Pull Ups: From Zero to Hero. A guide to improve your current Pull Up performance.
A widely covered topic, but even with all this information the seemingly simple task of pulling yourself up and getting your chin over the bar is still so elusive! There are a lot of pull ups and pulling variations in our programming and with smart application and dedication that elusive pull up can be something you own.
This is Part 1 of a 5 Part blog. We start with a beginner with 0 pull ups and progress right through to an athlete looking to get 30+ chest to bar pull ups. EVERYONE should perform the activation and prehab exercises in some way to maintain healthy shoulders. Just because you can do a Pull Up, doesn’t mean you are doing it correctly! I encourage everyone to try all these exercises.
First, a small bit of Science.
No matter what grip you use, supinated (palms facing you AKA Chin Up) or pronated (palms facing away AKA Pull Up) the movement is initiated by the Lower Trapezius and the Pectoralis Major (Chest) then finished by the Latissimus Dorsi (Lats) and Biceps Brachii. The Chin Up will cause more Biceps activation and the Pull Up will cause more Lat activation and more Lower Trapezius activation.
If these muscles are dormant, then they cannot assist in either variation. If you’re not using all of your muscles then a pull up will be more difficult. There is also the risk of overloading and compensating with other muscles creating bad movement patterns. The two most common muscles that are under-active are the Lower Traps and Lats.
Lower Trap Activation:
Prone Y Raises
Trap 3 Raises
Barbell Pull Overs
Banded Lat Pull Downs
These exercises are not supposed to be for weight. You need to make sure you are performing these perfectly and you should feel the muscles burning. They are good to do before and after sessions as warm ups and cool downs.
There are also some other exercises that are important for shoulder health. These include Band Face Pulls, Lying and Seated external rotations, powell raises, reverse shoulder extensions. They can be done light for activation, moderate-heavy post workout or on a separate day.
Now that our muscles are active, let’s begin training! From now on anytime I mention Pull up, it is any grip variation and bar below collarbone. I would suggest starting off Supinated and once you reach Level 2-3 supinated, you can then start at Level 1 Pronated. You don’t have to work one exclusively you can alternate between the two for great overall development.
Start off at the level you know you are capable of. Remember, it is collarbone above the bar or it doesn’t count! Each level you want to try to perform 2 workouts per week. Rest periods aren’t always defined but should be minimal.
Check out our prep video here: https://youtu.be/897-4-fkkYs
Current Ability: 0 Pull Ups
Goal: 1 Strict
The plan: Develop a basic pulling motion; ‘Grease the Groove’. Slowly begin loading the pattern and progressing to less assistance.
(A) 3 x Squatting Pull Ups x 12-15; (Progressions: 2 Legs, Single Leg, Legs in Front/Behind)
(B1) 1 x 10s Aussie Row Isometric Holds (If completely horizontal, add weight)
(B2) 10-12 Bicep Curls (barbell or dumbbell, mix it up!)
(perform 1 x 10s Hold, then immediately perform 10-12 Bicep curls for 5 total sets)
(A) 3 x Banded Pull Ups x 8-12; (If you get 12 reps, decrease band strength.)
(B) Accumulate 30 Tough Ring Rows; (If you can do 10 in a row, get more horizontal)
(A) 3 x Banded Pull Ups x 3-5; (If you get 5, decrease band strength)
(B) Tabata Hollow Body/Hollow Arch; (Progress to hollow rock and hollow arch rocks)
The video below contains demonstrations and advice on performing the movements. Please take the time to watch the video and pay attention. If you don’t have enough time to watch it, then you don’t really care about getting that Pull Up.
Check our our level 1 pull up Video