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Perfecting Pull Ups

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Perfecting Pull Ups

Posted by Chip

"The exercises you avoid the most at the gym are the ones you probably most need to do.” 

One of those exercises people avoid is the Pull Up.  The Pull Up is a great back exercise, as well as a terrific biceps builder.  Most people avoid it since they do not have the strength to do them - either people new to resistance training lack the strength or even advanced bodybuilders who get large and heavy enough that they struggle with them.

However, there are several proven ways to get to where you can rep out Pull Ups, whether you can do one or two now or even if you cannot yet do one rep.  On all of these below, practice slower negatives (the part of the Pull Up when you are lowering yourself back down).  You build strength on the eccentric/negative portion of a lift.

 

If you can get one or two reps…

Congratulations, you are already well are on your way.  One technique in this case is to do multiple sets and then over time reduce the rest time until there is none.  For example, if you can do 1 or 2 reps, do one set of those, then rest 1 minute, do a second set, rest 1 minute, do a third set, rest 1 minute, and then do a final set.  So, this ends up being 4 sets of 1-2 reps with 60 seconds rest between each set.  When you can do that with perfect form, on the next workout, reduce the rest time by a little, such as moving from 60 to 50 seconds rest between the 4 sets.  You keep going…each time you have a workout where you can do them perfectly across all sets, the next workout you reduce the rest again.  Eventually, there will be no rest between the 4 sets…you will effectively be doing one set of 4-8 reps in a row.  The key is consistency…hit the Pull Ups week over week and you will see a lot of progress in 4-6 weeks.

If you cannot do one rep…

 

There are several options here.   The first option is to do assisted Pull Ups.  We have a machine in the front room of Legends Fit that allows for assisted Pull Ups, assisted Chin Ups, and assisted Dips. 

It has a weight stack on the right side.  The weight acts as an offset to your body weight.  If you put the pin at 50 lbs and you way 150 lbs, when you use the machine, you will be pulling up 100 lbs (150 lbs – 50 lbs).  Pick an offset that lets you do several sets of 6-10 reps.  Once you can do all the sets with proper form, the next workout, use a smaller offset.  Repeat, until you don’t need any weight as an offset (you are then doing your own weight).

Another alternative is to do banded Pull Ups.  This is the same idea as above with the machine, except a band provides assistance. 

This is a great option if you travel and the gym you have access to does not have a machine to use for assistance.  You tie one of the band to the top of a Pull Up bar and step into the other end.  As you get stronger, you switch to a thinner band to provide less help until you do not need any band to help you.  For experienced lifters, bands are also great as a way to do drop sets (do a set of body weight Pull Ups, then “drop” by adding the band) or as a way to help get a solid contraction at the top of the movement.

A third option, especially if you don’t have access to the assistance machine is to do just the negative portion of the Pull Up (negative Pull Ups).  Using a box or something sturdy to stand on under the Pull Up bar or with the help of a training partner to lift you up, start at the midpoint of the exercise with your chin above the bar and slowly lower yourself down until your arms are fully extended at the bottom and then “hang” there for a few seconds.  Then, you will repeat that for a few reps.  You will build strength week over week if you keep at it since the negative portion of the exercise will build strength.


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