Have you been working out regularly but still can’t do a pull-up?
Why are pull-ups so hard for you while you see other people do them so easily?
There are three big reasons why you can’t do pull-ups.
- You aren’t strong enough.
- You haven’t been practicing pull-ups.
- You don’t believe you can.
Adding the following exercises to your gym routine will have you doing pull-ups in no time.
- You aren’t strong enough to do a pull-up.
- You haven’t been practicing pull-ups correctly.
- You don’t believe you can do a pull-up.
You aren’t strong enough to do a pull-up.
Completing a pull up requires coordinated upper body and core strength. You will need enough of that strength to move your entire body weight. It’s more complicated than just doing lat pulldowns and biceps curls.
Train your weak muscles.
A 2010 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research looked at muscle activation in pull-ups and chin-ups. The muscles studied included Latissimus Dorsi, Biceps Brachii, Infraspinatus, Lower Trapezius, Pectoralis Major, Erector Spinae, and External Oblique.
Other smaller muscles responsible for joint stabilization are also used.
You don’t need to have a deep understanding of physiology to see that pull-ups require strength in a lot of muscles. These muscles are located throughout your back, chest, shoulders, and core.
Pull-ups are a great strength-building exercise for the same reason they are so difficult. They require every muscle in your upper body.
Performing exercises that isolate each of these muscles can build strength. Lat pulldowns, biceps curls, and dumbbell rows are great exercises to improve pull up strength.
Drop some weight or work harder.
It’s a simple physics problem. The more you weigh, the stronger you need to be to move that weight upwards against gravity.
People who tend to make pull-ups look easy are lean and carry most of their weight in upper body muscles. Women and other people who carry the majority of their weight in their lower body will have to work harder to do pull-ups.
Be patient if you are starting with a weak upper body. Regularly training the necessary muscles and practicing pull-ups will get you a pull up if you stick with it.
You haven’t been practicing pull-ups correctly.
Machine and free weight exercises will help you build strength, but you need to actually get up on a pull-up bar to replicate the correct movement pattern.
Start by hanging from the bar correctly.
Hang from the bar with your knuckles toward the ceiling and your thumbs wrapped around the bottom side of the bar.
Activate your shoulder and lats.
Achieve an active shoulder position by pulling your shoulders down away from your ears. Think of doing the opposite of a shoulder shrug.
Engage your lats by pulling yourself up just a little without bending your elbows. Doing this tells your body that your lats are going to be the primary muscle working during the pull-up.
Use an elastic band for assistance.
A band-assisted pull-up is an excellent tool that allows you to practice the full range of motion of the pull up before you are strong enough to do it unassisted.
For band-assisted pull-ups, follow these steps:
- Loop a heavy resistance band around the pull-up bar pulling one side through the other to cinch the loop at the top.
- Put one or both feet into the bottom loop.
- Make sure you are starting in a hang position with your arms straight and shoulders pulled down away from your ears.
- Tilt your pelvis forward and pull your stomach in to create tension throughout your whole body.
At the top of the movement, avoid craning your neck to get your chin over the bar. Don’t bounce at the bottom in between reps.
Bouncing will make the reps easier, but it will slow your progress in building the strength required to do pull-ups on your own.
Incorporate isometric holds and negatives.
Isometric holds are static holds at the top of the pull-up.
Get into position by stepping off of a stool or box directly into the top position of the pull-up. Keep your head neutral and your abs engaged. Don’t hold your breath.
Once you can hold the top position for 30 seconds, you can start incorporating negatives.
A pull up negative is an eccentric exercise that can build enormous strength quickly.
Starting at the top, lower yourself slowly and with control until your arms are straight. Try to make the descent last for a full five seconds.
Try not to drop into a dead hang when you are almost at the bottom. The hardest part of a pull up is when your arms are almost straight. To build strength through this sticking point, you have to resist the urge to give in to gravity when it gets tough.
Negatives are very taxing on muscles, and you should only perform a few sets of 3-5 repetitions each time you work on pull-ups.
You don’t believe you can do a pull-up.
Simply saying, “I can’t do pull-ups,” can convince you that it isn’t worth trying.
Find inspiration from people like you.
Pull-ups aren’t just for gymnasts and guys who look like they’ve never missed arm day. Countless women and older adults are doing pull-ups.
Look for photos and videos online of someone who looks like you doing pull-ups. This will serve as useful inspiration on your journey.
If they can do it, you can do it.
Make a training plan that will slowly progress you toward your first pull up.
Create a plan that has you working on your pull-ups a few days per week. Start with the most beginner varieties of each exercise and progress to more advanced variations when the beginner ones feel too easy.
In the first few weeks, you may only be able to hang from the pull-up bar for a few seconds and need a very heavy band for assistance to complete a few full reps.
As your strength improves, you can build up to longer periods hanging on the bar and add partial pull-ups.
Once you can easily perform 12 unbroken repetitions with the heavy band, switch to a lighter band that provides less assistance.
Celebrate your small improvements
Small victories signal progress toward your goal.
When you reduce the amount of assistance needed on banded pull-ups, you can tell yourself that soon you won’t need a band at all. Being able to hang from the bar for longer shows that your grip strength is improving.
Staying motivated is the key to sticking with your training plan.
If you don’t notice and celebrate small wins, it might seem like you aren’t making any progress. This can lead to discouragement and giving up altogether.
Pull-ups are tough. Performing them correctly requires coordinated strength, proper technique, and determination.
Understanding the muscles used and the training required is the first step toward your first pull up. Putting your plan in action and sticking to your plan consistently for as long as it takes is all that is required to achieve this important fitness milestone.