Pull-ups are among the classic exercises for a reason. They are fantastic at building upper body strength and endurance.
They also help develop power, quality muscles, body awareness, and explosiveness. However, they can be hard to do properly especially for beginners.
Are you a beginner? If so, you have come to the right place! I was also once like you, and I personally know the struggle of doing even one successful pull-up. In this article, I will teach you how to do pull-ups for beginners like you and the different steps and exercises to prepare your body for regular pull-ups. Scroll down and let’s get started!
What Makes Pull-ups So Hard?
Three major factors contribute to making pull-ups so hard to do:
The first factor is gravity, which is a strong force that pulls everything down towards the ground, including you. The effect of gravity is higher the more you weigh, and when you do a pull-up, you have to overcome this force.
I know this already sounds like a physics lecture but hear me out. Distance, when it comes to pull-ups, refers to the length of your arms. The longer your arms, the longer is the distance between you and the bar.
More distance means you need to expend more energy to cover that distance or to pull your body towards the bar.
The third and last factor to consider is your mass. The more mass you have, the heavier you are and the more effort you need to invest in doing a pull-up.
Mass is often affected by gender. Men, by nature, possess more muscle mass in the upper body which is why we are usually stronger. Of course, this does not mean that women cannot do pull-ups, but it is definitely harder for them.
Activating the Right Muscles
Based on this previous information, performing pull-ups is basically a display of upper body strength. So, the first thing you need to know is which muscles are worked by pull-ups to be able to practice and work on them. There are many ways to prepare your body or improve your abilities depending on your current fitness level.
Aside from your arms, it is also essential to develop the strength of your lats or the broad muscle on your back and your trapezius muscle which moves and carries the shoulders. Many people also underestimate the role of the core muscles for pull-ups. By strengthening, training, and working on these muscles, you will be well on your way to mastering the pull-up.
The next thing you need to know about is the two basic types of pull-ups: the overgrip pull-up and the chin-up. Each of these types offers its advantages, and one cannot be said to be better than the other.
The overgrip or wide grip pull-up mainly focuses on targeting your latissimus dorsi muscle or the lats located on the upper back. To do this, you simply grab the bar with an overhand grip in which your palms are facing away from you.
Your hands should also be more than shoulder-width apart. Then, you pull your body upward until your chin is at the same level as the bar, hold it there, lower back down, and repeat.
To know more about the different grips for pull-ups, please watch this video
Chin-ups are almost the same as overgrip pull-ups except for one thing: you grip the bar with your palms facing you. The other aspects and movements stay the same. Chin-ups target the biceps, middle back muscles, and the lower lats.
Doing overgrip pull-ups and chin-ups regularly would be a good starting point to be able to do pull-ups. They also prepare your body for the more advanced pull-up versions and exercises.
Prepare your Body
For total beginners like you, there are several exercises and ways to ease you through the process of mastering pull-ups. Two of the best exercises are the dead hangs and walk the plank:
Dead hangs strengthen your arms and lats to be able to perform pull-ups. To do this, follow these steps:
- Place a chair or stool under a pull-up bar so that you can reach the bar with a wide grip.
- Hold onto the bar with your palms facing away from your body.
- Lift yourself about an inch, extending your elbows sideward parallel to the bar and not forward.
- Carry your body off the stool or chair by bending your knees and hold this position for as long as you comfortably can. Keep your shoulders packed tight.
If you notice your shoulders raising as you make this move, you first need to build more strength before progressing to actual pull-ups. In that case, try assisting your arms with your feet.
It is highly possible that your wrists will give out before your body can even benefit from dead hangs. So for those of you with a weak grip, I recommend using wrist straps or work on strengthening your clasp first.
Walk the Plank
When lifting yourself is too hard, you can always build strength by practicing how to lower yourself down. Here’s how:
- Place a chair or stool under the bar just so the bar is at your eye level.
- With your palms facing you, grab the bar and position your hands shoulder-width apart.
- Step off the chair or stool while tensing your muscles.
- With a controlled motion, lower your body as slowly as possible.
- Step back onto the chair and repeat eight times.
If you find yourself dropping too fast, you need to develop more strength by performing other exercises. You can also keep practicing this movement until you can lower your body slowly and control the speed as you do so.
It’s not a secret that perfecting the form and technique of pull-ups can be hard work. However, with the knowledge about how to do pull-ups for beginners, you can practice your way to master this exercise!
Just remember, always put safety first! Do not do pull-ups or other weight training workouts more than two to three times per week. This can cause muscle strain. So, make sure to take rest days in between to allow your muscles to recover and to gain amazing results!