9 Ways To Improve Your Pull-Ups

Gym Workout For Back

The pull up. For decades it’s been the most revered upper body exercise in the gym. Everyone wants to perform perfect pull ups, but to see them done correctly is about as rare as rocking horse poo.


So the question is: why worry about pull ups?


Firstly, they’re not only a terrific upper body pulling exercise, they’re also challenging for the core. They also give a very clear indication of your relative strength, which is a fancy name given to how strong you are relative to your body weight.


Relative strength carries over to most activities, and will improve your performance in sport. Other than that, they also improve how you look. For men, having a V-shape torso is a sign of a well-built physique and will help you fill out a tuxedo jacket or shirt. For women, you will develop a toned, sexy back that you can show off this summer.


So how do you perform them well? And then, how can you increase the amount of reps you can do?


Here are the top 9 ways to improve your pull ups:


  1. Lose Fat

Having any additional weight is going to make this already difficult exercise even harder. Plus, it’s unsightly and unhealthy. So get your diet dialed in and aim for <15% body fat.


  1. Stop using bands

Bands and lat pull down machines are not recommended. 
Despite their polulariet soaring for people attempting their first pull-up, I want you to steer clear. According to Ben Murphy, director of Movement Enhanced, “there is a big difference between pulling your body weight on a machine vs pulling your body weight over the bar. 
Bands modify the strength curve, which can lead to weak and under developed scapular retractors.”


  1. Train more frequently

Instead of only training pull-ups on “back day”, train them more frequently. Try incorporating 3-5 sets in each workout. They don’t have to be done consecutively. You could add one set at the start, two sets in the middle and a final set at the end.


  1. Don’t Always go To Failure 

Going to failure too often on pull-ups can burn out your CNS, and impede recovery. If your maximum with good technique is 8 reps, for example, stop all sets after just 4 reps. This will allow for perfect form, and allow you to perform more overall sets during a workout.


  1. Start in the Proper Position

All too often people start in the dead hang position with their scapula elevated, and their shoulders up touching their ears. This is not optimal. When you do this all of the tension is placed on your tendons and ligaments instead of your muscles.


When you get on the bar you want to pull your shoulder blades down and lock your shoulders into their sockets. This position ensures that the stress will be placed directly on the muscles and not the tendons.


  1. Drive Your Elbows Down

To get the most out of your lats when you perform pull-ups you should think about driving your elbows down and back as hard as you can. Don’t simply “pull” with your biceps, imagine your elbows pointing to the floor.


  1. Use a Variety of Grips

Once you are making progress, it’s great to mix up the grip. You can do reps with your palms facing you at varying widths. You can also do chin ups with your palms facing each other, or pull ups with your palms facing away at multiple grip widths.  Then you can add in bars, rings, off-set grips, ropes, towels, suspension straps, beams, and even baseballs hanging from a chain.


The variations are endless. Use as many different pull up variations as possible to avoid burnout or overuse injuries.


  1. Use a Variety of Rep Ranges

To do a lot of pull ups you need both strength and you need endurance.

One way to do this is to perform both high-rep and low-rep sets. Low reps can be performed sith weighted vests, or you can simplt incrwase the difficulty by using slow tempo or pauses. Endurance is built with high reps, and this is where other upper back exercises like ring rows will help.


  1. Strengthen Your Grip

A stronger grip will mean less fatigue. My favorite way to improve the grip is via farmers carries, deadlifts, Fat Gripz, and rack pulls. You can also use direct forearm training, such as pinching and wrist curls.


Start using these top 9 ways to improve your pull ups today and drop me a comment or email to let me know how they’re working for you. In the meantime, if you could hit the Like button I’d really appreciate it.