The pull up. It's the killer chest and back exercise that many people struggle with, and some people find it all-round impossible to do. Indeed, if you are short in height and haven't worked on your back and chest muscles previously, you might find this move a tricky one. However, it's a great workout move for building muscle mass and upper body strength, and it can help you with other exercises too. While it's a challenging move, doing it has enormous benefits.
How do I do pull ups for beginners?
If it's your first time doing a pull up, I would first recommend assessing your chest and back strength. Can you do pull ups on your toes? Do you often work out with a barbell? When was the last time you completed a full set of monkey bars? If you are confident with your upper body strength, you might be able to do an unsupported pull up. But if you aren't - and there's no shame in it, you are learning to do pull ups to increase your strength, after all - you might want some assistance at first. Even if you think that you can do a pull up without support, you might want to try a supported pull up to perfect your method initially.
Pull up bands
Pull up assist bands (like these: https://victoremgear.com/products/pull-up-assist-band) are a great workout kit that can help you with your first pull up. Simply loop one end around your pull up bar and the other around your waist. The tension will act as support, so when you move upwards in the pull up, it will pull you in the right direction - rather than gravity pushing you down! Initially, you can use a pull up band to help build your muscle. The stronger your chest muscles, the easier you will find it to do unsupported pull ups! And, when the strain of trying to do a pull up is lessened, you'll be able to focus more on your technique.
Pull up technique
Firstly, it's important to not do a pull up on your own. Ask a friend or a trainer to spot you when you attempt one for the first time. You should have a pull up bar, either a free-standing bar or one attached to the door. Make sure that it is stable before attempting a pull up. Then, follow these steps:
1. Stand facing the bar, and grasp the bar with hands shoulder-width apart and facing forward.
2. Keep facing forward, push your chest out, and keep your back in a slightly curved position. Doing this protects your lower back and other muscles.
3. In a controlled manner, pull your body up until your chest is parallel to the bar.
4. Slowly release your body - don't drop yourself - and keep your body controlled until you are once again on the ground.
Your pull up can be done either with bodyweight or as an assisted pull up with a band. Once you are confident with your technique with a band and feel like you have built your strength up sufficiently, you can try doing one with just bodyweight!
What exercises help you do a pull up?
If you don't feel comfortable doing pull ups at first, you might want to try out some exercises that should help you build your chest and back muscles.
Firstly, stick to the pull up bar with a negative pull. This is basically an inverted pull up.
1. You'll start on a platform with your chest already parallel to the bar.
2. Then you'll move downwards, working with gravity, to a hanging position.
3. Then, pull yourself back up to pull up position.
Some people find the initial boost offered by a negative pull helps them train for pull ups.
Good old fashioned push-ups are one of the best exercises for building chest and back strength - and eventually, being able to do pull ups. What's more, they're great for beginners! If you can't do push ups on your toes, you can start on your knees and work up to them. On your knees or toes, assume push up position with your hands wide. Push down towards the ground, and then push up to the original position. This is one rep.
Bent over row
This move can be done with free weights or a resistance band and works out the biceps and back.
1. Bend over at a 45-degree angle with a weight or the end of a band in one hand.
2. Bend your arms at a 90-degree angle, with your upper arm tucked into your torso.
3. Keeping your arm in this position, pull it up and then back down. This is one rep.
They're great for upper body strength, but there's no denying it, pull ups are tough. However, with these recommendations and a bit of training, you should be able to master them!