The pull-up is one of the most commonly performed, and misperformed, exercises in the gym. In this video, I’m going to show you how to never do them incorrectly again and give you the fixes for the 10 most common pullup mistakes. Whether you can do 10 pull-ups or more now or struggle to do one, you’ll find this incredibly helpful and I guarantee you will be doing more reps by the time the video is over.
The first thing you need to be aware of is how you are gripping the bar. If you grip too narrow you will shift the focus of the movement from the stronger back muscles to the weaker muscles of the forearms. You want to make sure you are just outside of shoulder width with the hand placement for optimal performance on this exercise.
That said, the brachioradialis and brachialis are muscles that are going to be contributing to the pullup and your ability to do the most reps possible so you are going to need to train them. You just don’t want them being the main drivers of the exercise. To supplement your back muscles in the exercise, be sure to include some cross body hammer curls as shown to increase the strength of the forearms and your overall strength on the pullup.
Regarding the grip placement, it isn’t enough to just get the hand spacing down. You also want to be sure that you direct your pressure in the right way. Most people simply pull straight down on the bar or worse, they pull outwards because they’ve been told this will increase the activation of the lats. Both of these aren’t optimal. The best thing you can do is squeeze your hands inward towards each other and down at the same time. This will engage much more upper body muscle activation that will make your body feel as if it is floating up above the bar on every rep, instantly.
Much of this has to do with plugging kinetic looseness (or energy leaks as I call them). You can take this even a step further by contracting other areas of your body that often get ignored during the exercise like your legs, ankles and core. Instead of dangling from the bar and letting your knees hang loosely, tighten you quads, point your feet down and really contract your core muscles and you will see an instant improvement in your ability to lift your body up over the bar.
Now you don’t want to take these measures and then let it all loosen up when you get to the bottom of the rep. Most importantly, you do not want to get lax during the hanging portion of the pullup. This will place too much strain on the shoulders and is called unpacking. Instead, even though you want to get fully straightened at the elbows you want to keep your shoulder blades pulled down and back to create shoulder stability. This will allow for a lifetime of injury free pullups and more growth from the exercise.
There are other biomechanical flaws that you will want to avoid with your pullups that I cover here but I also want to point out a couple of the programming issues that are often done incorrectly as well. For instance, you don’t want to always save your pullups for the end of your workout. Too often, because they are a bodyweight exercise, we save them for after we have already done our rows, deadlifts or pulldowns. You will never get the most out of the exercise when done in a fatigued state like this. Try moving them to the front of your workout and you will be surprised at how quickly you see gains just by making the switch.
Finally, the exercise like any other, will respond to intensification techniques like drop sets and changes in the weight used during it. Use a band to accommodate your fatigue and get more total reps done in a workout – either as a drop set or as a simple lightening of the load as you would with any other traditional back exercise in your workout.
If you’re looking for a program that will help you to do many more pullups while at the same time getting you in the best overall shape of your life, head to athleanx.com at the link below and follow the same step by step training that has created ripped athletic bodies for men and women of all ages and all levels of athleticism.
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