The ability to pull your own weight is a direct measure of your strength-to-weight ratio.
I had spent years using pull up assisted straps and pull up assisted machines (you’ve seen them at the gym). Finally, after some time spent in Thailand and Cambodia, where I had none of these tools to workout, I realized that I had missed the very most basic lesson I learned getting my fancy degree in exercise science. So, with in a month I applied the same concepts I had learned about the body in school and finally was able to execute a pull up, and soon, two, three four.
So, here are my – I speak from experience steps to getting that pull up… and guys these are also the steps to getting more of them!
Do Not Use Assisted Band or Machines If You Can help Them
In all of my years of training individuals, and in all of my years working with professional athletes, celebrities for movie roles, and of course years spent around fitness I have never seen a person really graduate from a band or an assisted machine to an actual pull up or chin up.
You’ve gotta let go and push yourself (correctly) to do the motion on your own. Of course, it won’t happen over night, but instead of using machines and bands, use the static strength, negative strength, positive strength principles below – I guarantee it will work!
Use Static Strength and Negative Strength To Build Positive (Pull Up Strength)
we actually do this in your strength program
Positive Strength: Contracting the muscles, in the case of our pull ups means actually having the strength to ‘pull your won body weight up’
Static Strength: Not moving, bracing yourself against the weight, or in our case here, holding yourself up, above the pull up bar in whats called a flexed arm hang.
Negative Strength: Extending the muscle, it can mean lowering the weight in a press. Or, in our case, lowering your body from over the bar super slow with complete muscle control to your dead hang.
The basic science of building strength is as follows:
Your Static Strength will help build your negative strength and muscle control, and your negative strength will help you build positive strength.
So… lets use negatives and static holds to build your pull up strength.
Get yourself over the pull up bar (have a friend help you, use the wall to walk up, or a workout bench).
Hold over the bar, strong and steady for as long as you can.
Similarly get yourself over the bar and begin to lower down 2/3rd of the way – hold there for a count of 5 / 10 or 15 seconds .
Go down half way (your arms are flexed and elbows at 90 degrees) and similarly hold there for 5/10 or 15 seconds.
Get yourself over the bar and slowly lower yourself down (the slower the better). On your first try here count how long it takes you to lower down. Overtime you do this drill try to add another 3seconds to how slow it takes you.
Add these three sets of positive strength builders into your strength workout 2-3 times a week.
Make sure you have rest between days, and if you are super sore, give yourself 48 plus hours of recovery before doing this workout again.
After 4 weeks of doing this, try to execute your first, real pull up.
Strengthen The Shoulders
If you want to be able to do pull ups you also want a strong supporting body, this way you wont suffer injuries that can put you out of training. Shoulders due to their huge range of motion, and the fact that they are commonly overlooked in most exercise routines have a huge potential of injury.
Add at least two shoulder strength exercises into your routine.
Learn To Use Your Back
The pull-up is a fundamental exercise that strengthens your entire back region with more emphasis on the latissimus dorsi muscles. Which means you can add other lat exercises into your routine to strength your back.
Rows are a simple way to help build strong lats.
You should also activate your smaller, more dormant muscles in the back. These get weak from hours of sitting hunched over in front of the computer or TV. Then when you go to pull your own body weight up, these areas of the body disrupt the kinetic chain of motion and don’t allow you to use and engage your larger muscles correctly.
Wake up your back by doing:
A set of 25 wall angels (we do these in your STRENGTH program)
A set of 25 sub Scapular Stabilization Push-ups (we do these in your strength program)
You can add these as a warm up in your weekly strength training workouts
Additionally you should be doing core and glute strengthening exercises (think hip thrusters, kettlebell swings, planks). All of these will help strengthen the supporting muscles of your pull up, as well as help you reach a more mobile and capable shape.
Complete Beginner Modification
If you are a complete beginner to exercise, you might not even be ready to hold yourself over the pull up bar.
In this case you can start to build strength a little closer to the ground.
Use any suspension devise (like a TRX or rings) and sit on the ground, bending your feet slightly. Grip the rings of the handles of the TRX and helping yourself by keeping some weight in your feet, slowly begin to pull yourself up.
Once you’ve pulled yourself up, use the same static and negative strength principles as listed above.
MODIFIED PullUp on suspension device (it can be a TRX or any form of suspension or rings, as you see pictured here).
You would start by using the legs to help you, slowly trying to get through the entire range of motion.
It is key here that you do not rush, and that you make the movements very slow.