Walk into any gym and you will find any number of people doing all kinds of ‘back’ exercises, but how many times do you see someone doing a pull-up or a chin-up. And when you do, let’s be honest, it’s an impressive sight. By the way, we’re talking about full, strict form chest to bar pull-ups and chin-ups. We’re not counting half reps and kipping pull-ups here.
Pull-up – an exercise in which your palms are turned away from your body, in an overhand grip.
Chin-up – an exercise where your palms are turned towards your body, in an underhand grip (for you guys chasing t-shirt busting arms, this one is going to add some serious development to those biceps).
The rise of the lat-pulldown machine as the most popular vertical-pull exercise has many, many people severely limiting their potential growth in back strength and size. To be clear, the lat-pulldown machine is not a direct substitute for the pull-up. It locks your body into place so that all you are doing is pulling with the muscles of the shoulder girdle (this includes the assisted pull-up machine).
On a true pull-up, your abdominals are forced to contract to stabilise your body and keep it moving on a strict path. Every muscle from your forearms to your gluteals gets involved.
If squats are the king of building mass on the lower level, then it can be argued that pull-ups are the king of mass building for the upper level. Still not sure if you want to begin including pull-ups into your routine? Take a look at the back development of any elite level gymnast.
So, if all the above is true, why are so many people neglecting this key movement. The answer is simple, pull-ups are hard! Very few people can do a good number with strict form, let alone weighted or one handed variants.
If you’re new to this exercise but want to begin including it in your program, the first thing to do it leave that ego at the door. Now, if you can’t perform even one strict pull-up (lowering your body all the way down so that your lats are fully stretched), you should begin by focusing on the eccentric (negative) portion of the movement i.e. the lowering part. To do this, assist yourself by jumping up so that your chin is over the bar, then slowly and in a controlled motion lower yourself back down to the floor. Repeat.
Patience is going to be key here, keep at it and you won’t be disappointed with the results.
*The views and/or opinions expressed in the blogs are not necessarily those of Training Nation, but of the author