What do we need to be able to do in order to do pull ups at all???
We need to be able to hang from a bar, and control our entire bodyweight while doing so.
So step one, assuming you’ve got healthy shoulders, is to learn to hang from the bar for longer and longer periods of time consistently throughout the week.
We need to be able to hang on to the bar period if we’re going to have any hope of pulling ourselves up, and this means we need some serious grip strength. Grip strength is one of those ‘unsexy’ factors that all those fitness magazines and dvd workouts fail to mention! But it’s absolutely essential to any kind of pulling at all.
To begin to build your functional grip strength, you need to hang on to heavy things for period of time longer than are, well, comfortable. You have to progressively challenge your limits to get stronger over time, and this means doing a couple of things:
–performing hanging drills
–performing grip-challenging exercises (such as deadlifts and Farmer’s Carries)
There are tons of variations of hanging drills you can use to strengthen your grip AND get you a little more aware of your whole body, because to do a good pull-up, we need to be able to tighten up all over at the same time.
Being able to tighten all our muscles, together, at the same time, on command, is a learned skill for most of us–and this means it’s a skill we need to practice!
Some hanging drills you can start to do anywhere there’s a bar to hang from are:
Dead Hang (with an overhand, ‘pull up’ grip)
Dead Hang (with an underhand, ‘chin up’ grip)
Dead Hang (with a neutral grip where palms face each other–as when you do them on monkey bars)
Hanging Bent Knee Raises (a kind of curl up)
Scapular Pull-Ups (where you practice the ‘first pull’ from around your ‘armpit’ muscles)
Hollow Holds on the Bar (Progressing to Beat Swings–where you push your body away from the bar, while keeping the ‘banana’ hollow hold position, using your lat muscles)
Heavy Farmer’s Carries
But the word ‘hanging’ can imply a passive action–there’s no such thing in an effective pull up!
While you are on the bar, your job is to:
–pull your armpits down slightly (to activate your back muscles)
–try to bring your ribs closer to your hips (activate your ab muscles)
–squeeze your butt tight and make a ‘scared doggy butt’ (tighten up your glutes and tilt your pelvis posteriorly
Hold for as long as you can! Time it with a stopwatch or by counting your breaths; the goal is to increase your hang time each week.
Remember, all the plank work you’ve been doing as you’ve been working on your push ups is going to come in super handy when you’re learning how to tighten up your whole body during these hang exercises.
Here are a few plank variations you can start incorporating into your daily or weekly workouts:
Prone Weight Shifts (also good for building up wrist mobility and strength)
Tall Planks with Alternating Limb Extensions
Shoulder Tap Planks (aka: Pledge Planks)
Plank Ups (definitely the most advanced variation here)
Keep it all tight, all the time! It’s the difference between trying to carry a flailing toddler, a toddler who’s completely passed out, and a 5-foot length of 2×4.
The tighter your body is all over (like a 2×4 piece of lumber) the easier it will be to eventually pull and move. Trust me from all my personal experience, the tighter you can get, the better you can pull and the more you can pull!
Trying to do pull ups with a swinging body is a huge exercise in wasted energy and frustration, so always aim to be more like a 2×4 and less like a flailing toddler, lol 😉
So there you have it–lots of grip strengthening, body-tightening, skill- and confidence-building drills to get you started on the road to doing some amazing pull-ups!
Not sure where to start, how often to do these, or have any other questions?
Fire me an email–I’d love to give you a little (complimentary) coaching 🙂
You can reach me at email@example.com
And don’t forget to check out my FB page (Real Life Fit by Kate) for more articles and updates about pull up and push up training and success for everyone!
Getting more ladies doing pull-ups is my passion!!