The pull-up is one of the greatest exercises in existence.
It works nearly your entire upper body while building crushing grip strength.
The beauty of pull-ups is that they can be done almost anywhere, as long as you have something to hang off of.
Pull-ups also work fast to build muscle and shred fat.
As long as you stay consistent with them, you will see results.
Like anything else, the hardest thing with pull-ups is just getting started.
People who have never done a pull-up before have a difficult time knowing where to begin.
Although the movement appears simple, there is more to it that meets the eye.
I’m going to break down how to do a pull up for beginners into 4 simple stages.
If you are brand new, this will be a tremendous help as you will be starting off with the right information.
If you are seasoned veteran, you can never review the basics too often so keep reading!
Stage 1- Choosing your grip
This is an important first step as there are several kinds of grips you can take for a pull-up.
The grip you choose will determine which muscles are worked.
The three most common grips are overhand, underhand and neutral.
The traditional pull-up is done by grabbing the bar overhand approximately shoulder width. This primarily works the muscle called the latissimus dorsi, also known as the lats.
The second common variation is when you grab the bar underhanded, with your palms facing you. This is typically referred to as a “chin-up”.
When you grab the bar underhanded, you put more of an emphasis on your biceps. There are some out there that believe it’s the best bicep exercise you can do.
The third common type of pull-up is done with a neutral grip. This is done by gripping a neutral handle bar with your palms facing each other.
To do a neutral grip pull-up, you need a bar or handle that has the grip built into it. The standard pull-up will not have this,so you need to keep that in mind when purchasing one.
Neutral grip pull-ups are powerful because they put an emphasis on your rear deltoid and shoulder muscles to include your traps.
None of the three grips are better than the other however, it’s important to know which muscles they emphasize.
With the three different grips, you can work almost every muscle in your upper body.
Once you decide which grip you’re going to use, it’s time to go on to the next stage.
Stage 2- Starting position
Once you have chosen your grip and are latched onto the bar hanging there in agony, you’re almost ready to start.
One important thing about the starting position that most people overlook is your shoulder position.
You should not just be hanging there like a dead fish putting stress on your tendons and shoulders.
You need to keep your shoulders active. To do this, think of pulling your lat muscles down and in as far as possible without pulling up with your arms at all.
This recruits the main muscles that you are going to use to start the pull-up.
It gets them in the game and turned on.
If you just start pulling with a limp body, not only is it going to make it more difficult, but you are also risking an injury.
You should never begin a lift with a limp body.
Stage 3- Pulling up (concentric)
This is the stage you’re here for, right?
This is the portion of the phase where you actually perform the exercise and pull your body up to the bar.
While it may not be easy for you to do, the breakdown of how to do it properly is fairly simple.
With your body activated in the proper position discussed in stage 2, you begin to pull your body up towards the bar in a smooth controlled motion.
While I do quick pull-ups on occasion, you should focus on pulling your body up in a smooth motion.
This maximizes the effort you are putting out which ensures you are working the muscle to the max.
It’s also important to do the movement properly. Very few movements are better when done quickly.
1-2 seconds is a good time frame from the second you start pulling until the second your chin gets over the bar.
I know that there is some debate when it comes to when you are at the top of the movement however, I say it’s when your chin passes the bar.
Unless you are a giraffe, this is usually the point at which you really can’t pull up any further.
It might be a little higher or lower depending on your body, but chin over the bar should put most at the ideal top position.
Once you get to the top, you should pause briefly and hold the movement. About a half a second to a full second at the top should be sufficient.
Stage 4- Lowering back down (eccentric)
After you have paused at the top of the bar with your chin just over it, it’s time to come back down.
To come down, lower yourself in a smooth controlled motion. Make sure you keep you back and shoulder muscles active and do not just let yourself fall all the way down.
It should take you the same amount of time to come down as it did to pull yourself up.
The eccentric phase is just as important as the concentric phase.
Your muscles are still working hard as long as you lower your body down in a smooth controlled motion.
The final resting point is just prior to your arms being fully extended.
Keep a slight crook in your elbows to make sure that you are keeping the tension on your muscles.
The more tension you can keep your muscles under, the more they are worked and therefore the more growth and strength you will get.
Once you’ve hit this point, you’ve successfully done a pull-up. Congratulations!
Beginner to professional
If you have never done a pull-up before, then the first one that you do will be the most important.
Now that you have the blueprint to do your first one and master the movement, the world is yours.
Once you are able to do one, you will undoubtedly yearn to do more.
The pull-up is one of the best exercises you can do to build raw strength and size.
The time you invest in mastering the movement will not be wasted.
It will take time and effort to increase the number of pull-ups you can do so be patient and stick with it.
P.S. Are pull-ups part of your routine? I’d love to hear how they’ve helped you and your results. I’d also love to hear any questions or comments below!