From the days of gym class to your first workout at a gym, the pull-up has been a nemesis for many of us. They are tough to do but feel so good when we pull our chins over the bar. The accomplishment felt from doing pull-ups is like no other.
Sure, having a good bench, squat and deadlift is great and all, but the pull-up speaks to more of the population. Not everyone wants to be a powerlifter and some people can’t do heavy lifting for various reasons.
I have met more people, in particular women, who want to do just A pull-up or be able to do more pull-ups.
Unfortunately, I think people usually go about it the wrong way.
When people are looking to improve their pull-ups, they usually think about accumulating more reps. I also see too many people using bands as assistance. I am OK with this for a few workouts but I have news for you, it’s probably not going to make you stronger.
Here are the other problems with these types of approaches:
- Your elbows and shoulders will get banged up from all of the reps, especially if you are kipping or using a band.
- You will start to cheat on range of motion or start to flop around and kip to get your chin above the bar.
- You won’t get stronger by just focusing on getting more reps.
- Bands are like training wheels. They will help you get the hang of it and build up your confidence but at some point you just have to get the courage to do the real thing.
I like the following method instead:
- Perform this workout 3-days per week. You can use a bench if you need to jump up to the top portion of the rep.
- Start with 5 sets of 1 rep. Rest as much as you need to in between sets. Add 1 rep to each set on each successive workout until you reach 5 sets of 5 reps.
- Jump or pull yourself until your chin is above the bar and hold at the top for 10 seconds.
- Lower yourself slowly until you are at a dead hang on the bar. Hold for 10 seconds.
- If you are only doing 1 rep, simply come off the bar and rest. If you are doing more than one rep, either pull yourself back up to the top (if you can), or jump back up.
Performing pull-ups this way will help many of the limiting factors of the pull-up, most notably your grip strength, bottom range of motion strength, and top range of motion strength.
Most people don’t go all the way up or down, so you need to work on those portions of the reps. We also tend to have weak grip strength, so let’s work on that.
Other Exercise Considerations
Trying to improve your pull-up using just this method that I explained above will help but if you want to further enhance your potential to improve your pull-ups, I also suggest incorporating the following exercises somewhere in your program.
I would actually perform these exact exercises on your pull-up workout days and do nothing else and save your squats and pressing movements for another day.
- Farmers Carries – 3 sets for 40-50 meters with heavy weight
- Ab Wheel Rollouts or Hanging Leg Raises (if your grip is still working) – 3 sets of 10 reps
- 1-Arm Dumbbell Rows – 3 sets of 10-15 reps
These three exercises will help with your grip, upper back, lat and abdominal strength. Combining these exercises with the pull-up program is sure to produce some REAL results.
It doesn’t matter if you are struggling to get just one pull-up or just want to improve your pull-up, this method is sure to strengthen your entire upper-body.
About the author:
Justin Grinnell is a strength coach, personal trainer, nutrition enthusiast and owner of State of Fitness in East Lansing, Michigan. You can follow him on Facebook, on Twitter@JustinGrinnell4 or check out his website grinnelltraining.com