Your First Pull-up
by Jackie Burgmann, creator of "Hot at Home" - The Transformation Solution for People Who Hate The Gym
Pull-ups have earned the stigma of being one of those exercises that only the very 'elite' fitness-hounds
can master. And with good reason. They're difficult to accomplish, since it involves pulling your entire
bodyweight up using your arms and back muscles.
However, pull-ups are an awesome bodyweight exercise for men and women alike.
And, pull-ups are a great full-body exercise that engage your shoulders, chest and core as well as being superior for building sexy back and bicep muscles.
It is well worth the work to train your body to to do pull-ups
But, if you think pull-ups are just too out of reach for your fitness level, think again.
Keep reading for some nifty tips to help you get your first pull-up done.
And once you've done your first pull-up you'll find that getting your rep numbers up will come much more quickly than you imagine.
There are many grips and hand widths that you can use to do pull-ups. Each of these hit the muscles in your back in different ways. Some are easier to do and some are harder to accomplish.
So, start with the easier versions and once you’re able to do several reps of the easier versions, you can move on to the more difficult grips.
But first things first. If you can't even do one yet, start with a narrow grip with your palms facing towards your face.
Doing pull-ups with this grip is more commonly referred to as a chin-up.
So now that we have all that straight, HOW do you make it happen?
If you can’t do even one, even with the easiest grip, then DON'T start from a full hang.
Start from a standing position with your elbows slightly bent (stand on a step or a stool if you need get closer to the bar).
Or, if that’s still too hard, start with your arms bent at a 90 degree angle and just work on pulling up just enough to get your eyes even with the bar.
If you're still having difficulty getting started even starting from the position of your arms at a 90 degree angle, then try putting a chair or bench under the bar and standing on it, using your legs for assistance. Try not to rely too much on your legs, using only as much or as little assistance as you need. Force your arms and back muscles to do the majority of the work.
A good trick to prevent yourself from relying too much on your legs to get you up to the bar is to only
have your toes touching the bench instead of standing flat footed, and push as lightly as possible from
a tip-toe position.
But, whichever 'beginners stance' you choose, keep the pressure off of yourself... just do one at first. Don't start trying to do higher numbers of reps immediately. Do one rep only. No more than that. Then walk away. Come back later and do another one.
When I was first starting out I’d do one per hour for three hours and I'd recommend you start out the same way (assuming you have somewhere around your home you can do this).
If you work out at home and you really want to learn to do pull-ups, then absolutely make sure you install a pull-up bar somewhere in your home. They aren't expensive and they aren't hard to install.
If you’re not set up to work out at home and are limited to your gym visits, do one at the beginning of your workout and another one at the end. Then once you get stronger do one at the beginning, one in the middle and one at the end.
Once you are able to do a few from that position, start lower with your arms a bit straighter, try to get your chin even with the bar at the top of the move. Eventually you want to be able to bring the top of your chest to the bar.
You can also try experimenting with raising yourself up with a chair then only working the negative, by starting at the top of the move with your chest at the bar then slowly lowering yourself (without the chair assisting) until you're hanging with straight arms. You'll likely be able to do a few more reps in this direction than regular pull-ups and it can go a long way to building your strength and form quickly.
Keep building on your form like this, lengthening your starting position and increasing the height you pull to until you can start from a full hang and do several reps bringing the bar to your chest, or working the negative by doing all this in reverse slowly.
Once you are able to do several chin-ups from a full hang using the easiest grip, start widening your grip slowly but surely, and eventually turn your hands so your palms are facing away from you into the proper pull-up grip.
And trust me, it will come. With hard work and persistence, it WILL come.
At this stage you should start experimenting with bars that are set up differently (like parallel bars or slightly angled bar) for varied grips.
Before long you’ll be the envy of many when you can walk up to the bar and just rip off a set and make it look effortless.
And then this is where it gets really fun, trying different variations and finding out what you are now capable of.
Testing your rep max with different grips or even hanging weight off yourself to see how heavy you can go can be an interesting, fun and challenging workout.
So get out there and start pulling! You'll be amazed how fast it can happen. It starts with ONE.
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