The pull up has certainly been a nemesis for most of us. From the days we were doing pull-ups in high school up to the day we started going to the gym, the pull up was ever-present, reminding us of our weakness and lack of power.
However, despite being too hard to “pull”, pull-ups feel amazing, especially when you succeed in pulling your chin over the bar. The feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment you can get cannot be beaten by anything else.
Sure, having a good bench, squat and deadlift are great and all, but the pull-up speaks to more of the general population. Not everyone wants to be a powerlifter and some people can’t do heavy lifting, or don’t want to, for various reasons.
Over the years, I’ve met numerous people, both men, and women, who want to be able to do more pull-ups. 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. This is ok for a few workouts but I have news for you, it’s probably not going to make you stronger.
Here are the main problems with this pull-up approach
- Your shoulders and elbows will hurt quite a lot, especially if you’re using a band on a regular basis or kipping
- You might find yourself cheating on the range motion, trying to push yourself up in order to get your chin above the bar
- You won’t get stronger by just focusing on getting more reps
- Bands are useful at one point. They can definitely help you get a hang of this technique and assist you. However, at some point, you need to start doing the real thing. That’s when you’ll start reaping the full benefits of pull-ups.
I personally prefer the following approach when it comes to getting better at pull-ups:
- Perform this workout only 3 days per week. Doing it more often may lead to fatigue while doing it less can prevent you from reaping its full benefits for your body.
- Use a bench or a high mat to reach the bar if you need it
- Start performing this exercise with just one rep, do 5 sets of 1 rep and rest as much as needed between sets. Add 1 rep to each set on each successive workout until you reach 5 sets of 5 reps
- Jump or pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar and hold at the top for 10 seconds
- Lower yourself slowly back down to a dead hang and hold that for 10 seconds
- In case you are just doing one rep, simply come off the bar and rest for a few minutes. 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 you increase your grip strength, as well as your upper and lower range of motion strength, all of which are limiting factors that prevent you from performing more pull-ups.
Other Exercises to Consider to Improve Your Pull-Ups
Using the method I showcased above together with the tips listed above will definitely help you to further enhance your potential and maximize this exercise for you. However, if you want to leverage even more benefits, I suggest you incorporate a series of other exercises into your program.
I would actually perform these exact exercises on your pull-up workout days and nothing else and save your squats and pressing movements for a different day.
Let’s explore these exercises I recommend:
- 1-arm dumbbell rows: Perform 3 sets of around 10-15 reps
- Hanging leg raises or Ab wheel rollout: In case your grip is still working after performing the pull-up, you should try performing 3 sets of 10 reps each
- Farmers carries: Use heavy weights and walk for 40 meters. Perform 3 sets in total.
These three exercises are perfect for complementing pull-ups, as they can help strengthen your upper back, enhance your grip and boost your abdominal muscle strength. Combine these exercises with the pull-up for REAL results and you’ll notice how your life begins to change for the better.
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