The pull ups exercise is one of the most popular exercises to have ever been invented. Everybody – from star athletes to people desirous of losing weight and from young children in gym class to soldiers on the battlefield – has made this versatile upper body exercise a part of their workout regimen.
The pull ups exercise helps to strengthen the muscles in the upper and middle back, biceps, triceps, forearms and the deltoids (shoulders). It even works the glutes and abs, albeit to a somewhat lesser extent.
As with all other exercises, it is essential to perform the pull ups exercise correctly to get maximum benefit out. So here is a step by step look at how to do pull ups.
Pull Ups Exercise Instructions
1. Set Up. You are only going to need a bar that you can hang from to execute this movement. It is essential to grip the bar correctly to do it correctly. If you can use a power rack with a pull up bar at the gym, it would be better or even a doorway pull up bar should do fine.
- Look Where You’re Going: Look up at the bar that you intend to grip.
- Get a Wide Grip: Make sure that your hands are placed shoulder length apart so that you can get the right grip on the bar.
2. Grab the Bars. Depending on the type of bar that you are using, you will need to jump up in order to reach the bars.
- Grip: The bar should be close to the palm of the hand to avoid calluses.
3. Prepare Yourself: Grip the bars tightly with your palm facing away from you and elbows straight. This is your starting position.
- Get Used to your Weight: At this point, your hands will be supporting the weight of your entire body. Get a feel for how much force you will need to output.
- Take a Breath: Take a deep breath while you are still down because it is easier to breathe in this position.
4. Pack in More Power. The efficiency of pulls ups can be increased by using certain arm and leg positions.
- Elbow Position: Go into the pull ups with your elbows pulling straight down toward the floor. This will help to really strengthen your back muscles.
- Bend Legs: Letting your legs hang down equates to less strength; so bend your legs and cross your feet. Squeeze your glutes as you pull yourself up.
5. The ‘Pull’ in the Pull Ups Exercise. With a firm grip on the bars, you will try to pull your entire body weight upwards.
- Chest Up First: Make sure that you chest rises ahead of the shoulders. It is unhealthy for your rotator cuff and shoulder joint if you let the shoulders go forward. Start the pull with your chest up and shoulders retracted.
- Always Look Up: Remember to always keep you eyes pointed at the point that you are attempting to reach. So, look up at the bar the entire time.
6. Lower Yourself. The downward movement is the final part of the rep.
- Go Slow: It is essential to ensure that you do not use jerky movements while performing the “negative” rep. Your downward movement should be slow and controlled. Just letting your weight go can prove detrimental to your elbows.
7. Repeat. Now is the time to refill your lungs with some oxygen and get ready for the next repetition.
Pull Up Tips
Here is a look at some tips to ensure optimal performance of this exercise technique, and what you can do to ensure that your form is safe.
- Keep Arms Straight: You need to start with your elbows straight in a deadhang. Otherwise, you are only accomplishing a partial repetition.
- Grip Width: Using a narrow grip on the bar can put added pressure on the shoulder muscles.
- Don’t Lead with Shoulders: Do not let the shoulders rise before the chest. You need to pull yourself up by letting the chest lead while the shoulders are back. Using your shoulders when pulling yourself up can lead to poor posture and injuries.
- Use Full Range of Motion: For a complete repetition, you need to get your chin over the bar. Your nose or forehead is simply not good enough.
- Eliminate Momentum: Do not use hip momentum when doing the pull ups exercise. Your hips should be in line with the torso.
Is This Exercise Right for You?
Don’t fret if you cannot perform even one repetition when first starting out. You will eventually build enough upper body strength to master the standard pull up. There are many ways to perform “assisted pull ups,” which make the exercise easier and allow you to gradually transition to the traditional pull ups exercise.
On the flip side, there are also many ways to make the pull ups exercise more difficult if have already mastered this classic upper body bodyweight exercise technique.