First it was the plank. Then it was hundred’s of air squats, and now it’s all about the pull up.
It seems more people involved in fitness want to conquer this move more than any others which is totally AWESOME! It requires a lot of strength but it’s a functional movement we should all be able to do with proper training and progression.
Getting out of the water onto a pool deck or on a boat? Do a pull up.
Need to climb up over a fence or wall? Do a pull up.
Pullups are going to make your entire body stronger, but many of us have to build a lot of strength just to get our chins up and over a bar. I remember the very first time I did one I thought my abs were going to explode – I was using my core strength that much.
You can do all of the lat pulldowns in the world but they aren’t going to translate to the same kind of overall body strength that pulling your own body weight up, chin past bar, will.
So aside from being one of the most functional movements there is, why should we do pull ups?
The increased lat strength and our lats are involved in a lot more than we realize. We use our lats for squats, deadlift, bench press, snatching, cleaning, going overhead, and of course in day to day life to pull ourselves toward something or something toward us. Lats are large muscles so if we can get them to work in our benefit the stronger we are going to be overall.
- Increase grip strength. We need our grip to carry luggage, groceries, etc so the stronger our grip is the more it carries over into these activities in life.
- Increased rhomboid strength. This is important because they’re basically these muscles are an antagonist to our abs and if we want a stronger overall core, we have to have the opposing muscles be strong too.
- All of these things carry over to building pulling strength so we can pull something or someone toward us, or ourselves toward something, like if we were to fall or scooting furniture around.
In a sport like CrossFit this carries over into more endurance to stay on the bar for pull ups or toes to bar, to getting muscle ups and rope climbs.
And of course pull ups help us in our aesthetics because they help us build muscle as they are one of the best multi-joint exercises for our upper bodies. Also – a BIG BONUS – if you want to appear to have a smaller waist, get bigger lats.
Now that we know WHY we want to do pull ups, let’s talk about HOW to get them.
First, you must test. Get a pull up bar, set the Smith machine up high, or find a place you can make an attempt. Can you do more than one?
Keep in mind that overhand grip is typically more difficult than an underhand grip AKA a chin up. This program can be applied to either but I recommend you pick one and stick to it for a month.
Every 10 days you will test to see if you are closer, if you can do one, or if you can do more.
Warm Up / Stretch
3 sets of 5 hanging negatives
- Jump high enough that your chin is above the bar
- Hold that position for 1 second
- Slowly lower yourself down for 3 – 5 seconds, breathing out on your way dow
- Rest 90 – 120 seconds between sets (not reps)
- If you can do these with no problem, add weight
- Rest 3 minutes then complete one set of max effort hanging negative (write this number down so you can beat it)
3 sets of 30 bicycle crunches, breathing out on each rep
3 sets of 10 barbell or dumbbell rows
Warm Up / Stretch
3 sets of 10 inverted rows
- Choose an over- or underhand grip based on which you are doing this month
- Rest 90 seconds between attempts (write these numbers down so you can beat them)
- If you can do these with no problem, add a two second pause at the top
- If you cannot complete all three sets of ten with your knees straight, bend at the knee to create a reverse tabletop and use your legs to complete the rest of the set of ten, but begin with legs straight
1 max effort high plank
3 sets of 10 bicep curls
Warm Up / Stretch
5 sets max effort assisted pull ups
- Choose your assistance – a machine, a partner or a band work well here
- Rest 90 – 120 seconds between attempts (write these numbers down so you can beat them)
- If you do not need assistance complete pull ups, if you have more than ten, add weight
3 sets of 15 lying straight leg raises
3 sets of 10 lat pulldowns on machine or with resistance bands