We're not going to lie: pull-ups can suck. One of the main reasons so many of us shy away from this classic upper body exercise is because it is hard. Damn hard. What's more, we're throwing ourselves at it with the wild abandon of a kid jumping into a ball pit. While the enthusiasm is commendable, this haphazard approach won’t help you get the results you want — and when it comes to pull-ups, there's a lot to desire. Pull-ups work your back, arms, shoulders and core, so your body sees a lot of action from one move.
The key to completing a successful pull-up is to ease your way into it. Don't just grab onto a bar and hang there wiggling like a worm: approach this exercise with method.
You need some equipment to complete a pull-up, namely a bar with which to pull yourself up. You can go the way of millions of teenage boys and install a bar in the doorway of your basement rec room, or you can opt for an equally challenging and less permanent option and go with Challenger Bars. These beauties not only allow you to work at your own level leading up to full pull-up glory, but you can use them for an enticing array of other exercises, including dips, hip flexes, leveraged bridges and push-ups, , planks or mountain climbers. (The list goes on!)
Whatever you choose, choose a piece of equipment that's inline with your overall fitness goals as well as your living situation.
If you're working with a conventional pull-up bar, grab a chair. If you've scored some sweet Challengers, they're all you need.
Rather than trying to pull yourself up right away, work on lowering yourself down. Either stand on your chair, or position yourself between your Challenger Bars.. For those of you working with a Challenger, position your feet close to your butt. This will make it easier since you will have less deadweight too pull-up; some of the weight of your lower body will be supported by your legs.
Starting at the top, slowly lower yourself down. Repeat as many times as you can. Rest. Try again. Two sets is often enough at first.
Notes on form:Keep your core engaged like you are bracing to be punched in the stomach. Also, when you lower yourself down, do not allow your elbows to lock straight. Keep a slight bend in your arm; this will keep the stress out of your joints and the work in your muscle.
After a 5-7 days of focusing on the let down, start adding in the pull-up part. Stand on your chair if you have the conventional bar and then lower yourself down and pull yourself up as much as you can. Use your legs to push up from the chair for help, as much as you need it.
If you have the Challenger(s), lower yourself down and pull yourself up as much as possible, moving your feet out as the exercise becomes easier.
How often should you train for your pull-up?
That will depend on your current level of fitness, but as a general rule, you should take a break between days while you are still learning. You will be sore, so will need time to allow your muscle fibers to properly recover, and grow back stronger. Rest is just as important as the workouts themselves when it comes to reaching your goals.
This will take time, so don’t get discouraged. Unlike a sit up or a squat or even a plank or lunge, which mimics moves we make in our everyday lives, not many of us are required to pull our entire bodies up with just our arms on a regular basis. Be patient. You got this!
Try this no-equipment back exercise in your next workout and start building a stronger back and core. Jenny Lam shows you how it’s done!
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