How to Master Pull-Ups: 3 Simple Rules For Success

Sculpt your back by performing more pull-ups

Isaiah McCall
Sep 25 · 5 min read
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Gif created by Isaiah McCall on Cava

Pull-ups were the first exercise to blow my mind. I was only 12-years-old, exploring the playground when I came across it, the infamous pull-up bar. To a scrawny kid with arms like toothpicks, the pull-up bar looked like a death sentence.

“Do people really pull their entire bodies up on this thing? How is such a feat even possible,” I thought to myself. Then my dad came around and said, “Give it a try.”

Fat chance I was doing a pull-up Dad… holy crap… my body’s going up, I’m actually doing it! I’m really freaking doing it!

And with that, my first pull-up was in the books and I felt like I could conquer the world.

However, when laziness and Super Smash Bros” overtook me in college, I had to relearn the physical feat I adored so much as an adolescent. So I got my ass back on the bar and little-by-little started pulling up again.

Now I’m in the best shape of my life and can do 15 pull-ups consecutively. So, let’s get you there too.

1. Buy a Pull-up Bar and Hang!

Pull-up bars may seem a little pricey, but they’ll quite literally change your life. Even if you can’t do many pull-ups (yet)you can hang from the bar. This is known as a “dead hang” and will instantly alleviate pressure from your abdominals, spine and back.

Do a dead hang every morning for 30 seconds and you’ll begin to see postural improvements, increased grip strength, and healthier shoulders. It’s so easy (and fun) to just hang, and it’s the best way to become more acquainted with the bar.

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Photo by Nikolas Noonan on Unsplash

It’s also important to pull from your elbows, not your arms. Your back is much stronger than your biceps and will better carry your body weight. Activating your back is as simple as sticking out your chest and pinching your shoulders together.

Pull-up masters are able to pull their chest to the bar as opposed to barely getting their chin over it. Conversely, don’t stress out if you aren’t blasting yourself through the roof yet. We’re going to get there.

2. Legs In The Front! And Other Proven Tips

What is proper pull-up form?

You’ve probably seen people do pull-ups with legs behind them or arms splayed out wide. Or the greatest of all gym sins, with tons of momentum as we see in cross-fit gyms (more commonly known as a kipping pull-up; or cheating).

The proper pull-up is legs in the front, hands placed slightly outside shoulder-length and chest stuck-out to get that back primed.

You want your legs in the front because it engages your core and turns your body into one unit — one slab of meat. This makes it easier to pull yourself to the top of the bar.

If your legs are in the back, that adds a lump of weight behind you and keeps the core out of the equation. And before you ask, NO. Just because it’s harder with your legs behind you doesn’t mean you’re getting any more gains.

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Photo by Charlotte Karlsen on Unsplash

Onto the pulling. There are two crucial ways to build up force and make the pull-up easier. The cool part is both just involve a little imagination.

Envision pulling that bar down to you, not pulling yourself up to it. You should feel like the Incredible Hulk ready to rip your door frame down. If your landlord is knocking on your door wondering why the apartment is shaking at 6 a.m., you’re doing it right.

Next, you want to squeeze your ring and pinky fingers. Those two digits have the worst grip out of any of your other fingers and squeezing them will help reinforce your overall grasp on the bar. With that, now you have your core, mental, and grip in the game.

Pro Tip: Pretend you’re crushing the bar in-between your hands. Imagine every time that you pull-up that the bar is being smashed in from both sides. This will generate more overall force and once again, make you feel like the freaking Hulk.

3. Prioritize Overall Fitness

I won’t lie to you.

If you’re 200 pounds overweight a pull-up ain’t going to be easy (it may actually be impossible). So focus on getting into good overall shape so you can start pulling without having to worry about that beer belly.

Simple things like going on a daily walk, implementing the “hang,” and committing to a brief stretch routine is a good start, no matter what your level of fitness might be.

If you don’t see INSTANT RESULTS! Don’t fret, nobody does.

Pull-ups and working out, in general, is a battle of attrition. Keep clocking in and let your body do the rest.

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Originally published at https://yardcouch.com

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In Fitness And In Health

Inspiring stories related to health, fitness and the pursuit of well-being.

Isaiah McCall

Written by

USA Today News Reporter | Ultramarathon Runner | Star Trek Nerd 🖖🏾| Follow me on Twitter and let’s go for a run | @AfroReporter

In Fitness And In Health

A fast-growing health and fitness community dedicated to sharing knowledge, lessons, and suggestions to living happier, healthier lives.

Isaiah McCall

Written by

USA Today News Reporter | Ultramarathon Runner | Star Trek Nerd 🖖🏾| Follow me on Twitter and let’s go for a run | @AfroReporter

In Fitness And In Health

A fast-growing health and fitness community dedicated to sharing knowledge, lessons, and suggestions to living happier, healthier lives.

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