To perform a picture perfect pullup, there are few things you need to keep in mind. This checklist will lay the foundation for proper pullup form, whether you are working on your first pullup or you’re trying to do even more pullups than you are doing now. In this video, I am going to give you details on the prerequisites. setup, and execution of the pullup, including one all-important caveat that will help to keep your shoulders healthy.
Before you even jump up to the bar, there are a few prerequisites that are important to take note of. To start, it is important to strengthen your abs, as they help provide strength and stability throughout the exercise, but also train them while hanging from the bar. Secondly, you should work on strengthening your deadlift as well as you’re working on pulling strength that will transfer to the pullup. You should also note the importance of strong scapulae, as they are key in the execution of a pullup. You can do this by including straight arm pushdowns into your workouts. Finally, the last prerequisite is your bodyweight to strength ratio. Carrying excess weight / body fat will make the pullup incredibly difficult as you are pulling more weight.
Next, is the setup of the pullup and that starts with your grip, elbow positioning, and what to do with your legs. The bar should be deep into your grip as to help avoid undo stress on the deep flexor tendons that can cause medial epicondylitis. However, a hook grip can be used sparingly in order to perform as many reps as possible, but is not ideal in the long term.
You should be grabbing the bar just outside shoulder width as this will give you the optimal pulling position. Too narrow or too wide can cause the wrong muscles to take the brunt of the work, as well as limiting the number of pullups that you can do. Proper grip width is also related to elbow positioning, as too wide will also take the elbows away from the front of our body and more to the outside, instead of infront of your body (the ideal position). Your legs should be out in front of your body slightly, toes pointing down, quads flexed, glutes squeezed and abs flexed to plug any common energy leaks.
When it’s time to execute the movement, make sure to squeeze the bar through the pinky and ring fingers as they are the weakest digits involved in the pullup. Make sure to look up at the bar on your ascent and don’t think of pulling your body off the floor and to the bar; think of pulling the bar to your body! The last point to remember on the execution is to “attack the bar” with your chest. This will open your back into thoracic extension which is important to scapular movement.
For that all important caveat in the execution of the pullup, when you reach the bottom of the movement, don’t unpack your shoulders! Dead hang does NOT mean destabilize. Instead of allowing your shoulders to come up to ears when you hang from the bar, keep your shoulder blades down and back. This, in conjunction with thoracic extension (attack the bar with your chest) allows for stable but mobile scapular upward rotation and will help to keep your shoulders healthy.
As you can tell, the pullup is not just as simple as grabbing the bar and hoisting yourself up. It’s not just what exercises you do, but how you do them, that matters the most. If want to be able to do more pullups or any other exercises without missing any of the all important details, be sure to click the link below and use the program selector to help find the program that matches your training goals right now. Put the science back in strength and witness your best results ever in the next 90 days.
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