Body weight exercises that require little more than a bar, pullups effectively strengthen your upper body. Unlike other body weight exercises, pullups require you to move the entire weight of your body. This makes them very labor intensive. Because more than one joint is involved in a pullup, they are considered compound exercises.
Because pullups place a high demand on your body, you can become injured if you are not adequately loosened up before your workouts. Spend five minutes doing dynamic stretches, which are performed in motion. Unlike static stretches, which are held without movement, dynamic stretches seem to be more effective at reducing muscle stiffness, which is thought to increase the chances of muscle tears, according to the Sports Fitness Advisor website. Perform dynamic stretches such as arm swings, leg swings, alternate toe touches, spinal rotations, shoulder shrugs and arm circles as part of your warm-up.
When doing pullups, use several different hand positions. This will target your muscles differently and help you achieve a high amount of muscle recruitment. Include conventional-grip, wide-grip, reverse-grip and close-grip pullups. Wide-grip pullups place more emphasis on your upper latissimus dorsi muscles; reverse-grip pullups place more emphasis on your biceps; and close-grip pullups place more emphasis on your rhomboids. The lats are the large, "V"-shaped muscles in the back, and the rhomboids lie between the shoulder blades.
Proper Pullup Form
All pullups are performed the same way, but you need to know proper form when you do them. Take the conventional pullup for example. Grasp the bar with a shoulder-width grip and let your legs hang down or bend your knees and cross your lower legs behind your body. Keeping your core tight, pull yourself up toward the bar. Continue pulling upward until your chin is level with the bar or your hands, according to the American Council on Exercise. Slowly lower yourself down until your arms are completely extended and repeat. To perform wide-grip pullups, place your hands about six inches wider than shoulder width. Place your palms in an underhand position to do reverse-grip pullups, and place your hands about six inches apart to perform close-grip pullups. With all of your pullups, exhale as you pull yourself up and inhale as you lower yourself down.
When you first start doing pullups, you may be able to perform only three or four repetitions. That is fine. Each week, add one to two reps to your totals to continually make progress. Perform four or five sets of each pullup variation, and work out three days a week on alternating days. You can also train with a spotter for assistance. Have the spotter stand right next to you and apply pressure against your shins as you perform your pullups.
Eventually a time will come where you can do 15 reps with no problem. Once you get to this point, consider adding resistance to your body. You have a few options to choose from for this. Either wear a weighted vest or ankle weights, or strap on a dipping belt. Dipping belts have a chain in the center that you can attach weight plates to. You also have the option of pinching a dumbbell between your lower legs. If you go this route, you will need the assistance of a spotter for safety.
- The Strength Training Anatomy Workout II, Volume 2; Frédéric Delavier and Michael Gundill
- Sports Fitness Advisor: Dynamic Stretches and Stretching Routine
- American Council on Exercise: Pull-up