Let it all hang out…
Pull ups are the result of functional strength and a prime example of the versatility of bodyweight training.
Whether you want to build massive upper ody strength and core stability, or you want to define your shoulder, arm, back, or core muscles – pull ups are your weapon of choice. The following five tips will improve your technique and consequently increase your reps.
- The right technique, or how to protect your shoulders from injuries.
Although the pull up is a good exercise to develop your body naturally an excessive and uncontrolled execution with slacking shoulders can result in overload symptoms in the joints. Therefore, start every rep with your shoulders pulled back and watch for a slight bend in your elbow joints. Doing it this way is easy on your joints, prevents overstraining your fascia, and allows for more pain-free reps.
- Use your back muscles (not just your arms)!
A normal pull up should first and foremost be accomplished by the mighty M. Latissimus dorsi (broad back muscle). In comparison your arm and shoulder muscles are way too weak and burn out quick. To fully activate your ‘lat’ a proper warm up with some dumbbell or kettlebell rows is in order. Rows with a sling trainer or ‘high pulls’ are also helpful. Light strikes to the back muscle right before the pull ups also work wonders.
- The chin has to go over the bar!
Pull yourself up completely. In every stage of the motion of a pull up there are different muscles involved in different angles. For a considerable improvement of your reps it is essential to train every single stage equally. ‘A chain is only as strong as its weakest link’! If you feel you can’t fully do another rep (with your chin over the bar!) it is time for a break or you work on another grip position, improve your static holding power, or train the excentric (sinking) phase of the downward movement.´
- 1000 pull up variations – variety is important!
Get some variety in your pull up routine. You can achieve an effective improvement if you tryand train the countless pull ups variations. This also is a good recipe against boredom. For many aspects of fitness like grip strength, explosiveness, and overall strength there are special techniques.
Here are some examples:
- grip strength: Mix Grip Pull‐Ups, Narrow Grip Chin-Ups, 1-Arm, Assisted Pull-Ups
- explosiveness: Clap Pull‐Ups, Switch Pull-Ups, In & Out Pull‐Ups
- overall strength: Side‐to-Side Pull‐Ups, L-Sit Pull‐Ups
- Carpe diem – the day has 24 hours!
‘Grease the groove’, the well-known system by Pavel Tsatsouline to improve strength, has helped me a lot to imprve my pull up reps significantly. Incorporating it in your workout routine is fairly simple. Do a pull up set every 2-3 hours spread over the day. It is important to note that you don’t go to your limit but leave air for 1-2 additional reps. A perfect form and total exhaustion contradict each other. You are encouraged to change to a different grip variation regularly. Even if you can only do 2-3 reps per set it will add up over the day and result in a decent total.
Sample workout for increasing the pull up reps
The following workout program can be done 2-3 times per week in addition to your normal training regimen. The simple program structure can be complemented by different grip variations. Accompanying mobilisation exercises for your shoulder are important.
- A1:Negative pull ups (overhand grip) – 2 x 5 reps with 5 seconds downward movement
- A2:Leg raises – 2 x 10 reps
- B1:Negative pull ups (underhand grip) – 2 x 5 reps with 5 seconds downward movement
- B2:L‐Sit Hangs – 2 x 30‐60 seconds
- C1:Extended push ups – 2 x 10
- C2:Bar Hangs – 2 x 30-60 seconds
- D:Farmer Walks – 2 x 50 m