Whether you’re new to our fitness centers in South Jersey or a lifting veteran, you’ve probably watched in awe as gym-goers grabbed onto the pull-up bar and lifted themselves up for a few reps. Pull-ups are an intensely attention-grabbing exercise, so if you can’t do any or even just a few, you might be embarrassed to jump up and grab onto the bar in front of the whole gym. You shouldn’t be embarrassed, everyone starts somewhere and any fitness veteran has a healthy respect for that.
Pull-ups are one of the most intense upper body exercises, they utilize almost every muscle group above the waist from core to neck. They’re also one of the best indicators of upper-body strength and strength-to-weight ratio.
So how do you get strong enough to do more?
Pull-ups immediately exploit back muscles, delts, lats, and even rhomboids — so you need to work your way through more extreme back exercises that approach your full body weight. These are heavy, load-bearing exercises that should always require a prior stretch and warm-up set with a light weight.
Rows and lat pull-downs are good examples of mechanically assisted exercises that allow you to lift heavy without a spotter. Inverted rows with free weights are another way to strengthen back muscles, but are a slightly more advanced lift and may require supervision to ensure safety and proper form.
Shoulder press for the deltoids and dumbbell shrugs for the traps are a winning combination. If you’re considering free weight shoulder press, make sure to enlist a spotter so that you can push to a heavier weight. Also consider throwing in a few sets of shoulder press negatives as you’ll want your stabilizer muscles to be ready to hold you up above the bar.
Your chest is going to be worked, not as hard as your back, but not having enough chest strength or endurance can stop you from being able to go for more than a few reps. The important part of the chest equation is the endurance. Bench press is a fantastic upper body exercise that builds overall strength, if you’re building your chest, consider implementing a ten-count between the full bar extension and when the bar reaches the bottom of the rep. Plate pinches for 30-60 seconds can also build chest and shoulder endurance for pull-ups.
Planks and medicine ball roll-outs build core strength and endurance to keep your body straight as you pull yourself up.
Curls and tricep-pull down are especially useful in building strength. Again, negative sets can greatly help with building enough endurance to do multiple reps and sets.
Performing The Pull-Up
There are a few effective techniques for training your entire body to do a pull-up. The first is an isometric hold, jumping up to the bar with or without a platform as assistance and holding your chin above the bar for as long as possible.
Once you can hold your body weight for 60 seconds and three sets, try some pull-up negatives. Try to take at least 15 seconds to reach the bottom of the rep.
At this point, it may be worthwhile to get some assistance. Try to see how many assisted pull-ups you can do, and you’ll be doing them unassisted in no time.
When you’re done training to do pull-ups, consider stretching everything out and building some flexibility with our yoga classes in South Jersey.