How to Perfect Your Pull Ups

Pulls ups are challenging, and doing incorrect pull ups make them even more challenging.  Today, we will help you to master your form and help you achieve your goals of performing multiple pull ups.  

Let's jump right in.  

To master the correct pull up form, you need a strong core.  

A strong core is needed to help with the swaying of your body that often accompanies pull ups.  Keeping your core tight helps to stay in a straight path up and down from the bar so there are no wasted movements.  Another body part to help with the stability of the body when performing pull ups are your scapula (shoulder blades).  These help to keep the upper body, specifically the shoulders in a strong position, which will help with the body swaying.  When we are hanging on the bar ready to perform our pull ups, scapula retraction will in turn, bring our shoulders and chest up.  Once your upper body is set in this position, and your core is tight, you are in position to start pulling yourself to the bar. 

Let's take a step back.  

Hand positioning is key to engage the larger muscles in our back.  

Placing our hands slightly wider than our shoulders helps to engage our latissimus dorsi muscles in our back, which is a huge player of performing pull ups.  We already talked about keeping our core tight and engaged throughout the movement, but it doesn’t end at our hips.  We need to keep our legs straight, and tight starting at our calves, flexing our toes down to the ground, flexing our quads to keep our legs straight and flexing our glutes to help keep our legs in unison with what our upper body is doing.  So to break it down, keeping our entire body straight and tightened will translate over to a more efficient pull.  

Do not think of it as pulling your body up to the bar, think of pulling the bar down to the floor.  

By thinking of pulling the bar down to the floor, we will stay strong throughout the entire movement, ensuring that our posture stays straight through the full range of motion.  As we are pulling the bar down to the floor, we want to also be thinking of squeezing our hands (which are gripped on the bar and stationary) together.  By actively trying to squeeze our hands in together, our chest will begin to activate as we try to bring our chest up to the bar, not to mention, it will help keep our wrists, forearms, elbows and upper arm tracked in line with one another.  

One last thing with the pull up, like I mentioned above…

We want to attack the bar with our chest. 

Meaning, we need to open up our chest as we are pulling ourselves up to the bar.  By engaging our latissimus dorsi muscles, keeping our scapula retracted, and actively trying to pull our hands together at just beyond shoulder width apart, our chest should naturally open up, and achieve thoracic (or chest cavity) extension, making our pull ups even easier to accomplish.

Hopefully this guideline to becoming an expert in pull ups helped, and next time you do a pull up, think about these as you are setting yourself up to perform the lift!

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