Pull-ups are one of the most impressive exercises seen in the gym – any person who can jump up to the pull up bar and start busting out pull up after pull up is the envy of other people in the gym who aren’t there yet. But, fear not, because in this article I will explain how you can get there.
How To Get That Coveted Pull-Up Crown
First off, if you’re female, chances are you won’t be able to jump up to the bar and start repping out pull-ups straight away. Females are unlucky in that they (generally) lack in the upper body strength department in comparison to guys. However, that does not mean that they are incapable of being just as good at pull-ups as guys are. Pull-ups, like any other exercise, have to be practiced in order to refined and perfected. You can be great at lat pull downs, cable rows, and barbell rows, and still have issues with doing proper pull-ups. All it takes to fix this is practice.
For someone like me who was unable to do even 1 pull-up on the pull-up bar, I used the assisted pull-up/dip machine as a way to improve my pull-ups. The assisted machine uses counterbalanced weights, so the higher you set the weight, the easier the pull up will be. I used that machine religiously every single day before I started my workouts. I weigh around 110lbs, so I set the machine to 100lbs to begin with, because I needed serious help. I would do 3 sets of 10 everyday, and slowly over time, the weight I used dropped down to 80, then to 60, then finally to 40lbs.
It must be noted that doing pull ups on the assisted machine is super different from pull ups on the pull up bar, because suddenly there is nothing stabilizing you, no assistance on the way up, and your entire bodyweight is pulling you down. Just because I could do 3 sets of 10 with 40lbs assistance, didn’t mean I could do 3 sets of 10 on my own. In fact, the number I could do was only 3-5 reps. I hadn’t reached my goal yet, so I had to keep practicing. Everyday I did 3 sets to failure. Not enough to take a toll on my body, but just enough to ensure consistency. Finally, after 6 months, I earned my pull-up crown.
It’s important to know that pull-ups have a specific form too. One of the most important parts is stopping your body from swinging all over the place. To do this, you need to keep your core strong and tight. If your core is loose, then when you pull up, your legs will most likely fling out in front of you. What I do to counteract this tendency is I cross my ankles behind me and hold my calves parallel to the floor. This allows me to keep my core tight, my legs out of the way, and allows my back to be completely isolated on the concentric and eccentric motions.
All in all, pull-ups are a wonderful exercise – they target so many muscles, they can be done with just your body weight, or even weighted if bodyweight is too easy, and, most of all, they can be done in many places, not just the gym!