Good day, everyone! We keep speaking about exercises of our training program and today we have first of them – pull-ups. Many people have problems with it because it is most difficult exercise in our program. So, let’s take a close look.
It is one of the key exercises of street workout because it loads many muscle groups of your body: forearms (grip), biceps, shoulders, back as well as core muscles!
- The wider the range of motion the bigger the number of muscles used in exercises
- When you are hanging in starting position you should lower your shoulders and move your shoulder blades together
- They should remain in this position ALL THE TIME
- Try to perform the movement like you are pulling the bar yourself, not yourself towards the bar
- If you fold your elbows to torso while pulling up (instead of pulling them backwards) you will give more load on your lats
- To increase effectiveness of this exercise you need to keep your muscles under tension all the time, perfoming pull-ups in slow and controlled motion
- Do not round your back, especially in upper position, keep shoulder blades together. If you can’t, than do easier variations of pull-ups!
You need to control your movements during pull-ups because your elbows, shoulders and wrists are taking heavy load. That is why:
- You should keep natural trajectory of movement
- Your muscles have to be under tension in whole range of motion
- No abrupt movements, dashes, jerks, only smooth, controlled movements
- If you suffer pain or discomfort while making pull-up, try different grips or other variations of exercise. If this won’t help, stop doing exercise and visit medic
The exercise itself could be divided into 4 parts:
1) Starting position (lower point)
2) Moving upward (concentric phase)
3) Freeze chin above the bar (upper point)
4) Moving downward (eccentric phase)
Alternations (easier variants)
If you are not able to do standard pull-ups, than you can try some easier variations to prepare your muscles.
Pull-ups using a low bar (they are usually called Australian pull-ups) allow you to concentrate on working your back muscles, especially if you are not strong enough to do standard pull-up.
Pull-ups using a foothold (for example a chair) allow you to adjust load on muscles used (back and arms), so it is great to use them as prepare exercise to take some physical shape before standard pull-ups.
Pull-ups using a resistance band are very familiar to standard ones, because they imitate natural motion, holding foots on unstable support. These allow yuo to reduce the gravity force in the starting position, most difficult point of motion and keep interactivity of all muscles groups like in standard pull-ups.
Finally, you can ask someone for a help while you are doing pull-ups by levering your feet. It is not the best way to learn but if you do not have any other option than why not.
What do you think about pull-up machine (Gravitron)? This machine was designed for teaching pull-ups, maybe it is the best?
I have not seen anyone who had learned pull-ups using gravitron (but I cannot say that nobody did). Main problem of this machine is that it takes away all instability from exercise, switching off a lot of muscle groups. Therefore, your pull-ups become simply lat pull down and this is much less effective. Your forearms, wrists, grip, core muscles are taking much less load and thus not helping you to learn the real pull-up. In my opinion, gravitron is wasting of time, so if you don’t have any medical restrictions to do a real pull-ups, forget about this machine. Better to start from Australian pull-ups.
Breathing. There is one simple rule in all strength conditioning exercises including pull-ups: you must breathe out while contracting your muscles through concentric phase of movement and breathe in while relaxing your muscles through eccentric phase. In other words, in pull-ups, you breathe out while moving up and breathe in while moving down. I know that it can be quite unusual for you to breathe this way, but only for the first time. Moreover, if you want to have make more than 20 pull-ups in a row with good technique, you have to lear proper breathing.
Tension. As I said, pull-ups load most mobile and flexible joints of our body, so if you want to avoid injuries as long as possible, you need to stay focused on exercise in whole range of movement. This means, that you control both concentric phase (while you moving up) and eccentric phase (while you moving down). Don’t relax your muscles completely, don’t “fall” down, your lowering must be smooth and controlled, your muscles of back and arms always need to be tense.
Neck. If you don’t want to have problems with your neck, put aside your ego. As a matter of fact, most people will do anything to get more reps, because they love to count reps. They are ready to wriggle, shake their legs and do whatever they can just to get their chin above the bar. Go to the nearest park and you will see dozens of these sportsmen. I’m pretty sure you know some of this guys in person. Instead of pulling up with strength of their back and arms muscles, they stretch their neck further and further. Don’t be like them. Hold your neck like you are standing on the ground. Look in front of you. Pull yourself up only by strength of your muscles. If your chin is still below the bar, it's okay, there is no reason to upset, you just need a little more time to get stronger.
Weak grip. Many people may notice, that the main reason, they can’t do one more rep is theyr weak grip. Palms give up and you jump off the bar instead of making couple more reps. In this case I recommend to include in your training program (after all circles are done) some exercises to strengthen your grip. It can be simple hanging on the bar for as long as you can (the thicker bar the harder to hang the better the grip), pull-ups on a towel, training on the monkey bars and so on.
Different grips. If you have just started your way in street workout and calistehnics and you can only do 10 pull-ups or less, then I recommend you to do pull-ups with only one grip - overhand grip (pronated, palms facing away) a little bit wider than your shoulders are. Pull-ups is very difficult and complex exercise to learn, so don’t disperse your attention, trying to master a lot of different grips right from the start. Later, in ADVANCED block we will speak about different grips and their effect on different muscles groups.
If you are not a beginner, then I would recommend you to rotate different grips once a day (today one grip, tomorrow - another one), not nore often.
Legs. My favorite advice is about legs, despite most people don't even think about it. The hardest and most effective way to pull up is to hold them straight and together, straining muscles of legs. In this way you wont be swinging. Yes, I know that it is much harder to do pull-ups in such way. But this is because your muscles take bigger load trying to stabilize your body and reduce pendulum swings. So it makes the whole exercise more effective. And, of course, such perfect pull-ups looks very cool too
Try to get clear reps in pull-ups. If it will be just one at the beginning, it's ok. Other reps you can do in easier version (like you did with rubber band, or for example australian pull-ups). No kipping or jerking is crucial for the health of your shoulders.