These 3 shire locals mastered pullups, to the applause of their peers!
Getting your first pullup is like experiencing Christmas for the first time all over again. There’s an overwhelming sense of satisfaction and elation when you realise that you are now strong enough to pull yourself… chin and all…. Over the bar.
I want to give you all the help you need to finally conquer this step in your training journey but first we need to establish your starting point.
‘You can’t know where you’re going, until you know where you’ve been’ – Will Smith, Hitch (and I assume many others have said it before him).
First step, can you hang from the bar for 30 seconds unbroken? If the answer is no, then quite simply, this is where we need to start. Practice accumulating as much time as possible. Start with 5 sets of 10 secs every second day until it is easy and then build the time.
Your grip strength obviously plays a vital role in a pullup and if you are still working on holding on, then we should get to work… now… Off you go!!!
So you’ve got this part down pat? Fantastic! How strong is your core? Can you hold a hollow/dish position for 30 seconds without breaking?
Gymnastics strength is a ‘core to extremity’ sport. Which means all the movements come from a strong core and extend outwards to the corresponding limbs whether it be a pullup, handstand or back flip.
If your core is weak, you will sacrifice safe-position and joints to compensate for a lack of control, which will lead to injury.
Start with single leg variations, and build your time up like the grip exercises above, 10 seconds, then 20 seconds and finally 30. Repeat with both legs extended. This should only take a few weeks to really develop and once in place, we can start to get into the nitty gritty of pullups.
Lats, rhomboids, biceps. Our prime movers for the pullup. We need to make sure these are now up to scratch.
Let’s start with Rhomboids. These can be strengthened very easily with any variation of a row exercise. Single arm rows, bent over rows, cable seated rows, it doesn’t necessarily matter. What’s important is that you work them and regularly.
My preference for building strength in the rhomboids is Ring Rows/TRX rows. Primarily because this allows us to use our bodyweight, also our proprioception of how to move increases.
Our goal is to be able to do 7-10 reps (bodyweight plays a factor here) with our legs extended and body as close to parallel with the floor as the equipment will allow.
To improve on Lat strength you can do Lat Pull downs but that will not teach your body to move the same as you will when you’re hanging from a bar. I am still in favour of programming them though.
My favourite exercise is a Pullup-Negative.
This involves you using something to assist your chin over the bar, perhaps using a box to get into position for example. Then, in a tight, vertical hollow, lower yourself under control/tension for 3-5 seconds. Repeat for 3-5 reps.
Initially you may be only able to do a couple reps and sets. But your goal is to build it up to 5 sets.
This exercise has seen countless of my clients rapidly move towards unassisted pullups in just a few short months.
Bicep strength will be increased through both the exercises above but if you’re looking for a little extra boost, or perhaps a little extra pop in the way your arms look then adding a few dumbbell bicep curls in is a great idea.
A simple progression you can follow would look like adding the below in, twice per week:
Week 1: 3 sets, 10 reps @ 10kg (example weight)
Week 2: 4 sets, 8 reps @ 12.5kg
Week 3: 5 sets, 6 reps @ 15kg
Week 4: 3 sets, 10 reps @ 12.5kg
Week 5: 4 sets, 8 reps @ 15kg
Week 6: 5 sets, 6 reps @ 17.5kg
This simple progression can be used for any other barbell/dumbbell exercise and on the lat pulldown machine. It is an effective tool to use when trying to get stronger and won’t let you down.
Let me know how you go and if these exercises help you out.
Thanks for taking the time to listen and I’ll catch you guys in the next read!