Pull-ups: You’re doing them wrong. Here’s the fix

Pull-ups. I can put good money on the fact that you’re doing the wrong.

This is something that I see a lot of people do and have been guilty of it myself until only recently.

The problem with pull-ups

When performing a pull up, people will pull with their elbows, turning the exercise into a bicep dominant move. This means that supposedly the best back & lats exercise about isn’t really targeting the back and lats properly.

The second mistake I see is partial reps (in the wrong portion). People will stop halfway down the rep with their arms basically at 90 degrees just so they can leverage their chin over the bar.

Again, this isn’t correct either and simply just feeds the ego. I was guilty of this a couple of years back when I was doing sets of 5 with 30kg strapped round my waist. This may seem strong but in actual fact I wasn’t really working anything because the form was so poor.

The fix

The key to the pull-up is form. This is key with all exercises but the pull-up is an exception, you simply HAVE to nail the form or you won’t target the area you want to develop.

This, along with the fact that pull-ups are challenging and fatiguing, contributes to the fact that barely anyone does them.

If you can buck the trend of half reppers and get your form dialled in like I will explain & demonstrate in a moment then you will grow a thick back and wide lats.

The first thing you need to do is hang off the bar, don’t jump up as this puts you in a terrible place from the off. You should be starting every rep from a dead hang position.

Then (this is the key), you need to retract your scapula to engage the back fully. Once you have done this, you will be able to target the back perfectly by pulling straight up towards the bar.

Make sure to bring your forehead to the bar and lower yourself in a controlled manner to a dead hang.

The dead hang position means that you have no momentum to do cheat reps or ‘kips’, you will keep full tension on the intended muscle.

Finally, the reason for not bringing the chin above the bar is due to it being for want of a better word – pointless.

The range of motion required to go from forehead over to chin over the bar requires next to no back stimulation and makes the move needlessly more taxing for diminished returns.

Performing pull-ups with correct form as described here will take a huge chunk out of even the biggest egos but you will thank yourself in the long run as your back development will come on leaps and bounds.

Adding pull-ups to your workout

Here is a sample pull workout that you can add your pull-ups into:

Deadlifts: 3 sets of 5 reps

Pull-ups: 3 sets of 8 reps

Barbell rows: 3 sets of 10 reps

Face pulls: 3 sets of 12 reps

Barbell curl: 3 sets of 10 reps

If you want to see more exercise breakdowns like this then check out the wellbeing section on the blog, here.