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3 Easy Tips to Improve Your Pull-Ups

One, two, three… more pull-ups are around the corner.

Scroll down to find out what 3 easy tips to improve your pull-ups in record time.

The pull-up is a close kinetic chain exercise, this means that the hands are fixed on a surface and the body moves. It is regarded by many as the best bodyweight exercise for your upper body as it targets your back, shoulders, and forearms, as well as a little bit of your biceps.

To enhance your pull-ups, Alex Lorenz shared three straightforward tips to optimize this movement. Alex Lorenz is the co-founder of Calisthenic Movement and has trained Calisthenics since 2012, uploading videos regularly for those people interested in getting in shape using only their body weight.

Check it out below.

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3 Easy Tips to Improve Your Pull-Ups

First and foremost, the power behind your pull-ups originates from your back rather than your arms. Therefore, it’s crucial to activate your back muscles before initiating the arm bend to pull yourself up. Understanding the distinction between the passive and active hang is key.

In the passive hang, you simply suspend yourself from a bar with straight arms, involving minimal activation of your back muscles. Conversely, the active hang requires pulling your shoulder blades down and together, known as depression and retraction. In both positions, the elbows remain unbent.

The passive hang focuses on grip strength and doubles as a stretch for lats and pecs, enhancing shoulder flexibility. On the other hand, the active hang activates lats, traps, and lumbar, making it the ideal starting position for a pull-up.

Maintaining the active hang during the entire motion is advantageous for engaging a broader range of back muscles, ensuring strong and healthy shoulder girdles. You may also incorporate a technique where you release into the active hang and switch to the passive hang for each repetition, facilitating the learning of the correct technique.

Regardless of the variation chosen, it is imperative to fully extend your arms in the bottom position.

The second tip revolves around optimizing back engagement. Envision the resistance right under your elbow when executing a pull-up. Drive your elbows down towards your body to activate your back muscles optimally. This movement causes automatic bending of the arms, engaging the biceps, brachialis, and brachioradialis. To enhance this visualization, practice with a resistance band fixed beneath your elbow, pulling it down without gripping it. This technique ensures the right neural-muscular input.

The final tip emphasizes muscle tension. While explosive pull-ups contribute to increased explosive strength, it’s essential not to compromise joint health by crashing into the bottom position. Many strive to set new personal records by performing as many pull-ups as possible, but when aiming for solid strength and muscle mass, time under tension becomes critical.

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Alex asks you to consider two individuals of the same height, weight, experience, and training. Person 1 achieves 15 pull-ups in 15 seconds with explosive movements and quick descents, experiencing minimal tension. Person 2 accomplishes 10 pull-ups in 30 seconds, executing quicker pull-ups but descending slowly with greater control. Although Person 1 completes more reps, Person 2 maintains muscles under tension for a longer duration, showcasing greater strength.

This means that more reps do not always equal more gains. If you want to increase your strength, you should consider how long your targeted muscles are under tension during the execution of an exercise.

And those were 3 easy tips to improve your pull-ups presented by Alex Lorenz. To visualise the movements, contraction and detraction of the muscles and more of what Lorenz talked about, simply watch the video below.

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Pull-ups are arguably the best upper body exercise you can do without the need for any equipment. Check out some of the benefits of doing pull-ups regularly.

  1. Muscle Building: Pull-ups primarily target your upper body muscles, particularly the latissimus dorsi (lats), biceps, and upper back. This makes them an excellent exercise for building muscle mass and strength.
  2. Versatility: You can do pull-ups virtually anywhere you can find a sturdy horizontal bar. This makes them a convenient and versatile exercise that can be incorporated into various settings, from gyms to playgrounds.
  3. Functional Strength: Pull-ups engage multiple muscle groups and promote functional strength. This means the strength you gain from pull-ups translates well into real-world activities and movements.
  4. Improved Grip Strength: Grip strength is a crucial component of pull-ups. As you consistently perform this exercise, you’ll notice improvements in your grip strength, which can have benefits in other exercises and daily activities.
  5. Scapular Stability: Pull-ups require scapular retraction and depression, promoting stability in the shoulder blades. This is essential for overall shoulder health and can help prevent injuries.
  6. Core Engagement: To maintain proper form during pull-ups, your core muscles must engage to stabilize your body. This adds a beneficial core workout component to the exercise.
  7. Variety of Grip Positions: Pull-ups can be performed with different grip positions, such as wide grip, narrow grip, chin-ups, and mixed grip. Each variation targets muscles slightly differently, providing a well-rounded upper body workout.
  8. Increased Body Awareness: Pull-ups require coordination and control. Performing them regularly can enhance your body awareness and proprioception, contributing to better overall athletic performance.
  9. Boosted Metabolism: As a compound exercise that engages multiple muscle groups, pull-ups can contribute to an increased metabolic rate. This means you’ll continue burning calories even after your workout is finished.
  10. Aesthetic Benefits: Let’s not forget the aesthetic side of things. Regularly incorporating pull-ups into your routine can help sculpt your upper body, giving you that desirable V-shaped torso.

Overall, pull-ups are an excellent exercise for building upper body strength, improving posture and grip strength, and increasing cardiovascular endurance.

Remember, like any exercise, it’s crucial to start at your current fitness level and progressively increase intensity. Whether you can do one pull-up or ten, the consistent inclusion of pull-ups in your routine can lead to numerous physical and functional benefits.

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What Muscles Do Pull-Ups Work?

Pull-ups primarily work the following muscle groups:

  1. Latissimus Dorsi: Also known as the “lats,” these are the large muscles in your back that are responsible for the pulling motion during the exercise.
  2. Biceps: The biceps, located on the front of the upper arm, are also activated during pull-ups and assist in the pulling motion.
  3. Forearms: The muscles in the forearms are engaged during the grip strength required to hold onto the bar during the exercise.
  4. Shoulders: The shoulder muscles, including the deltoids, are also involved in the pulling motion during pull-ups.

In addition to these primary muscle groups, pull-ups also work the muscles in your chest, upper back, and core to a lesser extent, providing a comprehensive upper body workout.

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Should You Do Pull-Ups Every Day?

While pull-ups can be a great exercise for building upper body strength, it is generally not recommended to do pull-ups every day. This is because your muscles need time to rest and recover after a workout in order to repair and grow stronger.

Doing pull-ups every day without allowing for proper recovery time can increase your risk of injury and also lead to overtraining, which can negatively impact your overall fitness goals.

Instead, it is recommended to incorporate pull-ups into a well-rounded strength training program that includes other exercises and allows for adequate rest and recovery time between workouts. A good rule of thumb is to aim for two to three strength training sessions per week, with at least one day of rest in between each session.

It’s also important to note that everyone’s fitness level and recovery time can vary, so it’s important to listen to your body and adjust your workout schedule accordingly.

Pull-up Progressions

Unique exercises to enhance CrossFit performanceSource: depositphotos
Ring rows

There are many popular progressions to achieving the required strength to do pull-ups. They include the ring row, banded pull-ups, and negatives (jumping up and slowly lowering down).

In addition to progressions, you’ll need solid and consistent practice.

  • Deadhangs – deadhangs are an effective way to build shoulder stability and grip strength, both of which you’ll need before you can perform a pull-up. Aim to simply hang from a bar for around a minute. Deadhangs can be performed passively or with active shoulders, train both.
  • Push-ups – push-ups are your friends when working on developing strict strength for pull-ups. Most athletes are able to perform at least a dozen push-ups unbroken before they have the strength to perform pull-ups.
  • Ring rows – ring rows follow a similar movement pattern of a pull-up except you get the extra aid from having your feet on the floor. Alongside with ring dips, ring rows are a great exercise to develop strength for pull-ups.
  • Bands – use a band to get yourself used to the movement pattern of pull-ups and know exactly which muscles will be taxed. Bands take some weight away from your body and help you perform the movements easier. Assisted pull-ups have their place as a developmental exercise but you should combine them with other variations and progressions to develop better pull-ups.
  • Negatives – in your quest to becoming stronger, negative pull-ups are probably one of the most effective exercises because they focus on the eccentric part of the movement. Jump onto the pull-up bar so your chin is over it and hold this position for a few seconds. Then, lower yourself as slowly as possible until your arms are extended again. Make sure you go through the full range of motion.
  • Chin over bar hold – this will help you develop your end strength, required for the final portion of the pull-up. Aim to hold this for around 30 seconds while keeping your whole body under control.
  • Supine barbell row – this movement will allow you to develop similar muscles to the pull-up except in a different plane of motion and at an easier intensity. Unlike ring rows, the supine barbell row keeps the hands in a fixed position (like the pull-up).

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