Master your pull-ups

What can you do that will enable you to get strong enough to complete your first rep or even set of strict pull ups?

By Manchester's Finest | 26 January 2017

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It’s so satisfying nailing your first pull up. There’s no cheating the movement for starters really, so it signifies a true level of strength as well as being one of those “main” exercises that will get you fantastic results once nailed.

Most who come into the gym want to achieve and get strong in the main bodyweight exercises…

I’m talking press ups, dips, planks, shoulder stand presses and of course pull ups. But, most cannot comfortably complete a single rep when starting out. It can be pretty frustrating too!

So what can you do in your current workouts right now that will enable you to get strong enough to complete your first rep or even set of strict pull ups?

Deadlifts will build posterior strength, the kind of strength needed to perform a pull up. Go as heavy as you can with perfect form, retracting the shoulder blades whilst maintaining a neutral spine for fantastic results. Deadlifts will build the overall structural integrity required to perform large compound bodyweight movements. An essential exercise.

Active hangs (or shoulder depressions) will a) build grip strength from hanging on the bar and b) isolate the lats, targeting the huge muscle required to get you above and beyond the bar. Start hanging from the bar with a pronated (palms out) grip directly above the shoulders. From there, lift your bodyweight up by depressing the shoulder blades down, keeping your arms as straight as possible. Hold this top position for 3 seconds, then slowly lower. Brilliant exercise to assist with your pull up goals.

Negatives are exactly that, the negative (or lowering) phase of the movement. Start either with a jump or with a resistance band to get your chin over the bar (the top end of the movement). From there, lower yourself down slow and controlled with perfect form for a minimum of 4 seconds. A lot of strength can be built during a negative rep and if you master this, you’re half way there!

Work on your rowing exercises to build back strength needed for a pull up. Bent over rows, single arm rows, landmine rows, seated rows, bodyweight rows, ring/TRX rows etc as well as rear shoulder strength work will pretty much guarantee a pull up in no time.

The trend I find usually is that females struggle initially to get their first pull ups out, whereas males tend to get numerous reps out with awful form, so the above applies to both sexes.

One thing it does take is practice, discipline and determination.

Anyone can master a pull up with perfect form. Take your time, focus on technique and ensure your correctly training towards it.