Learn to do pull-ups – this is how it works sustainably and effectively!

Klimmzüge lernen – so klappt es nachhaltig und effektiv!

Many people who have discovered strength training have the goal of learning how to do a proper pull-up. Pull-ups are a big challenge, especially for women, as their upper body is relatively weaker than men due to anatomical reasons. But men also have a deficit in this basic exercise more often than they realize: the range of motion is often shortened, so that although some repetitions are performed, these cannot be classified as full pull-ups. This article discusses correct movement execution, the muscle groups involved and the correct methods for learning to do pull-ups.


Learn to do pull-ups? This is what a real pull-up looks like!

In order not to make the explanation too complex, here is Pull-up a Chin up meant with a shoulder-width, neutral grip. This is also - normally - the strongest grip and therefore the easiest to learn. Further handle variants will be discussed in the section after next.
Correct pull-ups starts with your arms completely unhinged (stretched). The pulling movement is carried out by the muscles on the upper back between the shoulder blades and the arm flexor muscles. Another section will be more specific about the am Pull-up muscles involved. The elbows are pulled back and the aim is to touch the top of the pull-up bar with the shoulder so that the chin goes over the bar in the top position. This is the only way to speak of performing a full range of motion when doing a pull-up.

In addition, the hips should remain straight; this is achieved either by keeping the legs completely stretched the entire way or by bending the knees backwards. However, the knees should in no way be pulled forward.

After pulling up, you let yourself down in a controlled manner until you reach full extension (unhinging) and then, if necessary, start another repetition:


Which muscles are trained during pull-ups?

Depending on Pull-up variation (grip width, grip variant, execution, etc.) the muscle part involved shifts a little. In principle, however, you can name certain main muscles that are active during pull-ups. Here again, a shoulder-width and neutral grip is assumed.

With this one classic pull-up The latissimus dorsi muscle (large lateral back muscle) and the arm flexor muscles (brachialis and brachioradialis) are primarily active. The teres major, a smaller muscle that attaches to the back of the shoulder blade and is connected to the humerus, also has an important role in pull-ups. Among other things, it supports the latissimus dorsi muscle and the arms during the pull-up movement.
The secondary supporting muscles used in pull-ups are the pectoralis major (large chest muscle), the abdominal muscles, the shoulders (deltoid) and the rhomboids (inside the shoulder blade). So it's clear that pull-ups and chin-ups require very high overall recruitment of large and small muscle groups. On the one hand, this makes the exercise extremely demanding, but on the other hand it is also one of the most effective exercises for the upper body, which is why it is often referred to as the “King of upper body exercises”. Since you are at Pull-ups If you have to pull up your entire body weight, you already need a well-developed basic strength (including a strong back) and also a lot of body tension. In addition, the nervous system is put under a lot of strain, which is why after an “all out” sentence, performance usually drops sharply.


What pull-up variations are there?

There are numerous different versions of a pull-up. There is fundamentally neither a wrong variation nor a better variation, because as with the squat, they all have their place. It's just important to always know why you're currently using them and understand their biomechanics, muscle recruitment and energy system.

Pull-ups usually mean a pronated grip (overhand grip). Pronated pull-ups can be done at different lengths. The wider the grip, the more isolated the latissimus dorsi has to work, which makes the exercise significantly more advanced, as the arm muscles and other stabilizers only provide very little support.

The supinated grip (undergrip) and the neutral grip are part of the chin-ups because this is where the chin can go furthest over the bar. The muscles involved in the neutral grip have already been described. With the underhand grip variant, where the palms of the hands face you, the biceps brachii in particular are put under more strain. A higher proportion of the arm flexor muscles are active here.

The variants mentioned are among the basics on the pull-up bar, but there is an enormous range of other methods and variations, Pull-ups to carry out.


Challenge of learning to do pull-ups

As already mentioned, it is a big challenge, especially for women, to be able to do a pull-up with a full range of motion. This is because the female gender has a relatively weaker upper body, which is hard to miss visually: narrower shoulders and back and less developed back and arm flexor muscles. But there are also many men who pursue this goal and have difficulties with it. Limiting factors include a relatively high percentage of body fat, as this is inactive additional weight. Reducing body fat can also play a part on the way to your first pull-up.

Individual anatomy and physiology also play a role. For example, very long arms can make the path difficult. Since the nervous system is crucial in such a global exercise, this is also a factor to consider. Even with all these challenges, the goal is still achievable - even if the progression can take up to over a year.


In three steps to your first pull-up

In most cases, it is not advisable to use pull-up machines in gyms or pull-ups with a band. These two options very rarely lead to success. It is much more promising to make the eccentric movement very strong. Specifically, this means negative pull-ups. The following progression can be integrated into the training plan. Each level can be trained for three to four weeks. Some also need to be repeated.

In addition, the right additional exercises must be chosen to support pull-up training. To do this, the above-mentioned muscle groups involved must be strengthened with targeted, slowly controlled eccentric and fast concentric movements. Different variations of biceps curls, especially those with an overhand grip (pronated), as well as targeted exercises for the latissimus dorsi and teres major are useful.

1. 5-30s pull-up iso hold at the top of the bar with an underhand grip (supinated shoulder-width apart):

2. Eccentric pull-up: 10-30s negative pull-up neutral shoulder-width grip:

3. Eccentric pull-up with additional weight (dip belt) for 30 seconds.

If 10-15% of your body weight can be lowered slowly and controlled at a steady pace for 30 seconds as additional weight, you should be able to pull up your first body weight pull-up. If this is not already the case, it makes sense for a person to give some help with pulling up; if this is done for a few training sessions, the nervous system will then be ready:

By the way: You can also learn how to do pull-ups Incorporate exercise outdoors and improve your pull-ups - simply find a playground with a climbing frame, a sturdy clothes rail or the nearest outdoor gym - and you're ready to go! Good luck with that first pull-up !

A more detailed example program for pull-up progressions follows in the following article!


Ines Schulz
Ines Maria Schulz, born on December 1st, 1992 in Basel, Switzerland, also completed her Master of Education in Biology and WAH there, laying the foundation for the understanding of physiology and anatomy as well as nutrition. She is also a trained primary school sports teacher. For two years she has been a coach at MTM Personal Training, the most successful personal training studio in Berlin. There she supports customers every day who want to exploit their maximum potential in terms of mental and physical health and performance. In cooperation with doctors like Dr. Dominik Nischwitz and a laboratory for intestinal health as well as the constant exchange within the team, she can provide her customers with optimal advice about training, nutrition, micronutrients and lifestyle. She has already written a breakfast book and a large part of a lifestyle booklet for MTM. She also writes the weekly newsletter, which publishes nutritional tips and recipes she has created. Ines has completed seminars and certificates with a variety of successful coaches and specialists and is constantly expanding her skills. The young trainer has been writing blog articles for Supz Nutrition since January 2019.

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