Fitness tip- Getting the first pull-up

posted Jun 21, 2017, 12:02 PM by Jessica Lester   [ updated Jun 21, 2017, 12:11 PM by Matthew Weygand ]

Fitness tip: Pull-ups

Pull ups are a great strengthening exercise for your upper body and are one of the greatest challenges of the Viking Fitness Tests. They really work the muscles below your shoulder blades called your lats, your arms (biceps), and the core muscles like your abdominals.  

If you can't do a pull up yet, believe me, you are not alone. Take a progressive approach to getting that first pull up by practicing modified versions of a pull-up until you are strong enough to lift your own body weight with a regular unassisted pull-up. Here are some suggested modifications to help you on your way to getting that first pull-up and improved upper body strength.  Remember to do as many slow and controlled repetitions (reps.) as you can.   Control and technique are very important for preventing injuries and building strength.

1. Negative pull-up:  Start in the "up" position and try to lower yourself to the "down position slowly and under control.  This is called doing a negative repetition (rep.) and will develop strength.  

2. A jump start pull up-  Some people have trouble getting the pull up started.  If you have a low enough bar jump into the pull-up to get it started. On your way down if you cant keep control of your body weight use your legs and feet to catch yourself.  Do not let your body weight cause you to "slam" your shoulder joint with all of that weight.  Remember slow and control.  Keep working at it and in time you will make improvements.

3.  Low Bar Rows-  On a low bar, chest level or lower, keep your body stiff as a board and slide your feet out from underneath the bar.  The further out you have your feet the the more body weight you will have to lift. Your feet are the fulcrum as you use your upper body muscle to lift your chest to the bar.  Do as many as you can under control with challenging weight.  (We do these in our fitness pod circuits).

4. Assisted pull-ups-  This requires that you have a partner to help you but if you are close to an unassisted pull-up and not quite in control through the whole range of motion have a partner assist.  They can do this by spotting you and helping to lift you through the weak portions of your range of motion (ROM) or at the end of your set when you start to become exhausted.  Sometimes that little lift is all you need to get it.  Your spotter(s) can help lift by standing behind you and lifting from your waist or standing to the side and lifting up from your bent knee(s).

Hey, I don't have a bar at home to practice?????

If you do not have a pull-up bar at home to practice one thing that I have done is ride my bike to a nearby playground and use the monkey bars. You can purchase fairly inexpensive pull-up bars a sporting goods stores that work really well in your home's doorways.  Also, use the pull-up bar in the gym on your way down to PE, in PE class, or quickly before and during intramurals. The fitness pods outside also have many bars at many different heights to do different versions of pull-ups.  

Basically set your mind to doing more pull-ups and every time you pass a pull up bar in school stop and do a set of some kind of pull-up.  Before you know it you will be doing pull-ups a couple times a week without even realizing it and surely you will be getting stronger.