Are you close to getting your first pull-up? Not quite? You will soon enough! 

The standard-pull up and its variations make regular appearances in our Strength classes. Those who can crank out multiple do so with accomplishment, as this simple body weight exercise can be very hard to master.

Mastering the pull-up for many takes time, patience, and consistency to build the prerequisite strength necessary for the movement. The trick is to break down the movement into progressions. 

Although pull-ups engage at least a dozen muscles, it is important to note the primary muscles activated during a proper pull up are the Lats (Latissimus dorsi). This is where the first progression comes in: 

Scapular Retraction

  • Hang from the bar with arms locked out straight
  • Pull down on your scapula and your lats, and bring them back up

This exercise helps with understanding the proper activation in the lats before you even start with the pull-up. 

When you are ready to start the actual movement of the pull-up: 

Resistance Band Pull-ups

  • Loop a resistance band to the bar
  • Place your foot or knee into the band
  • Practice pulling yourself up, engaging your lats, with the assistance of the band

Using a resistance band is great way to guide you along the movement without having to use all your energy. 

Once you are comfortable with the movement, it is time to build up strength: 

Eccentric Pull-ups (Negatives)

  • Using something to help yourself above the bar, such as a stool or box
  • Jump up so your head is above the bar
  • As slow as you possibly can, begin lowering yourself to a hanging position in a controlled movement

Practicing negatives is a great way to start building your lats and secondary muscles to finally being able to pull yourself up in a fluid pull-up movement.

Remember, like any movement, strength takes time and consistency. Keep practicing these progressions, and within time, a fluid pull-up will formulate.

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