How to Get Better at Pull Ups

How to Get Better at Pull Ups

Whether you can do zero or twenty, pull ups and chin ups are hard for pretty much everybody. This tutorial will go over how to get better at chin ups and pull ups regardless of your current skill level.

What are Pull Ups and Chin Ups

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You may frequently hear individuals use these terms interchangeably, but that isn’t completely accurate. The primary difference is in how your hands are positioned. If you have your hands wrapped around the bar facing you, you are doing a chin up. If your hands are on the bar facing away from you, then you are doing a pull up.

Both exercises work your lats and biceps; however, chin ups will use more bicep strength and pull ups will require more from your lats. As a result, people tend to be better at chin up than pull ups.

What Pull Ups and Chin Up Are NOT

There are various attempts at these exercises that do not qualify as a true pull up or chin up. Not fully extending, kipping, and jumping off the ground are the most frequent infractions you will see. 

Some individuals will only go to about 90 degrees with their pull ups and chin ups. Some individuals say you need to fully lock your elbows for the pull up to count, other say you shouldn’t lock out as it can cause injuries. Do whatever is comfortable for you, but you should really aim for maximum extension.

Kipping is when an individual uses their body to swing up into the pull up. Some people consider this a real exercise; others just view it as cheating at your pull ups and chin ups. Either way, kipping and pull ups are not the same thing. Try to move your legs as little as possible and avoid thrusting your body upward. 

Jumping off the ground is very clearly not a pull up or chin up. You should not be springing off anything. It is best to start from a dead hang (or barely using the ground if you have joint problems). This will help you to avoid the natural urge to jump off the ground. As I said, pull ups and chin ups are hard for everybody; the urge to make them easier is understandable but will not help you improve.

How do I Improve?

If you are already able to do at least six chin ups or pull ups, then I would suggest the Recon Ron program. Once I got up to six I used it to get up to ten. The program is designed to increase each week, but you may find that you need to spend an extra week to get to where you need to be. 

If you can’t do one much less six then you will want to incorporate a chair. Put your foot on the chair and lightly use your leg to help lift yourself up to the bar. Once your chin is above the bar, remove your foot to lower yourself back down. If you find yourself dropping straight down then leave your foot on the chair the entire time. The goal is to use your foot as little as possible so eventually you can do a pull up or chin up under your own steam.

Can I Use Weights to Improve?

You can most definitely perform a number of exercises to help improve your pull up and chin up abilities. Lat pull downs are most common; however, you can use free weights to do renegade rows, bent over dumbbell rows, and lawn mowers. These will all work your lats. You can also incorporate some bicep curls, hammer curls, and other bicep focused exercises as well. 

Renegade rows

Bent over dumbbell rows

Lawn mowers