Let’s get started with the basics of how to do a pull-up and what the point of doing it is. We will cover the main pieces that you should always do when on the bar to make sure you’re doing it correctly.
What are we trying to do?
The whole idea is that we want to be strong enough to pull ourselves up, right? The pull-up is one of the best tools to make us stronger to achieve this (if done right). It also is the exact movement we would use if we needed to pull ourselves up too. This makes it very useful as an exercise.
When you hang on the bar in the starting position of the pull-up try to go to the lowest point you can with every attempt you do.
The reason for this is that this is usually one of the weakest sections of the pull-up for most people due to the fact that it’s the bit that is missed the most.
When you are in NEED of getting up onto something in a real situation then you want to make sure you can pull up from the absolute bottom, not from a staged ready position with your muscles already tense and contracted.
The easiest way to think of this is ‘how would I hold a wall?’. Since this is the method that will be used most often, it’s the one you should get more comfortable doing.
I used to have a hard time remembering the technical terms for the grip position until I was told this:
How would you hold a large bowl of SOUP in your hands? This is called SUPinated grip. (Pronounced ‘soup-in-ate-ed’). The other way around is the pronated grip.
This is something that is so important for all movement it’s crazy. This stands for FULL RANGE OF MOTION.
This basically means that the pull-up you should always go to the absolute bottom (the dead-hang as mentioned above) and the absolute top. Anything less and you’re cheating, you cheating cheater.
I have a funnier and more memorable acronym that will stick in your head more. F.R.O.M.A.G.E. (The French word for cheese.)
Full. Range. Of. Motion. And. Good. Execution. So, if you’re in any doubt, think of cheese…
Where To Look
A smaller detail, but when we do a pull-up, the spine should be in a normal ‘neutral’ position. Basically, don’t bend your neck and try to look forward, not up.
I personally pick a spot in front of me and focus intently on that single small thing. It helps to keep my neck correct and also my mind focused on tuning out any distractions around me.
The Dish Shape
Staying on the idea of having a good body position, we want to create a subtle ‘dish’ shape with our torso.
To accomplish this, our legs should be ahead of us, not behind us (unless our knees are bent). Getting into the nitty-gritty, we really are trying to make sure our butts are not sticking out and our hips are rotated back into a ‘backward banana’ position.
If you think your lower back is getting squashed, you’re in the wrong position. Use your belly (abs) to try to bring your legs in front of you.
The more you grip as hard as you can, the more muscles get involved in the action. The more muscles you use, the easier the work will be. Simple, right?
Just think you’re hanging off a plane and your grip is all that’s keeping you on. Crush that bar.