What is a proper pull up? I can count at least a dozen variations off the top of my head, so which one is the goal here? A proper pull-up meets these criteria:

Elbows are straight at the starting position
Palms are facing away from the face
The chin comes above the bar
There is a brief pause between repetitions
Feet and legs are kept below or behind the trunk (no flexion at the hips)

The following exercise progression will put you in the GO zone for a single unassisted pull-up.

1. Bent-over DB Rows
This will start to generally strengthen your back and biceps. It will also teach you to pull something from a dead stop. To start, choose a weight that you fail around 9 or 10 repititions. Do 3 sets of 8 reps. Work your way up to 40% of your bodyweight per dumbbell. This could take a matter of weeks or months to train.

2. Inverted Rows:
The bar of a Smith Machine is the best approach because the height can be adjusted to match your strength; the movement gets harder as your body leaves the vertical plane. This uses the same muscles as a pull up, but redistributes your weight in a different plane. Work your way up to three sets of 10 with your body pretty close to parallel with the ground.

3. Resistance Band assisted Pull up:
Fold a thin resistance band over the bar, step into the handles, and pull your chest to the bar. The spring constant in the band provides support. This configuration puts your body in the correct plane for an actual pull up. It trains specific pull-up muscles to follow the desired movement pattern.

4. Negatives:
Use a chair, resistance band, or jump so that you are at the top of the pull up. In other words, get to the top of the pull up position without having pulled yourself up there ;) Now hold this position for a few seconds and slowly fight gravity as you descend from the bar. The letdown should take 5-10s. Performing negatives is the fastest route to your first full pull up. Unfortunately, like many good training methods, they are tremendously draining and a sense of failure is often associated with them. They work wonders…and you’ve been warned.

Once you complete a single pull up, the ever envied V-shaped upper-body and gorgeous biceps are soon to follow! Train up and be persistent so when you come back to check this blog in January, you’ll have instructions on how to turn 1 pull-up into 10!

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Getting a Pull Up

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