As many people begin their fitness journey, they may wonder whether they will ever be able to illusive pull-ups. Some people in the gym make it look effortless, which can be very intimidating. In fact, some people are too embarrassed to ever attempt a pull-up at all!
However, the fear of embarrassment doesn’t have to stop you from trying something new. Even those experts at the gym had to start at the very beginning. Keep reading for the ultimate guide to completing a proper pull-up, as well as some extra tips on how to become an expert.
Benefits of Pull-ups
There are many reasons why the classic pull-up is still the gold standard for bodyweight exercises. On top of looking awesome, it’s also the most effective way to work your entire upper body and your entire core at the same time.
On top of that, pull-ups can also help correct your posture. The motion of stretching out your torso at the bottom of the movement and activating every single muscle on the way up will strengthen your back in ways other compound exercises can’t. Strengthening these muscles will improve your posture and help keep your joints in place.
Correct Form for Beginners
There are three different types of pull-ups. Each form has its pros and cons, and which one you choose will largely depend on your fitness goals.
If these forms sound too difficult, beginners can always start with a dead-hang. There are tons of dead hang benefits for those who are just starting their pull-up journey. However, for those ready to attempt a full pull-up you have three forms to choose from:
This type of pull-up is the most popular in the fitness world for those looking to build muscles. Bodybuilders, in particular, almost exclusively train with this form.
You pull your chin up to the bar, and as you lower yourself down, you go until your arms are almost straight, but not completely. This keeps tension in your back and arms throughout the entire set and forces your body to work harder.
Keeping tension in your arms can protect your joints and ligaments while performing this exercise. However, it also makes the movement extremely difficult. A beginner shouldn’t feel embarrassed for not being able to complete this movement right away.
This type of pull-up is for those focused on endurance. CrossFit lovers favor this form because they can increase their reps quickly. Rather than pulling your body straight up, you swing your hips and shoulders back to add a “kip” that gives you the momentum you need to get your chin up above the bar.
This form involves cardio and is great for those who want to increase their endurance and improve their health. However, it won’t build muscle the way constant-tension or dead hang pull-ups will.
Some purists even view kipping pull-ups as cheating, relying on momentum rather than your own strength to achieve a single pull-up. If muscle growth is your goal, it’s best to stay away from this form.
This form of pull-ups is perhaps the most daunting and not for those focused on increasing their reps. In fact, the strongest bodybuilders may only be able to complete 3 or 4 of these pull-ups. This is because, as you descend, you lower yourself down until your arms and shoulders are completely stretched out.
This forces you to start from zero with every single pull-up and doesn’t leave room for any extra momentum. It’s considered the best form of muscle hypertrophy. However, due to how stretched your joints are, it can also leave you vulnerable to injury.
For this reason, it’s recommended to perform this type of pull-up very slowly, focusing on form rather than speed. Rushing this form is often what can lead to injury.
How to Do a Proper Pull-up
So, now we come to it: how to do a proper pull-up. No matter what form you choose, the general movement is the same.
- Find Your Grip Grab the bar with both hands, placing them a little further than shoulder-width apart. If you aren’t doing a dead hang pull-up, retract and depress your shoulder blades in order to keep them secure throughout the exercise.
- Pull up Once your shoulder blades are retracted and set in place, simply pull with your arms. Don’t think about raising yourself into the air. Instead, try as hard as you can to pull the bar closer to you. Your body will know what to do, and you will naturally rise into the air. Keeping your shoulder blades retracted will open your chest and help with breathing as well as prevent injury.
- Try to Move Your Elbows to the Floor As you rise off the floor, think about shoving your elbows down to your sides. Once you get your chin above the bar, you’ve completed a pull-up. However, it’s considered proper form to raise your chest all the way up to the bar as well.
- Lower Yourself Back Down Once you have completed your pull-up, lower your body back down to the starting position. You may be tempted to let your body fall quickly, but don’t! This can cause serious injury and make it much harder to complete the next pull-up.
Do Your First Pull-Up Today!
Whether you’re doing pull-ups to grow muscle or just to improve your overall health, this ultimate guide will not steer you wrong. Pull-ups are the ultimate way to improve your fitness and reach your goals, and they can be done anywhere you find a bar.
Again, if you’re a complete beginner and can’t dream of completing even one pull-up, dead hangs are a great place to start. Dumbbell exercises are another great way to build up the strength needed to complete your first pull-up. In fact, don’t neglect the rest of the gym once you start adding pull-ups to your routine. Certain isolation and compound exercises can help increase your reps and even prevent injury.