The pull up is a classic exercise that targets the upper body muscles, including the back, biceps, and forearms. It’s a great way to build strength and muscle mass, and it can be done using a variety of grips and hand positions. However, many people struggle with pull ups, whether it’s due to a lack of strength or improper form.
In this article, you can have 9 excellent tips for improving your pull up strength and form. By following these tips, you’ll be able to increase the number of reps and perform the exercise with better techniques.
1. Use the Proper Grip
One of the most critical aspects of the pull-up is your grip on the bar. There are three main grip types: narrow, wide, and mixed.
1.1. Narrow Grip
This involves holding the bar together with your hands, about shoulder-width apart. This grip targets the biceps and upper back muscles more effectively.
1.2. Wide Grip
It includes holding the bar with your hands wider than shoulder-width apart. This grip targets the lower back muscles more effectively.
1.3. Mixed Grip
A mixed grip involves holding the bar in a narrow grip and the other in a wide grip. This grip allows you to lift more weight and is often used by advanced lifters.
To properly grip the bar, place your hands on the bar with your palms facing away from you (pronated grip). Make sure your hands are evenly spaced, and your fingers are wrapped around the bar. Avoid gripping the bar too tightly, leading to fatigue and decreased performance.
2. Focus on Your Lats
The latissimus dorsi (lats) muscles are essential to the pull-up movement. These large, broad muscles are located on the sides of your back and are responsible for pulling your arms down and toward your body.
To properly engage your lats during a pull up, think about squeezing your shoulder blades together and pulling your elbows down towards your hips. This will help you generate more power and lift your body more efficiently.
3. Keep Your Shoulders Back and Down
Strong and healthy shoulders are beneficial for good posture, everyday activities, and even improving your pull-ups! Keeping your shoulder blades back and down can help you improve muscle strength while avoiding injury.
This exercise focuses on engaging the muscles in the upper back to help with correct posture. To begin, stand tall with feet hip-width apart. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, so they are directly above your hips, keeping them slightly down towards the ground.
Hold this position for five seconds before relaxing and repeating. Maintaining a straight spine throughout this exercise is vital to maximize benefit and reduce the risk of injury.
You can also incorporate this posture into other exercises like pull-ups or push-ups as an added challenge. Doing so will engage more muscles and increase the body’s stability during these movements.
4. Use Full Range of Motion
Using a full range of motion (ROM) in your pull ups is vital for maximizing muscle activation and developing strength. To do a full ROM pull up, start with your arms extended and your body hanging below the bar.
Pull your body up until your chin is above the bar, then slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position. Make sure to fully extend your arms at the bottom of the movement to complete the entire ROM.
5. Incorporate Assistance Exercises
If you’re struggling with pull ups, incorporating assistance exercises into your training can help you build the strength and muscle you need to progress. These exercises should be done with the correct form and technique, allowing you to work those supporting muscles often neglected during traditional pull-up training. Assistance exercises include
- Band-resisted pull-ups
- Bodyweight rows
- Isometric holds
- Inverted rows
Incorporating core and shoulder stability exercises into your routine can help improve your overall range of motion while strengthening your supporting muscles for better control when performing pull ups. You should start with low resistance bands or lighter weights, depending on your fitness level. As you get stronger, increase the resistance or weight.
6. Use the Proper Breathing Techniques
Do you want to improve your pull-up skills? The proper breathing technique can help. Learning and training with the appropriate breathing cycle will lead to better results in reaching your goals.
The first step is understanding the different types of breathing patterns. Diaphragmatic or abdominal breath is deep; controlled inhalation and exhalation are done by drawing air into the stomach area rather than shallow chest breathing. This breath helps improve core stability, increases oxygen flow throughout the body, and reduces stress levels.
When doing pull-ups, it’s best to use diaphragmatic breathing correctly during each repetition. When you inhale during a pull-up, do it through your nose and fill your belly with air instead of expanding your chest cavity.
7. Use Weighted Pull Ups to Build Strength
Pull ups are one of the best exercises for building upper body strength. But many people need help to perform or progress in their pull up routine. Weighted pull ups can help improve your pull up performance and add an extra challenge to your workout.
Weighted pull ups involve adding additional weight while performing a standard pull up. This extra weight adds resistance, making it more difficult to complete each repetition, and challenging your muscles even further than a regular pull up.
To add weights, you’ll need a belt with chains or straps attached to hang the weight from your waist during the exercise. Make sure that you select a comfortable belt size and an appropriate amount of weight that allows you to maintain proper form throughout the exercise. Once you have all this setup, it’s time to improve your strength.
8. Don’t Neglect Your Lower Body Muscles
Your lower body is key to unleashing the full power inside and outside the gym. By strengthening your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves, you can improve your pull up exercises.
Most people tend to focus on their upper body strength when it comes to pull ups. However, neglecting the lower body can harm overall performance and increase the risk of injury due to decreased stability and balance.
Developing leg strength will help you become more assertive on any compound movement that requires pushing from the ground or explosive hip movements such as box jumps or burpees.
9. Do Stretching
Stretches not only improve flexibility but can also help improve your overall performance in activities such as pull-ups. By regularly including stretching in your routine, you can increase the range of motion in your joints and muscles, allowing for better form and increased strength when performing a pull up.
When stretching to improve pull-up performance, focus on dynamic stretches that involve active movements that mimic the action of a pull-up. Movements like arm circles and shoulder rolls will help improve flexibility while strengthening the muscles used during a pull up.
Thankfully, static stretches should be included to target the larger muscle groups involved with the exercise, such as the chest and back muscles. Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds.
10. Add Some Strength Training Exercises
A regular strength training program can benefit from improved balance and flexibility to increase muscle mass and strength. To get the most out of your workout, it’s important to add specific exercises targeting certain muscles or body parts. If you want to improve your pull-ups, there are several exercises you can do to target the necessary muscles.
- Barbell row
- Reverse machine fly
- Machine lat pulldown
- Dumbbell row
- Back extension
- Machine seated row
- Dumbbell bent over lateral raise
For starters, you should focus on working the back muscles bent over rows or lat pulldowns. These exercises are designed to work your lats and upper back when doing pull-ups.
You can also build up your arm strength by performing bicep curls with dumbbells or barbells. This will help strengthen your arms, so they don’t tire as quickly when doing pull-ups.
11. Utilizing Progression
The idea behind this concept is simple, focus on the basics and gradually work your way up over time. By focusing on the progression, you can ensure that you are always making progress rather than just working out randomly or doing too much too soon.
The first step in utilizing this approach is to begin with, a basic bodyweight exercise such as a push-up or inverted row. You should then slowly progress through different variations of the same exercise, increasing difficulty each time as your strength and confidence increase.
For example, after mastering a standard bodyweight pull-up, one could progress to weighted pull-ups or even more advanced exercises like muscle or ring pull ups depending on the desired results.
12. How to Train and Build Strength for a Pull-Up – A Bi-Weekly Plan with Reps & Sets
If you are a beginner and need to improve your pull-ups, get started with this fortnight pull-up plan.
12.1. Week 1
|Abdominal X-Up||3||5 on both sides|
|Side Plank||3||15-20 seconds|
|Dumbbell Hammer Curl||3||15|
|Lying Triceps Extension||3||12|
12.2. Week 2
|Dumbbell Farmer’s Carry||4||25 yards|
|Dumbbell Wrist Curl||3||12|
|Bear Crawl||3||20 seconds|
It’s important to note that these are just general guidelines. The specific number of sets and reps may vary depending on your fitness level and goals. Take adequate rest and recovery between workouts to allow for proper adaptation and progress.
The pull up is a foundational exercise for upper body strength and should be a staple in any fitness routine. While challenging, there are easy tips and a bi-weekly exercise plan to improve your pull-ups.
Start by building overall body strength through conventional exercises and practice proper form. Increase repetitions over time and use bands or other assistance to make pull-ups easier.
Good luck on your pull up journey! By following these tips and consistently practicing pull ups, you can see significant improvements in strength and form. As with any exercise, consult a medical professional or certified trainer before starting a new workout routine.