How To Master The Pull Up

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So you think you’ll never be able to master this move, right?! It’s way above the capabilities of your strength, impossible even? But what if I told you, like most things, it really is a case of mind over matter?

The pull up is a classic move which works your upper body, back, arms and chest. In addition to the toning and aesthetic benefits, “pulling off” this move will have you strutting through the gym like a boss!! Nail this, and you’ll feel like you can take on anything!

1 | Get On The Lat Pull Down Machine

Get yourself down the gym and hog the lateral pull down machine! This machine uses the same muscles and range of motion as a pull up so is your best starting point to be able to do them unassisted. We’re aiming for hands shoulder width apart, palms facing away from your body. Without leaning back, pull the bar down to the top of your chest where you hold it for 2 – 3 seconds, before returning the bar to the start position with arms fully extended. Get your calculators out because goal is to work up to 6 – 10 repetitions at 80% of our own bodyweight!

2 | Hang Holds

Every pull up begins in the “hang” position, so there’s no better movement to begin training with. Grip the bar with our palms facing away from you, and arms fully extended. Engage your core, then engage your back and lats by pulling your shoulders back and away from your ears. While you’re there, engage your legs too by squeezing them together and pointing your toes. Focus on your form while you’re in this position; you’re looking to avoid swinging, kicking or jumping so you really use your muscles rather than momentum.

3 | Master the downward phase

This exercise focuses on the lowering movement phase of the pull up. It’s nice and simple, in theory, just jump into the pull up position then slowly lower yourself back to the hang. Repeat after releasing your feet (either back to the floor or onto a box / bench below you). Try and add a few reps to every session you do, slowly building up the number of repetitions you can perform. 

4 | Assist Yourself

The assisted pull up machine is a great way to get a feel for the full exercise. This is one machine though where the more weight you add, the easier it gets! So the key is to start heavy (i.e 10kg less than your own weight) and work your way down, reducing the weight in small increments as you get stronger.

If you don’t have access to an assisted pull up machine you can substitute and use resistance bands. The thicker, and tougher the resistance bad, the more support it will give you making the pull up easier. The band supports you under one knee after you’ve wrapped it around the pull up bar. As you get stronger, you can use thinner bands until it’s time for…

5 | The Traditional Body Weight Pull Up

Grip the bar with your palms facing away from you, arms fully extended. Engage your core, then engage your back and lats by pulling your shoulders back and away from your ears. Slowly and controlled, bring yourself up until your chin passes above the bar and then return to your start position; the challenging part is to reduce any swing in your body which adds momentum. Aim for 3 reps then add one each week!

Already smashed this?! Then add some weight using a weighted belt and plate or simply just hold a weight between your knees!

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