Fitness

Better Workouts: How to Master The Pullup

Pullups are the ultimate test of relative body strength. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, here’s how to do more and see progress.

We’ve all heard the old adage “You’ve got to learn how to crawl before you can learn how to walk.” Nothing could be more accurate in the gym.

Unfortunately, when it comes to their training and exercise selection, most people suffer through workouts that don’t deliver the best results because they perform exercises beyond their ability.

Performing exercise variations that are too advanced for your current level of fitness, or attempting to progress towards these variations too quickly sets of a disastrous sequence of events: poor body alignment, a lack of control and a reduced range of motion, limited muscle tension, and ultimately lackluster progress and results.

Your goal is to perform the right exercises for your current level of fitness–not the most advanced–and work up slowly and progressively over time with proper technique.

As part of an ongoing series, you’ll learn how to become better at any exercise. This guide will teach you to master the pullup.

Choose the appropriate exercise variation based on your current level of fitness, and then build your way to a stronger body.

How to Do More Pullups

Level 1: Chin-ups

How to do it

Hang from an overhead bar, palms facing you, with a shoulder width grip. From a dead hang, flex your elbows and pull yourself up until upper chest contacts the bar. Pause for a full second in the contracted position, pulling your shoulder blades down into your back pockets, before lowering yourself under control back to the starting position. That’s one rep.

Where to Begin

Begin by performing 5 sets of one half your current chin-up maximum. (For example: if you can perform 6 full chin-ups, start with sets of 3 reps), resting 2 minutes between sets.

Your Goal 

Work up to performing 5 to 6 sets of 5 to 6 reps, resting 2:00 between sets. Once you’ve achieved the goal, move on to level 2.

Level 2: Mixed Grip Pull-ups

How to do it

Hang from an overhead bar, one palm facing you and one palm facing away from you, with a slightly wider than shoulder width grip. From a dead hang, flex your elbows and pull yourself up until your chin clears the bar. Pause for a full second in the contracted position, pulling your shoulder blades down into your back pockets, before lowering yourself under control back to the starting position. That’s one rep.

Where to Begin

Assuming you’ve mastered level 1, begin by performing 6 sets of 3 reps (alternate your grip each set), resting 2:00 between sets.

The Goal 

Work up to performing 6 sets of 5 to 6 reps (alternating your grip each set), resting 2:00 between sets. Once you’ve achieved the goal move on to level 3.

Level 3: Pull-ups

Description

Hang from an overhead bar, palms facing away from you (overhand), with a slightly wider than shoulder width grip. From a dead hang, flex your elbows and pull yourself up until you chin your chin clears the bar. Pause for a full second in the contracted position, pulling your shoulder blades down into your back pockets, before lowering yourself under control back to the starting position. That’s one rep.

Where to Begin

If you’ve mastered level 2, begin by performing 5 to 6 sets of 3 reps, resting 2:00 between sets.

The Goal

Work up to performing 5 to 6 sets of 5 to 6 reps, resting 2:00 between sets. Once you’ve achieved the goal move on to level 4.

Level 4: Towel-Ups

How to do it 

Fold two heavy duty hand towels, evenly spaced, from an overhead bar. Set a strong grip on each towel and move into a dead hang position. Once your grip is set, flex your elbows and pull yourself up until your chin clears the bar. Pause for a full second in the contracted position, pulling your shoulder blades down into your back pockets, before lowering yourself under control back to the starting position. That’s one rep.

Where to Begin

Now that you’ve mastered level 3, begin by performing 5 to 6 sets of 3 reps, resting 2:00 between sets.

The Goal 

Work up to performing 5 to 6 sets of 5 to 6 reps, resting 2:00 between sets.

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