How to progress to a pull-up

Sharing tips on how to do a full pull-up and a step-by-step process to strengthen the muscles you need to do it safely.

Hi friends! How are you? I hope you’re enjoying the week so far! The girls are back in school and I’m just a ball of emotions this week. I can’t believe they’re finally at the same school, at the same time. I feel like I’ve been waiting for this moment for streamlined pick-up and drop-off, but like many parents out there, my heart just feels heavy. I’m trying to have a positive outlook and they’re SUPER happy to be back with their teachers and friends, but I just feel this bittersweetness at the whole thing. I also have no clue how P is in kindergarten. She’s a tiny baby. How did this happen?!

For today, let’s talk about fitness-y things. I wanted to share some tips for my friends out there who have a goal of doing a full pull-up. This is an intimidating fitness milestone, but once you get it, it’s SO satisfying. I feel like the emphasis can be unintentionally on the wrong thing when you’re first getting started. For example, it’s more natural to want to use your biceps to pull yourself up but this makes it much more challenging. (Biceps are a smaller muscle group and you’d be trying to use them to lift your entire body weight!) Instead, the power comes from your BACK. You need to retract your shoulder blades and engage your back muscles to help pull yourself up. A strong exhale on the way up, a tight core, and you’re GTG.

If you’re working on your pull-up, here are some tips and resources to build up strength to get there!

How to progress to a pull-up

Build strength in the appropriate muscle groups:

– Some of my favorite exercises to incorporate are bent-over rows, seated rows, lat pulldowns, lat pullovers, and assisted pull-ups (with the machine). Make sure to focus on retracting the shoulder blades for all of these. Do these exercises as part of your weekly routine, and challenge yourself on the weights you choose.

– Another exercise to practice is the hollow hold. This is the position you’ll be maintaining for most of the movement. Engage your core, keep your booty tight, pull your shoulder blades down and back.

– Also work on scapular retraction. Hold this for 5-10 seconds and relax. Repeat until you’re comfortable performing this action.

– Try some hangs to focus on your grip strength. Jump up into a pull-up or chin-up position, and hold it, making sure to breathe. Try to work up to 30 seconds.

Practice the movement:

Try negative pull-ups. For this exercise, you’re focusing on the eccentric portion of the movement. You’ll jump up into a pull-up position (using a plyo box or  bench) and then lower down sloooowwwwwlllyyyy and with control. As you get stronger, you’ll be able to lower more slowly, getting stronger as you work on this skill.

Band assisted pull-ups are a great way to progress to bodyweight only. Use a band for extra support to help pull you up. Over time, you can decrease the intensity of the band until you don’t need it anyone.

So, tell me friend, can you do a pull-up? If so, any tips that I missed above??

What’s a fitness goal you’re working towards right now?



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