Pull Up Problems (SOLVED!)

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Build your pullup strength while training like an athlete here

The pull up is one of the most iconic symbols of strength that there is. This king of all upper body exercises demands that you have a command of your own bodyweight and can lift yourself up against the force of gravity at will. That said, the pull up continues to be one of the most challenging exercises for many, and for lots of different reasons. In this video, I take a question from one of our loyal viewers regarding his own pull up problems. This pullup issue is one of stability and fatigue, and the implications of both when it comes to completing more pull up reps.

To begin, it’s important to understand the importance of stability and strength during this exercise. The pull up requires that you have enough shoulder, mid back and core stability to keep your body stabile while under the bar. If your body sways during every rep, you lose a lot of the potential power that you could be directing into the pullup itself just to try and stabilize your trunk.

Try this quick test first to see if your pullup swaying is coming from your ab weakness. Begin by grabbing the bar and noting what happens to your body as you begin your strict pullups. If you start to sway back and forth, forcefully contract your abs and see if you get your body to stop rocking. If so, then you likely need to work a bit more on your hanging ab exercises to gradually build up your core strength and your tolerance to be able to perform more strict, non-swaying pullups.

If your problem persists, especially as you get fatigued, then your issue is likely more in your lack of shoulder blade strength and stability. Here, I describe a situation where the lower traps and sometimes the serratus anterior muscles, are not strong enough or do not have enough muscle endurance to keep you in the proper position throughout the set. As you fatigue, you will lose the ability to keep your scapulae pinched together throughout your set. As the lower traps get tired, their contribution to holding your shoulder blades tight to your rib cage is lost. The body then starts to sway away from the bar as the blades are pulled apart and out in front of you into protraction.

To correct this pull up problem, you can start doing some of the dumbbell Y exercise that I show you in this video. Start by presetting the shoulder blades together while laying face down on an incline bench. Once done, perform a dumbbell raise where you lift your arms straight up and out over your head in the shape of a Y. Lower and reset your scapulae and repeat until you reach failure. Perform a few sets of these a few extra times per week to gradually build up the strength of the weak lower traps.

Include some additional sets of the partial pull up variation shown here as well. The goal here is to get as many strict reps as you can without allowing your shoulder blades to be pulled into protraction. Once you can do more reps this way you’ll see how it will carry over to your ability to do full pullups as well.

For a complete workout program that helps you to overcome your present weaknesses and build athletic strength from head to toe, visit and start training like an athlete with the ATHLEAN-X Training System.

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