Pull-ups and Chil-ups
Pull-ups & Chin-ups force you to lift your own body-weight. They are the best strength training exercises you can do for upper-body strength & muscle mass. Unfortunately Pull-ups & Chin-ups are hard. Very hard.
If you’re a beginner, chances are you can’t do 1 Pull-up or Chin-up. This article will not only teach you how to do Pull-ups & Chin-ups with proper technique, but also how to get stronger at them so you can do the weighted versions.
What are Pull-ups & Chin-ups? Hang on a pull-up bar with straight arms & pull yourself up until your chin passes the bar. The difference between Pull-ups & Chin-ups is in the grip:
Pull-ups. Palms facing away. Less biceps, more back. Harder.
Chin-ups. Palms facing you. Work your biceps more. Easier.
Other Pull-up variations include: palms facing each others, thumbless grip, towel Pull-ups, Fat Bar Pull-ups, Mixed Grip Pull-ups, Horizontal Pull-ups, Kipping Pull-ups, etc. This article deals with Pull-ups & Chin-ups.
- Build Muscle. Pull-ups & Chin-ups force you to lift your own bodyweight. This stresses your body, building the muscles of your arms & back.
- Grappling Strength. Pull-ups & Chin-ups help any sport which involves gripping, grappling & pulling, like MMA or Rock Climbing.
- Carryover. Get stronger at Pull-ups & Chin-ups and you’ll get stronger on the opposite movements: the Overhead Press & Bench Press.
- Shoulder Health. Balancing press exercises like the Bench Press with pull exercises like Barbell Rows & Pull-ups prevents muscle imbalances.
A Power Rack with a Pull-up bar works best. Or a Doorway Pull-up bar. Any surface where you can hang from at arm’s length will do for Pull-ups & Chin-ups.
What if You Can’t Do 1 Pull-up or Chin-up?
Whatever method you choose: pull yourself up as if nothing/nobody was helping you. Pull-ups & Chin-ups feel very different without assistance. And always try to beat your previous record.
- Chin-ups. Chin-ups are easier than Pull-ups. If you can’t do 1 Pull-up, try Chin-ups. Alternate Chin-ups with Pull-ups when you get stronger.
- Resistance Band. Attach a resistance band to your pull-up bar and loop it around your knee, like in this video.
- Ask For Help. Ask someone to grab your side with his hands. Let him help you on the way up by squatting down & pressing up.
- Kipping Pull-ups. Swing your hips while pulling yourself up until you get stronger. Check how Jesse Marunde uses his hips on the last reps.
- Routine. You can also try this strength training routine to increase your strength on Pull-ups (or Chin-ups).
- Use Momentum. Jump up & use momentum. Control yourself on the way down. This one will get you a sore back & arms. You’re warned.
Stay away from both. If you want to get stronger at Pull-ups & Chin-ups, do Pull-ups & Chin-ups. The strength you build on machines doesn’t convert to Pull-ups & Chin-ups.
- No Balance. You don’t have to balance yourself on machines. You’ll lose strength when switching to Pull-ups & Chin-ups: they’re harder.
- Mental Factor. You’re using less strength on the Assisted Pull-up Machine because you know the machine is helping you on the way up.
Weighted Pull-ups & Chin-ups.
Once you can do 10-15 Pull-ups or Chin-ups in a row, add weight to keep the exercise challenging. Here’s how.
- Dumbbell Between Legs. Gets you an ab workout too. Doesn’t work once you’re using more than 10-20kg.
- Rucksack. Wear a rucksack & put plates in it.
- Belt & Chain. What I do. Wear a belt. Suspend plates from a chain, attach the chain to your belt.
Pull-up & Chin-up Technique
Start each rep from a dead hang with straight elbows. Clear the bar with your chin on every rep.
- Squeeze The Bar. And put the bar close to your fingers, not in the palm of your hand. It minimize callus formation.
- Breathe at The Bottom. It’s easier to breathe at the bottom. Take a big breath before pulling yourself up.
- Chest Up. Don’t let your shoulders go forward: it’s unhealthy for your shoulders. Lead with your chest up & keep your shoulders back.
- Look Up. Never look down during Pull-ups & Chin-ups. Look at the bar. Look where you’re pulling yourself up to.
- Elbows to The Floor. Drive with your elbows to the floor. This involves your stronger back muscles more.
- Bend Your Legs. And cross your feet. Letting your legs hang means less strength in my experience. Squeeze your glutes on the way up.
- Not Straightening the Arms. Start from a dead hang with straight elbows, like on the picture above. No partial Pull-ups/Chin-ups.
- Shoulders Going Forward. It’s bad posture & bad technique. Lead with your chest up while driving your elbows to the floor.
- Using The Hips. Keep your legs inline with your torso, unless you’re doing Kipping Pull-ups.
- Chin Over Bar. Nose or forehead against the bar is a partial Pull-up/Chin-up. Chin over bar unless you’re not strong enough yet.