The pull-up is one of the greatest muscle building exercises in existence, and is a solid inclusion in any strength-building personal training plan. To improve your pull-ups, let’s take a look at some easy tips to get the most out of this exercise.
The majority of strength for your pull-ups actually comes from your back and not your arms. This is why you should trigger your back muscles first before you bend your arms and pull yourself up.
Therefore you need to know the difference between the passive and the active hang. In the passive hang, you just hang from a bar with straight arms and nearly no activation of your back muscles.
In the active hang, you pull your shoulder-blades down and together which is called depression and retraction.
In both positions, you don’t bend your elbows at all!
The passive hang is mostly about grip strength and can also be used to stretch lats and pecs which will result in better opening of your shoulders. The purpose of the active hang is to activate your lats, traps and lumbars. So when you do a pull up the first thing you should aim for is the active hang position. You only use your shoulder-blades without bending your arms to get the movement started.
This is essential to engage a lot more muscles in your back and keep your shoulder girdles strong and healthy. You can do your pull-up with the release of the active hang and switch to the passive hang for each rep which is very good to learn a right technique.
But you can also hold the active hang during the complete motion. No matter which variation you choose, always fully extend your arms when you’re in the bottom position.
The next tip is also about optimal back engagement. When you do a pull-up, try to imagine that the resistance is right under your elbow. Driving your elbows down to your body as much as you can will activate your back muscles in an optimal way.
When you do this, your arms will bend automatically and of course you’ll work your biceps, brachialis and brachioradialis during the movement.
But to maximize the outcome in terms of back activation, you should visualize this elbow movement. To get the right image, you can practice this with a resistance band.
Fix the band right under your elbow and pull it down without grabbing it with your hands. By doing so, you only pull the band down with the elbow. And this will lead to right neural muscular input.
The last tip is about muscle tension; there are different ways to do a pull-up.
You can do them explosive or slow and more controlled. If you want to increase your explosive strength, it’s OK to quickly move up and down.
But you should never smash into your joints when you hit the bottom!
Most people want to do as many pull-ups as possible to set their new personal record. But when it comes to building solid strength and muscle mass, the “time under tension” is very important.
If you pull yourself up explosively and let yourself fall down quickly, your muscles will be under less tension than if you do your pull-ups slower and with the correct technique.
If you wondered why it takes so long to improve your pull-ups, check if you considered the above tips.
And if not, try and implement them into your workouts!