How to Pull-up

A guide to pull-ups

Thankfully the zombie apocalypse isn’t upon us quite yet but as it draws ever closer there has never been a better time to start practising your pull-ups!

The pull-up is an amazing tool to increase your raw pulling strength and gymnastic control. This skill transfers to many other exercises, such as the chest-to-bar pull-up and the muscle-up. Strict pulling control in a tight “hollow” position can also dramatically improve the quality of and ability to perform further exercises such as dead lifts, toes-to-bar, cleans, sumo dead lift high pulls and numerous other pulling-based or hanging-based exercises.

The set-up

1. Start by dead hanging from the bar. This in itself is a good indication of strength. If you can’t hold yourself on the bar for more than 20 seconds then grip strength is the first thing you need to address.

2. When you are in a dead hang you generate no torque and you are simply hanging loose like a rag doll, so the next step is to tighten everything up. Imagine snapping the bar with your hands and point your toes in front of you. Sit back into your shoulders and “give yourself a neck”. Think about bringing your ribs to your hips and squeeze your bum.
3. Keeping your abs tight initiate the pull from your back. Make a serious effort to stay in exactly the same position – leaning back will make things easier, but will affect the transfer ability of the exercise along with limiting the development of absolute strength.

4. Continue to pull through the arms keeping your elbows in front of you (think strict press) until your chin passes above the bar.

5. In this position there should be no swing in the body and you should be able to show control and hold at this top point.

6. Allowing the elbows to stay in front, start the decent. Stay tight through your abs, back and legs.

7. Complete the move by allowing the elbow to lock out at the bottom of the movement, ensuring your lats are still activated – this can be observed by the visibility of your neck.

Common faults

The biggest fault I tend to see is a break at the midline. This causes a tilt in the rib cage, which overextends the lumbar spine. This “leaning back” is typical of those without the control or strength for a full strict pull-up.

Practise Practise Practise!

If you haven’t yet done your first strict pull-up say a big hello to your pal “scaling.” Use the tools in the box to get stronger by practising scaled versions. Use a band hung from the bar, a band stretched between the squat stands, work with a spotter, place one foot on a box, or use negative pull-ups (controlling on the way down) to really build strength. Unless you can achieve ten truly strict pull-ups there is no reason to be adding weight yet, so work on these steps first and get ready for those zombies!
Written by Coach James

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