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More Training Info > Pullups

Q. How do I increase my pullups?

A. Let's look at several components: 1) body weight; 2) grip, 3) equipment and training method.

1) Body weight: The more you weigh, the harder pullups become, since pullups involve raising and lowering your entire body weight. If you are carrying excess fat (inert tissue) you'll have a more difficult time; excessive muscle, on the other hand, can also be a problem. Just keep that in mind--if you are 180 pounds and 6% body fat, that muscle mass will do wonders for you; if you are 180 pounds and 23% body fat, pullups will be much harder. Although women seem to have a much harder time increasing their upper body strength, don't let that deter you, women! Read on to find out more.

2) Grip: Easiest way to do pullups is to start first by mastering chinups, with your palms facing your chest (called a reverse grip).  Keep hands about shoulder width (or slightly closer) and avoid swinging your knees up toward your chest (adding momentum--cheating, in essence.) Try to pull your body up so the chin just clears the bar. If that is fairly easy, then use a regular grip (palms forward, shoulder width) and advance to wide grip (palms forward again.) The wider the hands, the more difficult the exercise and the more carry-over the exercise has to sport climbing where you have to reach at all angles for your next handhold. If you have access to various grips such as palms-parallel V-bars or ropes, try throwing them into your training, too, to prevent boredom and give your body an extra challenge.

3) If you can't do a single pullup, then try an assisted pullup with a partner helping lift you by applying pressure at your ankles. Or even better, if you are working out by yourself, try this neat trick: place an Olympic style bar about chin height in a squat rack and make sure it's secure, then hang straight-armed from the bar so your knees can't quite touch the floor. Give yourself a legal cheat with your feet assisting you however much you need until your chin clears the bar and do as many of those as you can. If you still have trouble lifting yourself up, then start from a standing position and try to take as long as you can to lower your body weight, with or without feet touching the floor. Keep trying to increase the time it takes you to lower--that means you're getting stronger!

See also Floor Assisted Pullups.


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