Pull-ups are a fantastic and effective exercise for the upper body, however, they’re also a very difficult exercise to perform. If you’re working towards a goal of doing a certain amount in a workout session, or even just trying to complete one, there are several methods you can incorporate to get strong enough to tackle this tough exercise. Keep reading for tips on strengthening the muscles involved in pull-ups.
A great alternative for pull-ups is the lat pulldown exercise. It simulates a pull-up because many of the same muscle groups are used—your lats, upper back and biceps. Do 3-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions at whatever weight you can currently handle with proper form, then make sure you have a plan to add weight each week to ensure you’re progressing and getting stronger.
Build Your Biceps
Having weak biceps can affect your ability to do a pull-up. Train your biceps by doing alternating dumbbell curls, preacher curls and barbell curls. It’s important that you do not swing the weights when doing bicep exercises, as it will not make your biceps stronger. Always use controlled movements and proper form.
Increasing your strength on rowing exercises may translate into pull-up strength since a lot of the same muscles are utilized. Barbell rows, dumbbell rows and hammer strength rows can help increase your back and bicep strength. Bodyweight rows (like a TRX or with a set of gymnastic rings) can also be extremely beneficial in building the muscle needed for pull-ups.
Improve Grip Strength
A moderate amount of grip strength is required to perform a pull-up. You can do deadlifts and farmer walks to increase grip strength. Just make sure you don’t use weightlifting straps on them, otherwise, you won’t increase the strength of your grip. While deadlifting, try to avoid a “mix grip” which you will see tons of people doing while deadlifting. A double over-hand grip is the best bet for deadlifts if trying to improve your grip strength. Another great exercise for improving grip strength is simply hanging from a pull-up bar. Start with 4-5 sets of 5-10 seconds, and increase the time as your strength improves.
Even if you can’t do a pull-up, you’re probably strong enough to lower yourself slowly down from the bar. Have somebody push you up to the top of the pull-up bar, or if possible, use your legs to help you “jump” your chin over the bar, also called a “jumping pull-up.” Once you’re at the top, slowly lower your body down. The negative portion of the exercise will still work your back and bicep muscles. The human body is usually stronger in the eccentric (or negative) portion.
In order to do pull-ups, you must build up the strength of your biceps, upper back and lats. Make sure when training for pull-ups, or anything for that matter, that there is some type of progression in terms of sets, reps, weight being used and even rest times. Be consistent, practice proper form and you will eventually be able to knock off multiple pull-ups!