A strict pull up is the most common goal our clients want to achieve. It can be a long road to get there but if you follow these tips you’ll get there a little faster! It takes persistence and consistency to achieve your first strict pull up.
1 – Forget about the band!! When it comes to pull ups, the aid of a resistance band is the biggest crutch and the greatest hindrance to achieving a strict pull up in my opinion. Although bands can be great to teach the feeling of a movement, they are not useful for building strength. You will rely on the band to control your body therefore not increasing any strength in your upper body.
2 – Add eccentric pull ups to your accessory work 2-3 times per week. An eccentric pull up is when you begin with your chin over the bar and lower your body to the ground as slow as possible. You may not have the strength to pull your weight up to the bar but you do have the strength to lower your body down. You may lower quickly at the beginning but after practicing the eccentric pull up a few times you will start to control the decent and make it slower. You will build a lot of strength with this movement!
3 – Add static holds to your training also 2-3 times per week. A static hold for a pull up is holding your chin over the bar for a set amount of time, E.g. 20 seconds, or for as long as possible. This movement will keep your muscles engaged and build strength in that top position. You will want to press your elbows back and squeeze your shoulder blades together to keep your chin over the bar. All while maintaining a hollow body position.
4 – Learn to engage your Latissimus Dorsi (Lats)! The Lats are the biggest ‘pulling’ muscle in a pull up. We often see a pull up attempt begin with the biceps which is incorrect. It should begin with the lats and scaps (scapulas). In this movement we use our back more than we use our arms. If this is the first time you’re hearing this it may seem a bit odd but it’s true!
Lat pulls are excellent for building strength in the lats and learning how to engage them. We start with a dead hang on the bar, then press down on the bar until your shoulders shift backwards. This is a straight arm movement, we do not pull with our arms at all – we use our back!
5 – Practice Scapula (Scap) pulls. These are also needed to initiate a pull up. Again, begin in a dead hang on the bar. In this movement your shoulders should move down rather than back. You must squeeze your shoulder blades together which will make your chest rise. We want to be mindful to not allow your back to arch in this movement and no bending your arms. We still want to maintain a tight hollow body position also.
6 – Add ring rows and strict presses to your training to help build strict strength. Ring rows should be a very strict movement – absolutely no hip drive! To increase the difficulty of a ring row make sure your shoulders are directly below the rings and elevate your feet on a box so your body is parallel with the floor. Whenever we do pulling movements we always want to increase strength in the antagonistic (opposite) muscles also. This will help increase overall strength and prevent muscular imbalances.
Let us know how your pull ups improve with these tips!