be held for the longest amount of time possible (go for a 30-second target minimum). The area between your forefingers and your thumb is where you should be holding from. Put the plates down after 30 seconds.
Remember Your Arms
Strict pull-ups utilize muscles inside your biceps, triceps, shoulders, and forearms.
Incorporate additional biceps training right into your existing workout routine in order to optimize your pull-ups. Here are some moves for strength training you should consider trying out.
- Incline bench dumbbell curl.
- Low cable biceps curl.
- Single-arm preacher curl dumbbell.
- Machine preacher curl.
- Barbell biceps curl.
- Resistance band curl.
- Dumbbell biceps curl.
You should aim for 3 to 4 sets comprising of between 12 and 15 reps. Four of the exercises above should be performed each week.
Don’t Get Psyched Out
Are pull-ups the one thing that you are not very good at? Maybe you are good at deadlifts, lat pulldowns, curls, heavy dumbbell rows, push-ups, and dead hangs, but when it comes to single pull-ups, you have nothing to brag about.
The odds are pretty good that you have created some kind of mental block inside your mind – one that has prevented you from trying to improve your pull-up game.
After being unsuccessful a handful of times at trying to pull yourself up, you may have concluded that doing pull-ups is not something you are capable of. This is far from true, though. You are capable of doing pull-ups. You simply have not trained yourself to do them – at least not yet.
It doesn’t matter what has prevented you from trying to raise your chin right over the pull-up bar – it is more of a mental obstacle than a physical one. Ultimately, the only thing you need to do involves traveling several feet upward.
Continuously Try to Improve
Congratulations, you are able to do a pull-up! Now try and see if you can do 2. Keep increasing your goal limit slowly. Go from 3 before working your way toward 5.
Once you are able to do 5 unbroken pull-ups (that is to say, you did not let go), you can release the bar. Strive to do a couple of sets of 5 pull-ups, and rest for 30 to 60 seconds in between.
Once you’ve achieved this, continue to follow the progression, up to the point where you consider yourself a pull-up Pro. Several weeks, if not months, may be involved between the following tasks:
- 1 set of 10 reps, followed by 1 set of 5 reps.
- 1 set of 10 reps.
- 2 sets of 10 reps.
- 3 sets of 10 reps.
- 3 sets of 5 reps.
- 3 sets of 8 reps.
After you are able to do 3 sets of 10 strict, unbroken pull-ups, strongly consider trying to do even more. Here is why.
30 pull-ups can enhance your muscular endurance. For the most part, doing anything more than that should be exclusive to CrossFit training. With that program, kipping is allowed. Military members also perform excessive amounts of pull-ups.
Adding More Weight
If the goal you have is muscle and strength-oriented (in other words, you’re interested in building muscle quickly or lifting heftier weights), think about adding some resistance to your pull-ups.
Mind you, this should only be done if you are able to do 3 sets of 10 strict, unbroken pull-ups. If you do want to add some more weight to your pull-up, then the dip belts have a loop that you could put a chain through, which can then be attached to either a weight plate or a kettlebell. The chain can then be secured to your belt, followed by the belt onto your waist.
Begin with 10 pounds before making your way to as much as 45 pounds’ worth of extra weight. The objective here is 3 to 5 sets containing 5 reps.
Weight can also be added by holding one dumbbell directly between the legs. However, this method of increasing resistance is actually quite dangerous. That is because the weight is capable of falling to the floor through your legs.
Try Kipping Pull-Ups
Kipping pull-ups are popular in the world of CrossFit. You basically use momentum from hip drives in order to bring the chest toward a bar.
In CrossFit, your chest needs to make contact with the bar, as opposed to your chin. As such, elite athletes often use a much more efficient variation of strict pull-ups in order to complete more reps within a short amount of time.
In order to perform kipping pull-ups, begin with one dead hang. Your legs should be used to swing forward and backward. After your legs fall behind you, your chest can be driven toward the bar. Be sure to put your back into it.
Kipping pull-ups should only be attempted after you are able to do 3 sets of 10 unbroken, strict pull-ups. When it comes to kipping, you might have the ability to do as many as 20 reps – if not more – in one set.
Don’t forget – it is a totally different pull-up method, and warrants a completely different approach to mastering.