Beginner’s Guide to Pull-ups

Beginner's Guide to Pull-ups

Pull-ups are one of the staples of body weight exercise routines, and for good reason. It works a number of different muscles in the upper body, both large and small, as well as the muscles in your core. However, it is very hard to do a good pull-up. If you asked your friends and family, it would be a fairly safe bet to say that most of them could not do five good ones. Let’s learn how to perform a proper pull-up.

It’s important to understand which muscles we primarily want to work in order to do the exercise right. Those muscles are your lats and biceps, and we want the ratio of work done to be in that order as well. Your lats are much bigger than your biceps so we want to utilize them as much as we can. If you look at professional body builders, you can see “wings” coming off the sides of their ribcage. Those are your lats. Knowing that, we can tell if we’re working them or not by seeing if we can feel those muscles contract when we do a pull-up. If your biceps are taking most of the work, they are going to tire out very quickly and you’ll feel most of the burn there instead of the lats.

Imagine that you’re pulling yourself up with your elbows instead of your hands and squeeze the elbows down to your sides nice and tight, keeping a relatively loose grip on the handles. You’re still going to use both your biceps and lats, but hopefully this will help you shift the ratio of work done by your muscles to the lats more than to the biceps. Try not to sway back and forth when you do this, as you’ll be tempted to use momentum to get up instead of your strength. Doing this will decrease the benefits we get from this exercise.

As I said earlier, pull-ups are very difficult to do and even more difficult to do well. If performing a good pull-up is on your list of fitness goals this year, one of the trainers at any of the Elite Sports Clubs will be happy to help you reach that goal. Schedule an appointment today!

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Written by Jordan Meyer, CPT – Certified Personal Trainer & Group Exercise Instructor at Elite Sports Club-North Shore

Jordan Meyer is a personal trainer at the North Shore location of the Elite Sports Clubs. He holds a personal training certification from the American College of Sports Medicine and a BS in Exercise Science and Health promotion from UW-Oshkosh. He specializes in body weight fitness and athletic training, and enjoys working with young athletes who are preparing for a variety of sports. Jordan has had the pleasure of coaching many different sports at a variety of levels, ranging from four year olds who are just learning the basics, to Division 3 men’s rugby. He has played organized sports since he was five years old and still plays rugby three seasons a year. In his free time, he enjoys training for and competing in challenge races such as the Tough Mudder and Spartan Race.

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