Here are a few strategies to help get you to get your first pull-up /chin up faster ⁣
Bodyweight exercises, such as pull-ups and chin-ups have a lot to do with “relative strength”.⁣
Relative strength is how strong someone is in relation to their bodyweight.⁣
Knowing that, a pull-up can be achieved by reducing bodyweight, increasing pull-up strength, or both. 🤘 Eg: I did my first ever chin-up 2 years ago when I were 67kg, my current Pull Up Personal Best is 12 Reps.

This happened after losing a 7kg body weight while getting stronger at pulling, rowing and curling exercises.⁣

Two exercises you can do to up your pull up game

  1. Dead Hangs

Dead hangs are an amazing exercise and are great for all levels as there are numerous variations. Why do dead-hangs? They have many benefits such as grip strength, shoulder health, and spinal decompression. If you’re looking for a pull-up progression, this is the starting point.

How many of us have gone for a heavy deadlift and our grip is what fails us, not our pure strength? One of the best ways of increasing your grip strength is to do basic dead hangs. The correct form for a dead hang is to hang from the pull-up bar in a hollow position with your shoulders packed and activated. You want to avoid swinging and make sure your entire body is tensed. Squeeze the bar as you’re hanging to activate your muscles so that you learn how to use the muscles on your back.

Try to build to a 30-second hang, rest 60 seconds, and repeat six times. 

If this is too easy then you can hang for longer or add weight to your dead hangs. If you really want a challenge you can use fat grips to make the bar thicker or hang a towel from the bar and hold each end. Other variations include L-sit hangs and flexed arm hangs.

If this is something you want to incorporate into your training then try for three times a week to start off, and avoid doing it on deadlift day. You can mix it up and one day do 30 seconds on with 60 seconds off for 6 rounds. Another option would be EMOM (every minute on the minute) for 6 to 10 minutes hang for 30 – 40 seconds and rest the remaining time. Finally, and in my opinion, the hardest is max effort hangs with 90-second rest in between for five sets.

If hanging is a bit too rough right now, then you can train your grip by deadlifting and then holding a barbell. There are three ways you can do this: a) maximal effort method which involves maximal loading for 3 to 5 sets of 1 to 3 reps, b) dynamic effort method which involves submaximal loading and explosiveness for 6 to 10 sets of 2 to 4 reps focusing on speed, and finally c) the repeated effort method where you lift a submaximal load to failure for 4 to 6 sets.

2. Negative Pull-Ups

There really is no better way to improve your pull-up strength then to do pull-ups, and one of the best ways to get there is to reverse the movement. Instead of dead hang to pull-up, negative pull-ups are the place to start.

The negative involves only performing the eccentric phase of the standard pull-up. You start in the flex hang and lower into the dead hang position. Working with gravity instead of against it makes this portion of the exercise easier than the pulling phase, but it will still help develop the muscles and skills you need to progress to the full movement.

It might seem like doing a pull-up backward won’t make you better at them, but actually eccentric movements are key to building muscle and strength. When you talk about the eccentric movement you refer to the amount of force produced when a muscle lengthens, which is the opposite of contraction where a muscle shortens. It’s interesting to note that there are fewer motor units involved in eccentric movement, meaning there is actually more mechanical load per motor unit. In other words, there’s more tension than in a concentric movement. The more tension, the more stimulus on the muscle fibers which results in some really impressive muscular adaptations — such as getting enough strength to do your first pull-up.

For this exercise, the aim is to do it as “slow and controlled as possible”. You can use bands to assist you in the very beginning until you can lower yourself in a controlled manner. Start off slow, week one might only be three days where you perform 4 sets of 3 negatives aiming for 6 to 10 seconds on the descent. Build on this each week, adding either another set or more reps. How often you should do this exercise depends on the individual. Start with three times a week, from there you can either hold for longer or add an extra day but be sure you are well rested for these sessions!

A quick look at negatives versus machine assisted pull-ups. I’m not trying to bash the good old assisted pull-up machine, but using negatives or even banded pull-ups is much more effective than using this dinosaur machine in your gym. Negatives elicit more muscle activation than the machine can. It is also very easy to go easy on the machine but with negatives, you really have to try hard.

Accessories exercise to help you with Pull Up

  1. Barbell Rows

Barbell rows are an excellent compound exercise for increasing overall strength and muscle mass of the back muscles. Although this exercise is a rowing motion and targets the middle back, it still can have significant muscle building effects on other muscle groups like the  lats, posterior shoulder, rhomboids, scapular stabilisers, spinal erectors, forearms, and biceps. All important muscles for the pull-up.

The bent over row is the most popular rowing variation, which has a lifter assume a bent over position while keeping a barbell close to the body. The barbell row allows for the greatest amounts of loads to be rowed and transfers to heavy pulling movements. You’ll want to complete the barbell row at a volume and intensity that’s designed to build strength, which can be three to five sets of six to eight repetitions. Pick up a barbell that’s set at a weight that will challenge you as you complete the sets.

This movement can be added to your weekly program easily. You can through them in on back day no problem, aim for two or three times a week. If you do a lot of pulling then you won’t need these as frequently

2. Lat Pull downs

The lat pulldown is great as it mimics the muscles and range of motion of a pull-up. However, don’t go copying the gym bros you see using this piece of equipment. You want to start gripping the bar shoulder width apart with your arms fully extended. You must also avoid leaning backward when pulling the bar to the chest.

It is important to hold the bar at the chest for a count of 2 – 3 seconds to make sure you get a good squeeze between your shoulder blades. You also want to aim for about a three-second ascent with no pause at the top. Aim to complete 6-8 reps with as close to 80% body weight. Adjust as needed. The lat pulldown can be coupled with your negative pull-up days. Make sure these are controlled and really think about squeezing your scapulae (shoulder blades) together during the rep!

A quick note on lat pull downs: while they are good, you still want to build up to a pull-up because it recruits more muscles, builds more body control, is better for core strength, involves more neurological stimulation, and improves coordination and stability better. A combination of exercises is best!

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