How do you achieve your first pull-up?
Pull-ups are one of the most common and challenging exercises used in strength workouts. It is one of the most effective ways to strengthen your body, and more specifically, your back, focusing on long-term physical strength. Mastering the pull-up requires patience, practice, and determination. But once you get the basics, you will be stunned by the results.
The Pros Of Pull-Ups
- They strengthen your back muscles. Pull-ups activate your back muscles. The stronger your back muscles, the better your bone mineral density, discouraging brittle vertebra vulnerable to fracture.
- Strengthen the arm and shoulder muscles. By performing pull-ups regularly, you’ll work the forearms and shoulders which will help you perform better in other strength exercises.
- Improve grip strength. It may be difficult, especially in the beginning, but grip strength is important if you lift weights.
- Improve overall body strength and fitness level. Strength training can increase your overall fitness level.
- Improve physical health. Strength training with pull-ups may improve your overall physical health by reducing visceral fat and help you manage type 2 diabetes.
Cook-Up A Pull-Up
Below are a few pull-up progressions so that you can get your first pull-up:
The Bar Hang
- Find an overhead bar and position yourself underneath it.
- Place your feet shoulder-width apart and keep your back straight.
- Hold the bar with palms facing away from you, hands positioned a bit more apart than regular shoulder-width.
- Lift your legs off the ground and count to 5.
- Place your legs back on the ground and count to 5.
- Do this until you can keep hanging for 15-20 seconds continuously.
Flexed Arm Hang
- Use a waist-high bar.
- Position yourself underneath the bar. Keep your legs and back straight.
- Use an elevated surface (like a box) to rest your heels.
- Hold the bar with your palms facing away, and hands shoulder-width apart.
- Lift your body by flexing your elbows and stopping when your chin is above the bar.
- Hold this position and count to 5.
- Slowly lower yourself back to the starting position.
- Increase the time gradually to 15-20 seconds.
Slow Reverse Pull-up
- Find an overhead bar and position yourself underneath.
- Keep your back straight and legs shoulder-width apart.
- Hold the bar and jump up so that your chin reaches just above the bar. This will be your starting position.
- Slowly lower your body. Your feet should NOT touch the ground and your arms should be extended.
- Hold this position for 5 seconds.
- Gradually increase the hold time.
Mistakes To Avoid
Not using your core
Yes, pull-ups are primarily a back exercise, but it does use your whole body. Without pulling your core tight while doing pull-ups, your arms will be pulling dead weight. Ensure that your body is in a hollow position while hanging from the bar. Cross your feet at the ankles and squeeze your legs together. Practice on the floor by doing hollow body holds.
Not activating your lats.
Work on actively turning on and using your lats while doing pull-up exercises because you can’t have strength without activation. Try ring row pull-ups to practice engaging your lats.
Only using band assistance.
Many people turn to bands for a boost, but bands are not very effective at building that pull-up strength. While band-aided pull-ups have their place, try mixing them up with the above progressive exercises (bar hang, flexed arm hang, and slow reverse pull-ups.)
Not allowing yourself to struggle.
Often, we get into the mindset that the more reps and sets, the better. But that often leads to frustration for not achieving the goal set. Instead, try schemes of 5 sets of 3-5 reps resting 2 minutes between sets. This is more effective than failing reps. Increase sets and reps as you progress and be patient. Allow yourself to struggle, it’s where the growth happens.
Not practicing enough.
It’s quite simple – to get better at pull-ups, you need to do more pull-ups. The more consistent you are, the faster you will get there. Try committing to 15 minutes of pull-up accessory work three days a week. Prioritise, commit and make it happen.
And that's that!
Pull-ups are the holy grail of bodyweight exercises. So no more shying away from some badass strength training exercises. With the use of the tools and techniques provided, you will be working your way up to your fist pull-up!