Pull-ups are one of the oldest resistance exercises known to the human race. The pull-up is a great upper body exercise, but it is also one of the more difficult exercises for beginners. In fact, most people, men and women cannot do a single pull-up. How can you get better at pull-ups when you cannot do any?
What muscles do you use: The pull-up is an upper body exercise that involves the lattissimus dorsi muscles (the “lats”), the rhombodius, the teres major, the serratus group, and the rotator cuff muscles as well as your forearms and grip. In order to do a pull-up, you will need a pull-up bar set to the correct height. Most gyms have them on the crossbars at the top of the power racks. You can also buy a pull-up bar to install in a doorway for a home gym. Everyone should have one 🙂
Pull-ups and chin-ups. There are two versions of the pull-up. A “pull-up” is when your palms are facing away from you. A “chin-up” is when your palms are facing towards you. The chin-up has more bicep involvement and is easier to do. I find most women will learn to do a chin up before they master the pull up.
Getting started. Since the chin-up is easier to do than the pull-up, you should start with it.
Jumping chin-ups to a negative. The first method is known as a jumping chin-up. You should lower the bar or use a high enough stool so you can reach the bar with your feet still in contact with the ground/stool. You will use a jump to get the movement started. Only use as little jump as necessary to do the movement. You should lower yourself slowly and under control to get the most out of the negative portion of the exercise. Repeat the exercise for as many reps as you can properly lower yourself under control. Start with the palms facing towards you, which is easier for a beginner.
Band assisted chin-ups. If you have access to these bands they are great to help assist you. I love my Woody Bands. They’re very heavy duty bands and very safe to use. You can wrap them over a pull up bar and either use your foot to step on the band or put your knee into he looped band. We use the bands at Twirly Tuff. Once you feel like you’re able to do a full set of pull ups switch to less resistance.
I like to add both methods…
Moving away from assisted chin-ups. Once you reach the level where you can do at least one complete chin-up without any assistance or jumping, you should modify the workout. Start with as many unassisted chin-ups as you can do and then use the jumping or band assisted methods to complete the remaining reps you are aiming to complete. Remember, unless you challenge you will never make progress. A pull up or chin up is one of those exercises that once you can do one…then its only a matter of time before you do two! Just think, you are lifting your entire body weight. You are using so many muscles that your entire upper body is working for you.
Added Benefit? If you’re learning to do Pole, you will be lifting your body weight. Again and again and again. When you train your body for lifting, everything will get easier.
Everything we do in life requires some type of lifting…learn to lift yourself and you have no boundaries.