If performed and managed correctly, this is highly effective exercise for increasing grip, back, pulling, climbing, and hanging strength. The muscles worked are your Lats, Traps, Rhomboids (mid back), Biceps and Core!
Safe or not?
*Caution* if you have a shoulder pathology such as a strain, rotator cuff problem, elbow pain, ETC then the pull up may not be a great option for you! The Pull Up is a very humbling exercise! It is an exercise that if not done with accurate, controlled, quality form can cause injury. That goes for any exercise, however this can become high risk, if done too frequently (performed throughout the week often) and for too much volume (reps.)
Many struggle with the Pull Up. If you’re body weight or body fat is high, you will have trouble pulling yourself up! A very basic way to determine (ball park) how much you should weigh is by using the following formula, Female: 100 pounds of body weight for the first five feet of height plus five pounds for each additional inch. So if you are a 5’2 female you should weigh around 110…Male: 106 pounds of body weight for the first five feet of height plus 6 pounds for each additional inch. So a 5’11 male should weigh around 172…Again this is ball park but if you are not within 10/15lbs of this the first step would be to get your weight down a bit.
If you are someone still in the process in getting to your goal weight, or in this case a pull up manageable weight, keep up the great work! While you are dropping your final pounds over the next few days or weeks start working on your form, incorporating some of the muscles that you will need, learning the motor pattern and building your way up with the Lat Pull Down Machine. This machine allows you to do all of the above while in a controlled setting.
For those of you unfamiliar here is what a Lat Pull Down machine looks like….
Start from a hang position, hands just about shoulder width apart, try not to arch your low back but also not flex your hips at the same time, keep your core and glutes tight, think about the shoulders staying in line with the ears, elbows tracking close, keep your head still (you don’t want to poke your chin forward), you must go all the way up until your chin goes over the bar, then all the way down without the use of momentum for the rep to be considered clean.
*WARNING* If you elevate your shoulders (shrug), flair your scap or elbows, curl your wrist too much on the top of the bar, let your low back sink, poke your chin forward this could lead to shoulder, low back, neck, or elbow impingement!
Over hand / Under hand / Neutral grip
I often hear people curious as to what is the difference between the grips? Pull-ups, done with both hands in an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, prove to be the most difficult of the pair. The wide grip isolates your lats, taking away much of the emphasis from the biceps. The underhand alternative – chin-ups – provides both a bicep and back emphasis. By utilizing a supinated grip, the chin-up utilizes more of the bicep than its wider-grip counterpart. Which most find to be a bit easier. Although it still targets the upper back, it is harder to isolate and engage the lats during the motion. Also the Neutral Grip, we find to be a much safer option on the joints as your scapula is in a less vulnerable position than then the other options.
Below is a video showing the 3 pull ups options using proper form!
STEPS TO DOING PULL UPS
Here are the steps we use to teach chin ups:
- Have people hang at the bottom of the chin up for 5 secs for 10 rounds to learn how to properly align the body as mentioned above from the bottom of the exercise
- Next we do hangs at the top of the bar to teach people how to properly hold that top position without elbow flare, chin poke, glute and core control, scap retraction. We perform 5 sets of 10 sec holds.
- Next we practice slow lowering of the body as most people are weak on the way down and this is where the swinging starts to occur.
- Then we use a really thick band (which assist the client) and start to allow the client to “fly” so to speak. Incorporating both the bottom and top position, and emphasizing control during the transition phase from down to up.
- Then we go down in the band size causing for less assistance and we do low reps for lots of sets. If someone can only do 1 rep we may do 1 rep for 5 sets with as much time in between each set as the person needs to recover. Then the next week, we simply progress by performing an additional rep for more sets. So 2 reps for 6 sets. Once the client can do about 6-8 pull ups we may go down in the band size until we master a body weight pull up! The steps can be seen in this video here of Nicole… PULL UP WORK OUT TO TRY Once you have mastered the chin up it is time to add resistance to the pattern using, incomplete rest periods, such timed sets (perform a rep every 10 secs) add weight with a dip belt or weight vest, do a 1 minute chin up challenge, do 3 sets of 20 sec holds at the top, followed by 3 sets of 5 to 10 reps of pull up variations of your choice! The fun and challenging pull up options are endless! Again the form must be clean, and make sure to limit the amount of reputations you perform weekly! Hope you enjoyed and that this helped!