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How to get good at pull ups

Pull ups. They’re scary when you first try them, right? How on earth do you use your back and arms to shift your full bodyweight up against the force of gravity? Eek.

There are loads of ways to break it down, essentially the more practice you do, the stronger you’ll get, the closer you’ll get to nailing your pull ups.

Here are some exercises that I practiced a few times a week when I was working towards my first ever pull ups. I still practice all of them now! Warning: they’re ever so addictive once you can do them.

Scapular pull ups: hanging from the bars, keeping your arms straight, pull your shoulder blades down and back, feel your lats engage, and slowly relax back down again. This is a great way to get your lats working and practice initiating a pull up.

Negatives: grab a bench and put it underneath the pull up bars. Stand up on the bench, grab the handles and jump up to the top of the pull up position. Once you’re there, lower down slowly (count to 4 or 5 elephants!) until your arms are straight. Pop your feet back on the bench jump up and repeat. This HURTS. But that’s the whole point!

Banded pull ups: they may or may not have these at your gym, but you’re looking for the stretchy hoops that are a different colour depending on how thick they are. Pop one of them over the pull up handles, put both feet in the other end, and perform your pull up. The thicker the bad, the easier it will be to pull yourself up.

A note about form; remember to set your shoulders back before you pull up. That means retracting your shoulder blades to engage your back rather than relying on your traps and biceps. Squeeze your abs nice and tight and make sure you use your full range of motion - straight arms at the bottom and chin over the bar at the top (read: don’t cheat).

Another great thing to do is grab a training partner to help you out. If you start to struggle a couple of centimetres from top they can give you a little boost up!

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