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Improve Your Pull Up – 5 Ways

Improve Your Pull Up – 5 Ways

By Shawna Kaminski


You don’t hear, ‘how many pull ups can you do?’ but its common place to hear talk about how much you can squat or bench. These are important strength lifts, but the pull up measures your strength to weight ratio better than almost any other exercise.

In reality, not many people can do a ton of pull ups. Often, those who aren’t good at this movement will avoid it and focus on the moves that they’re better at.

The gym is NOT the place to only focus on just your strengths, unless of course you want to look like one of those dudes with chicken legs and a massive upper body.

For a balanced physique and injury avoidance, training all muscle groups is a no-brainer. Doing pull ups is an excellent way to hit your back.

Here are some tips to help you along:

1.     Form, form, form


I’m always surprised at how bad the form is when I watch some people attempt pull ups in the gym. If your squats were getting funky would you keep squatting? Unlikely. There’s the potential for injury with the pull up as with any lift; good form is imperative.

If you can do pull ups for reps, stop when your pull up form falls apart. There are plenty of alternatives to instead of a poorly executed pull up.

2.     Work your back

It’s hard to isolate the back muscles if you’re new to the gym. Most people will pull using the arms only, some will internally rotate the shoulders and crunch through their abs (flex at the hip) when doing a pull up or pull down.

The key to doing proper pull ups is to engage the lats and not just work the biceps. The back is much stronger than the arms once you learn to engage it. One way to lessen the use of the biceps is to do a ‘palm’s facing away’ hand position.

Start the pull up as if you’re squeezing a pencil between the shoulder blades. You can get an inch or two lift just be doing scapular retraction. To save your elbows, they shouldn’t be totally locked out either. Try not to go to a full hang with locked elbows and shoulders lifted up to the ears, you put a lot of stress on tendons that can later become angry (trust me, my elbows and I aren’t on speaking terms at the moment-this is a mistake I learned the hard way).

3.     Lose the junk in the trunk

Yep, you heard me correctly.

The pull up is a movement that you’re not going to benefit one bit from an extra bit of chub hanging around. That seems obvious enough. In the game of pull ups, a bit of flub is no help as it is for a power lifter or a line backer to up their game.  Being leaner means less weight to move, less weight to move means the potential to do more pull up reps, simple as that. I’m putting up posts with HIIT (high intensity interval training) cardio workouts in them to help you with this. HIIT builds metabolism, burns calories and improves cardiovascular strength and endurance in addition to being the most effective way to get leaner.

4.     Change your grip


A benefit of pull ups is the variety that you can do. Constantly changing your grip from shoulder width, to narrow grip, palms facing each other or parallel saves the elbows and hits different areas of the back. Every workout you do can be different just by changing up the grip. This helps with overuse injuries as well as you’ll put stress on different areas of the shoulder/back as well as the elbow/arm.

5.     Change your rep scheme


A workout variable that should constantly be changing is your rep scheme. Would you always go for a one-rep max on the bench? Not likely. How about other lifts? Do you always do the same rep range?

The pull up is no different. If you’re trying to master the pull up, don’t go to failure and beyond on every set. Some days you’ll want to build strength with a lower rep range in between 2-5, (perhaps using a weighted vest). Other days you may want to do body weight sets of 5-12. Then on other days you’ll want to build endurance by doing assisted pull ups in the range of 12-20. Of course, you may have to resort to assisted pull ups on any of the sets in any of the rep ranges. But the idea is that you may provide more or less assistance based on the total number of reps you’re looking to get in each set.

I have a ton of ways for you to increase your maximum pull ups and push ups too. Why re-invent the wheel?
Imkprove your clients ability by incorporating fitness challenges into your camp

Check it out here. http://georgettepann.com/challenges   

Shawna Kaminski is a retired school teacher of 20 years who’s found her passion in the fitness industry. She’s been a competitive athlete all her life and has competed nationally in three sports. She’s parlayed her ability to teach and her love of training into programs that you can directly benefit from. Shawna is in her late forties, is a mother of two teenagers and understands how busy life can be. Her workouts are short and intense and often can be done anywhere. She’s always up for a challenge and shares her fitness challenges with you. Currently she runs her own fitness boot camps and coaches clients in person and online with her amazing result getting programs.


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