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There aren’t many exercises as deeply empowering as the pull-up. Once you get yourself over the bar for the first time, you feel strong both physically and mentally. But pull-ups are tough. They require wicked grip strength, a strong core and lats of steel.
Pull-ups do not happen by accident. They take weeks and months of targeted training. And they are sooo worth the effort.
Here are four exercises to get you started on the road to your first pull-up. With consistency, smart strength training, mobility work and a health dose of confidence, you’ll be over the bar sooner than you think!
Of course strength plays a huge role in our ability to successfully be able to do a pull-up. You’ll need great grip strength, a super strong back and solid core in order to achieve this goal. The next two exercises will lay a great foundation for a stronger core, back and grip.
Strengthens grip strength, forearms, core.
Equipment: Pull-up bar, monkey bars.
Cues: Get a firm grip of the bar, engage your lats by slightly depressing your shoulder blades, keep your rib cage stacked over your hip bones (no rib popping!), exhale and engage your core and pelvic floor before lifting your legs.
Modifications: Can perform this exercise with bent knees or one leg at a time.
Strengthens mid back muscles including rhomboids, grip strength, forearms, biceps, posterior deltoids, core.
Equipment: Squat rack + olympic bar, or smith machine, swing or playground bar.
Cues: Keep torso engaged by keeping tension in the glutes, abs and shoulder girdle, let elbows graze past your ribcage, bring chest to bar, dig heels into the ground.
Modifications: Bend your knees rather than keeping legs straight, you’ll get more assistance from your legs this way.
Maintaining or improving upper body mobility is a key component in being able to do your first pull-up. When pull-ups are a goal of yours, you’ll be spending a lot of time doing strength work for your upper body. And remember, everything you do, you must undo too. The following mobility exercises will help with recovery, range of motion and helping you to access all the strength you’ll be gaining.
Improves mobility of the mid back and shoulder muscles including rhomboids, lats and posterior deltoids.
Cues: Inhale as you reach up to the ceiling, exhale as you reach through, really reach with the hand and arm that is threading underneath your armpit, get rotation through your upper torso and mid back.
Modifications: Avoid resting on your shoulder if this causes neck pain, can go from your fists if wrist pain is present.
Improves mobility of the chest, anterior shoulder and serratus anterior. Improves shoulder blade mobility.
Cues: Move slowly through out the largest range of motion possible, trace your hand in an arc over your head, once your hand passes a line over the top of your head, open up through your torso, you may lift your hand from the floor to complete the movement if needed, take deep slow breaths through out the movement.
Modifications: If pain is present in your shoulder during this movement, lift your hand a few inches off the floor or start off by only doing half of the half moon rather than the full movement.
Add the exercises above into your workouts by starting with 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions. With consistency and focus you can definitely get over that bar.