The pull up is one of the biggest milestones when it comes to upper body strength, with a few of my clients setting pull up goals I thought why not discuss how to master a full body weight pull up.
Pull-ups help correct an increasingly prevalent postural issue—upper crossed syndrome. Shoulders that round forward and “text neck” are telltale signs of UCS. Look around you. A common problem today due to our lifestyles is rounded shoulders, tight traps and a head that drifts forward. (Kyphosis)
We practically live our lives with our arms forward and head down—looking at phones, on the computer, and even driving the car. Our chest and shoulder muscles get tighter, underworked back muscles develop dysfunction, and our posture suffers, check out one of my previous blogs how to check your posture, what is A1 Posture.
Did you know; - The current record for full body weight pull ups in a row is Jan Kareš (Czech Republic) who did 232 pull-ups in 36 minutes on 19 June 2010 at at Hotel Mlýn in Karlštejn, Czech Republic.
Exercises to Assist Mastering the Pull up
Some great stabilising exercises to incorporate into your back workout to really emphasise that focus on contracting the muscles in the back to assist in getting to that full pull up.
Ab rollouts ; Use an ab wheel to contract the core, this is a great way to focus on your pull power, and really mimics the key movements that you’ll use during a pull up, remember set up is key it’s all in the hips , a common mistake i see a lot if hip flexion so be mindful not to sit back on your heels but engage the hips and glutes as one when moving forward. Build up to a full range of movement. Ideally you will get to the point where your nose kisses the ground, but go only as low as you can with perfect form flat back straight arms tight glutes the range of motion will come with practice :)
- Plank Shoulder Taps: A great stabilizing exercise to focus on your upper body strength, tight hips, strong core activation, be mindful of the hips rotating, the strong plank hold will help in the eccentric pull of that pull up.
- Press ups: One of my favourite upper body exercises, few important technique reminders,make sure you keep a straight line from your shoulders to your toes (Protect that lumbar spine). Make sure you don't flare your elbows out tight to the body and 90 degree bend in those elbows.
- Dead Hangs: I always finish back day with these. It’s as simple as grabbing a pull up bar and hanging, you great a great stretch at the same time, make sure you maintain tension in the upper body, back and core. Instead of just dangling make sure your shoulders are contracted and your abs are tight pulling that belly button to spine. Focus on that hand grip. When mastering the pull up you will spend multiple reps hanging from the bar, so until you can hang you pull ups won't happen.
- Negatives: Think a half pull up, using the eccentric part of the movement. (Lengthening of the muscle,/ downward phase of the lift,) Use a box or a step and place your chin above the bar (Top part of the pull up ) fight gravity and slowly lower your body down till your arms are fully extended - That’s one rep !! These are tough but are key in building up to that pull up, your strength determines how slowly you move, but remember, this is an eccentric contraction that mean you’re at your strongest.
- Banded Pull Ups: If you are trying to build up your rep range and can do 1 or two pulls up but then fatigue use a resistance band. Loop the band over the bar and step both legs in using the resistance to help assist your body in the pull up. This in my eyes is better than using some of the assisted pull up machines as there is a stronger emphasis on the core and also helps mimic the body positioning through every stage of the movement.
One problem i see a lot is people using momentum and swinging their body up to the bar- yes this means you can whack out reps like no ones business, but are they actually beneficial - No ! Form is critical, keep it strict, If this means you can't get your chin up over the bar don't worry, getting your chin over the bar isn't beneficial if you crank your neck and your posture starts to suffer, another common mistake is some funky kicking at the top of the movement to get that chin over the bar… instead think about pulling your elbows to your hips, this will help keep your shoulders loaded and your core tight.
Set yourself a 6 week challenge to mastering that pull up, your posture will benefit no end .There are so many benefits of pull ups that it’s really not worth not doing them. Stronger arms, a stronger back, and a stronger core are just some of the few things that they can do for you. Get Pulling !!!