How To Improve Pull Ups

by Kilo on December 16, 2010

pullupsHow to improve pull ups? The first answer is simple and predictable and probably will not win me the Nobel Prize in exercise innovation: do lots of pull ups.

To this we could add that in order to get better at pull ups, you have to do lots of quality reps, thereby making it quality practice. Again, nothing revolutionary here.

But I would like to add a couple of suggestions that have allowed me to make faster progress than simply doing “lots” and staying “fresh.” During a recent conversation with martial artist and Gym Movement creator Frankie Faires, I was given a few variations to play with. The movement pattern does not change. You grab the bar and pull yourself up. But Frankie says constantly that small changes can make big differences.

Here were the pull up variations I began experimenting with:

  • Close grip
  • Wide grip (still nothing unexpected, right?)
  • Hips rotated to the left or right (getting more novel now)
  • Torso rotated to the left or right, led from the thoracic area of the spine
  • Actually pulling from a lunging position — meaning, one leg elevated as if in a lunge. I don’t have a bar low enough to actually get into a lunge stance and pull, but if I dangle from the bar, then lift either leg up to about 90 degrees, I’m able to get the benefit of the movement

Here is where the improvement part of it fits in. I test all of my movements with a simple range of motion test taught in Grip and Rip 2.1 and Gym Movement. If one of these pull up variations leads to increased range of motion, that’s the one I’m going with.

By improvement, I mean:

  • Performing pull ups with more added weight (currently at 44kg kettlebell)
  • Less or zero pain or discomfort during the movement
  • More reps per set
  • More sets per workout
  • More progress/fun

These tests allow me to do more, and to do it better. More is not the goal, but becoming better inevitably leads to the ability to do more. More effective practice. More beneficial workouts. Just better.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

frank December 16, 2010 at 8:44 pm

josh, i have had great sucess with the lunge chin ups. I started these awhile ago, and man i could not believe how easy they made it. I have tried all the others and not as much sucess, but that can always change. great article.



Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: