In my last "How To" post, I talked about pushups. Today I want to write about pull-ups. Pull-ups can be tricky because they involve many different muscles groups, but in this post you can find the general form for pull-ups, and ways to improve your strength to do a pull-up if you have never done one before. If you don't have a pull-up bar at home, that doesn't mean you can't do these exercises. A bar that can support your weight is all over the gym, or you could even use monkey bars at the playground.
Grab the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width. Let your body hang down - try to keep your chest up and shoulders back. Two of the basic pull-up forms are:
Pull-up: palms are facing away from you. Works both biceps and back muscles.
Chin-up: palms are facing toward you. More emphasis is on your biceps.
I think one of the keys to getting up with a pull-up is focusing on squeezing your back muscles. You can also think about pulling your chest to the bar and driving your elbows down. Pull yourself up until your chin is just above the bar. Pause for a moment before lowering yourself back down. Do your best not to swing your legs around to get yourself over the bar. Keep the movement controlled rather than jerking up.
Chin-ups are often the easiest form for most people, and wide grip is often harder. Some other variations you can do are L-pullups (keep your legs stright out in front of you during the pull-up), close-grip, or with uneven hand heights. Similar to pushups there are many varieties.
Many people are afraid of pull-ups. Because pull-ups are a body weight exercise, your strength to body weight ratio can be a factor. It takes some time to build up your upper body strength to be able to do them. If you cannot do a pull-up today, don't worry -- with practice you will get there. I think even more than pushups, pull-ups can really take patience and effort to do.
There are a few ways you can to improve your strength to lead you to eventually get a pull-up right at the pull-up bar.
1) Supported pull-ups. Use a chair or band to support some of your weight. You can put one foot on the chair to take away some of the weight from your arms. The less weight you apply to the chair, the harder the pull-up is.
2) Do negatives. Basically a negative is where you get up to a completed pull-up position using a chair (or jumping, or someone assisting you) then lower yourself slowly without support. Try to count to 10 while lowering. When you get to the bottom, try to hang on for 5 seconds. This exercise gets your arms used to supporting the weight of your body.
3) Static hangs. Get yourself to the top of the pull-up position, as mentioned in negatives. Hang with your arms flexed as long as possible. This will strengthen all the muscles required for a pull-up including forearms, biceps and back. If you can, complete a negative on your way down after your hang for added difficulty.
Some other exercises you can do at the gym to prepare yourself for pull-ups are: bent over rows, lat pull downs and bicep curls.