How to do Pull-ups Correctly and Safely

 
how-to-do-pullups
 

 

INTRODUCTION

The pull-up has long been regarded the king of upper body exercises.  The pull-up is to the upper body what the squat is to the lower body. The ability to pull yourself up from a cliff, for example, is one of the most functional movements you could do.  If you cannot yet perform a pull-up, you must accomplish this task.

PULLUPS FORM VIDEO

 

BENEFITS OF THE PULL-UP

  • Strengthens all of the back muscles including the lattisimus dorsi, the rhomboids, the mid trapezius and the posterior shoulders. It also strengthens your forearms, your grip, and your arms.

  • Requires very minimal equipment. Anything you can hang from is sufficient to train this large compound exercise.

  • Can easily be scaled to your level, as different variations can provide different levels of intensity

 

MUSCLES WORKED DURING THE PULLUP

  • Lattisimus Dorsi
  • Rhomboids
  • Posterior Deltoids
  • Mid-Low Trapezius
  • Biceps
  • Forearms/Grip

 

PULL-UPS VS CHIN-UPS

The difference between a pull-up and a chin-up is the orientation of your palms.  In a pull-up, your palms are facing forward. In a chin-up, your hands are supinated and facing you. Chin-ups place your arms in full external rotation, keeping your shoulders in a healthy position. 

Chin-ups emphasize the arm muscles more while Pull-ups emphasize the back muscles. Because chin-ups allow you to use your arms (especially biceps) more, they tend to be easier than pull-ups. You can use either variation, but it's a good idea to become proficient in both.

 

PERFORMING THE pULL-UP wITH GOOD TECHNIQUE

  • Find a pull-up bar that allows your entire body to be suspended in mid-air

  • If your feet touch the ground, or you have to bend your knees, the bar is too low

  • Either jump up and grab the bar or use a box/bench to reach the bar

  • Establish a grip that is slightly wider than shoulder width with your palms facing forward

  • You can wrap your thumbs around the bar, or have them above the bar. A full grip is stronger, but some may find the thumbs over grip more comfortable.

 
benefits-of-pullups
 
  • From this position, keep your feet close together and pointed forward

  • Then, externally rotate your shoulders so that they are screwed back into the shoulder sockets

  • Take a big breath, squeeze your glutes and engage your core

  • Begin pulling yourself up and focus on BRINGING YOUR CHEST TO THE BAR

how-to-do-pullups-correctly
  • Keep your head neutral - DO NOT THROW YOUR HEAD BACK to bring your chin over the bar

  • If you cannot clear your chin over the bar, just stop and reverse back down

  • You will reach the end range once your arms cannot bend anymore- your chin should naturally clear the bar at this point

 
how-to-do-pullups-properly
 
  • Slowly lower yourself back down and repeat

 

How to Do a Pull-up If You Cant Do One

One of the best exercises you can do to get started on doing your first pull-up is negatives. This entails jumping up to the end range of a pull-up and slowly lowering yourself down in a controlled manner. See this video.

You can also start out with Horizontal Pull-ups, which is an easier variation. We have an entire tutorial on that exercise as well, which you can find here.

I do not recommend using the Assisted Pull-up Machine (where you rest your knees on a pad and it helps lift you)- This will throw your mechanics off as your knees are bent. Instead, have someone help support your feet or your legs to help you do the movement more naturally.

 

SUMMARY OF THE PULL-UP TECHNIQUE

 
 

Click on each blue circle to view the key technical aspects of this exercise

 

COMMON PULL-UP MISTAKES

THROWING YOUR HEAD BACK TO COMPLETE THE MOVEMENT

This is inefficient and will only cause neck strain.  The goal is not to get your chin over the bar, the goal is to train your back muscles and your ability to pull yourself up.  If you cannot clear your chin, then stop and reverse the movement.  * See the video above*

 

LETTING YOUR SHOULDERS INTERNALLY ROTATE

This happens when your focus on trying to bring your chin over the bar without regard to your shoulder and spine position. Lock your shoulders back into their sockets and concentrate on bringing YOUR CHEST to the bar. This will keep your shoulders in a healthy position.

 

BENDING YOUR KNEES OR CROSSING YOUR LEGS BEHIND YOU

This will throw your spinal alignment off and not allow you to activate or engage your core or your glute muscles.  Remember, this is a compound exercise that requires you to use as much of your body as possible.

 

NOT PERFORMING A FULL RANGE OF MOTION

When lowering yourself, go all the way down. Performing half repetitions is only cheating yourself from the benefits of this great exercise

 

PULL UP ALTERNATIVES

 

Alex & Brittany Robles are the founders of The White Coat Trainer, a site dedicated to improving the health and wellness of busy individuals. Learn more about them here and connect with them on instagram and Twitter. Feel free to send them a message here