If there’s one exercise people think they’ll never do, it’s the pull-up. It’s intimidating, and well, just plain hard! But the elite exerciser or the chiselled, six-pack-abs man isn’t the only one who can master it. Anyone can do them; you just have to know where to start.
To progress into a full body-weight pull-up, you’ll have to work your way up to them. By starting with modified pull-ups and taking your time to build your strength, you’ll soon be doing the real thing with no problem. Even if mastering the pull-up isn’t something you aspire to, the following exercises will help develop your back muscles, and that’s never a bad thing.
Start with the Machine
Before attempting to do a full pull-up, you can start with the machine. The assisted pull-up machine can help reduce the amount of your own body weight you actually lift. The machine’s lever, which is attached to a weight stack, counterbalances your body weight. The less weight you put on the stack, the harder the exercise will be. As you progress, you’ll need to use less and less weight, until you’re able to do a full pull-up without any counterweight.
Practise with the Dip Bars
Another way to work your way up to a full body-weight pull up is to use the dip bars at your gym, or even the vertical knee raise station. To utilise these two machines to perform an assisted pull-up, you end up performing an exercise that’s part pull-up, part squat.
As you stand between the dip bars, facing out, grip onto the bars, and squat down between the bars. Then, use your back muscles and leg strength to push yourself back up to the bars. As your strength increases, you’ll utilise your back strength more and your leg strength less to pull yourself back up. When you’re strong enough, extend your legs straight out in front of you with your heels on the ground. This action will make the exercise harder, but help strengthen your back muscles even more. To target the correct muscle groups, make sure to keep your chest and torso upright and your hips below your shoulders.
Use the Pull-Up Bar
If you’re close to doing a full pull-up, here are some ways to make your way to the complete exercise while using the pull-up bar.
- Use a Friend: If you’re oh-so-close to doing a pull-up on your own, this technique may help you get the last push. Grasp the bar, bend your knees, and then have a gym friend give you the last boost by pushing your knees, shins, or feet.
- Use a Stool: First, place a weight bench, stool or chair beneath the bar. As you grip the pull-up bar, push off from the bench with your legs, while keeping your feet on the bench the whole time.
- Use a Power Band: Bend one knee and place it through a loop that is girth hitched to the pull-up bar. Using a stool to assist you, use the tension from the elastic band to give you the boost you need to complete the repetition. It is important to keep your knee pointed down in the loop so it does not slip off.
Take Your Time
Regardless of your current strength level, or access to pull-up bars and machinery, it’s important to work up to doing a full pull-up. There are several exercises that will help you strengthen your latissimus dorsi muscle, which is the large V-shaped muscle in your back. Performing lat pull-downs at a cable station, on a lat pull-down machine, or even with elastic resistance bands will help strengthen the necessary muscles to work your way up to a full pull-up.
Performing weight pullovers with dumbbells or barbells will also help you utilise your back muscles for strength and endurance. The most important aspect of effectively working your way up to a pull-up is to maintain proper form at a steady pace. Count to two when you lift the weight and then count to two or four as you lower the weight.