Pound for pound, pull ups are one of the most challenging exercises out there.
If you want to be “bad and strong” in and out of the gym, pull ups are an absolute must. Getting your first reps takes some work though, and it can be a real grind!
Don’t worry though. If you can’t do a full pull up yet, or you want to be able to do more reps, adding these exercises to your program will help make it happen.
Get ready to pull a lot! The more pulling exercises in your program, the better. Rows are great for focusing on muscles involved in pulling, like the rhomboids and middle and lower trapezius. They are also easier than pull ups, which means you can get more reps to build strength and endurance in your hands.
The more upright you stand, the easier the exercise is (first version). To make it harder, walk your feet forward. The Inverted row is the hardest version of this exercise you can do without adding extra resistance. Start with 3 sets of 15-20 reps on the bodyweight row, and 3 sets of 10-12 reps on the inverted row.
Assisted Chin Ups
Lat pulldowns and machine assisted pull ups are fine for improving back development, but they won’t cut it if full pull ups are your goal. Band and partner assisted pull ups are also ok, but these two assisted versions are closer to the real thing and require you to work more. It’s all about the work!
Start under the bar with your feet on the floor. Pull yourself up until your chin clears the bar, but only use your upper body! You can “cheat” a little with your legs to get the last rep or two if you must, but use as much upper body as possible. For more of a challenge, straighten your legs, or get your feet off the floor like in the 4th exercise. If you want even more of a challenge, use gymnastics rings or TRX. Start with 3 sets of 10-12 reps.
Eccentric Chin Ups
This one is a killer! Your muscles can lower more than they can lift, and this exercise takes advantage of that to build strength. Use a step or bench to get your chin above the bar. Come to a hang, then slowly lower yourself until your arms are fully extended.
When I say slowly, I mean SLOW! It should take 5-8 seconds to reach the bottom. Your reps will be lower on this exercise than the others because of the slower tempo. Try 2-3 sets of 4-6 reps.
A few tips to remember:
-You can change your hand position on these exercises to add more variety. Palms up (supine), palms down (prone), or neutral (palms facing each other) grip all target the back muscles, but with a slightly different emphasis.
-NO CHEATING! Fully extend your arms on every rep.