Pull ups are the king of upper body exercises!
One of the more difficult calisthenics moves to master, its technique is actually quite simple.
The movement is extremely simple. With the back of your hands facing you, reach up and grab the bar with an above-shoulder width grip.
Now, flexing your biceps and upper back muscles, smoothly pull yourself up towards the bar—ideally until your chin is over the bar.
When you’re done, slowly allow your weight to fall.
To continue the exercise, don’t let your feet touch the ground and repeat the motion.
Pull Ups Variations and Benefits
For variations of the exercise, try changing the grip so that your palms are now facing you. This is now a chin up, and there is now less emphasis on your back muscles and more on your biceps.
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Try wide grips and narrow grips. I’ve found that wide grips tend to utilize the latissimus dorsi (your “wings” on the sides of your ribcage) and close grips hit the arms hard.
How could such a simple task build pounds of sexy and defining muscle onto the average layman’s upper body?
The secret is that it is a compound lift. By using numerous different muscle groups—in this case the entire back and a significant portion of your biceps, forearms, and abdominals (for stabilization)—you are activating and utilizing more of your body.(1)
How Many Should the Average Person Be Able To Do?
According to the Marine Corps Physical Fitness Charts, a maximum reward of 100 points (perfect score) on a fitness test requires 20 pull ups from potential military men and 70 seconds of a flexed arm hang for females.(4)
The flexed arm hang is simply a chin up that is held at the top. The minimum fitness requirements for each event for males is 3 pull ups, and for females is 15 seconds on a flexed arm hang position.
A good number to aim for if you are simply getting into fitness is 5 pull ups for men and 2 for women.
If You Can’t Do a Pull Up…
If you can’t do a pull up, start with flexed arm hangs and stay there until you can do chin ups easily. One you’ve progressed to doing chin ups with ease, try assisted pull ups until you can do one by yourself.
My favorite way of improving one’s pull up number is called greasing the groove. Unlike other exercises, we want to aim for the highest repetition rather than the heaviest weight.
For such improvements, the frequency of exercise is key. Greasing the groove simply means do a set of pull ups here and there.
Don’t focus on perfection, just do a set until failure, and then do something else. Later on, do another set. This forces the body to prepare itself because it thinks it’ll have to do pull ups much more frequently in the future.
Another quick way is to do weighted pull ups. Attaching a weight to yourself and then practicing pull ups will make regular pull ups feel easy.
Try adding ten pounds to a chained belt for two weeks and go back to regular pull ups. Rest assured that if you follow these instructions, the number of pull ups you can do will increase.
Hopefully, you’ve found this guide to pull ups entertaining and information. Just remember that what will determine your success is your pain tolerance.
Push hard, but be safe, and keep doing it consistently to see results!