Pull-Ups build a strong back and biceps, and they even help create healthy shoulders. But for aesthetic reasons, athletes tend to focus on the pressing exercises—ignoring this critical exercise.
Here’s the problem: too many athletes don’t do Pull-Ups because they cannot perform them. They shy away simply because the exercise is tough. And if they’re forced to do them, they gravitate toward the assisted pull-up machine or use a resistance band to help themselves do more reps. This becomes a crutch and does not provide any long-term benefit.
Here are a few exercises that will help you do more Pull-Ups, along with couple of workouts designed to create a stronger back.
WATCH: Todd Durkin’s Favorite Pull-Up Variations
If you want to get better at doing Pull-Ups, you need to practice them. There actually is some technique to this exercise.
- Grasp the bar with a grip slightly wider than your shoulders.
- Face your palms away from you and wrap your thumbs around the bar.
- Lower yourself all the way down until your arms are fully extended—no bent elbows.
- Without swinging, pull yourself up until your chin clears the bar.
- As you pull yourself up, concentrate on drawing your shoulder blades together and having a big chest to activate your back muscles, not your arms.
- As you lower, focus on spreading your shoulder blades apart.
This is the key to mastering the Pull-Up, because even if you can’t do a Pull-Up, you should be able to lower yourself, strengthening the same muscles.
- Grip the bar like you are going to perform a Pull-Up and jump up so that your chin is over the bar.
- Lower yourself all the way down, taking as long as possible to straighten your arms. It may take you 60 seconds on the first rep, but by the third it may only take you only 10 seconds!
The Lat Pulldown works the same muscles as the Pull-Up, but it lets you quickly change the resistance. Understand that if you can do 10 Pulldowns with a weight equivalent to your body weight, that does not mean you can do 10 Pull-Ups. There is no direct transfer.
- Keeping your arms extended, sit down and secure your thighs under the machine’s thigh pads.
- Elevate your chest.
- Concentrate on drawing your shoulder blades together as you pull the bar down to a point just beneath your chin.
Now that you have the most important exercise, below are two sample workouts to help you improve your Pull-Up abilities, and ultimately develop a stronger back.
- Pull-Ups: 5xMax
- Eccentric Pull-Ups: 3×5
- Lat Pulldowns: 3×8-12
- Barbell Curls: 3×12-15
- Eccentric Pull-Ups: 3×5
- Lat Pulldowns: 3×12-15
- Pull-Ups: 1xMax
- Dumbbell Curls: 3×12-15
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