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What is your KING exercise?


All hail the mighty PULL UP!

We all have that one exercise that we just LOVE doing, no matter how tough, no matter how bad we feel, we just look at our program for that day and instantly feel invigorated. “Yes! I’ve got Pull ups today!” 

No matter how down-trodden I may feel, how bad I may have slept the previous night or how I know that by the end of my last set I’m going to look like my Scrotum is being torn off! (You know what I mean) 😉 I JUST LOVE DOING PULL UPS!

Some of you reading this may be relating to this with other “bang for your buck” exercises such as Deadlifts, Squats, Bench Press, Dips, Overhead press or even Bent over rows! 

Whatever your preference, I’m sure you can relate to the constant affection of the particular move.

The ultimate party trick!

It doesn’t matter if you’re an advanced gym goer with upwards of 5 years of experience or an old lady who doesn’t know what a Pushup is! (They do exist, I’m sure!) 

Show them someone executing a set of STRICT Pull ups and I guarantee you’ll earn respect! If even just 5 degrees of their repsect, RESPECT is what you’ll get!

You can do them all over the place!

That’s right, you don’t need a state of the art Gym or any gym for that matter to perform the glorious Pull up.

They can be done in the comfort of your own home with a nice, cost effective Doorway Pull up bar where the assemble process is so simplistic, you could give it to 5 year old’s and they would moan “This is too easy! I’m bored now!” 

I actually acquired one from Amazon some while back for a measley NINE pounds (British Sterling) and let me tell you, it was hands down, THE BEST NINE POUNDS I’ve spent!

Heck, before I made that teeny investment, I used to do them on my extension at the back of my house! So there’s a little tip for those of you who like a “Ghetto” touch to your training 🙂

Work the show muscles all in ONE move!

So what can the Pull up do for you?

Well, if you want strapping arms, a V taper back and a monster grip………then look no further!

You see, if you master and program PROPER Pull ups into your routine, your Biceps, Forearms, Grip and Lats (Latissimus Dorsi) all get a thorough workout through a chain like effect. Even your core will achieve activation and strengthening when the Pull up is done CORRECTLY.

So what is “PROPER”?

The term “Pull up” is incredibly vague and generic. It could simply imply just pull yourself over a target bar by any means possible. THIS IS NOT WHAT I’M IMPLYING AT ALL! 

We’ve all seen those Crossfit athletes that can do well over 20 Pull ups, maybe even closer to 50 in a set! But these Pull ups are “kipping” Pull ups, where you are allowed to swing, thrust and use any means necessary to just get that head over the bar! These are permitted methods in Crossfit competitions. 

Remember, they are COMPETING. Their goal isn’t to build their Lats, Biceps and overall upper body. It’s simply to outperform their competitors! Nor are they concerned about aesthetics!

Unless you’re an aspiring Crossfit athlete, the type of Pull up you should be aiming to master, is the STRICT Pull up.

This is where you ensure your lower body remains as VERTICAL as possible throughout the full range of motion! 

This is also where you initiate the movement by retracting your Shoulder blades and Scapula at the bottom position of the movement (hang position)

You’ll also want to maintain a NEUTRAL head position throughout, basically you want your eyes constantly looking straight ahead regardless of the point in the range you’re at. 

Concentrate on initiating the movement by driving your elbows down and back, so as to shorten the Lats at the top of the movement. A cool tip is to try to close the gap between your Forearms and Biceps at the top position, this ensures you achieve a full range of motion and maintain tension in all aspects of the strength curve.

The last key point to remember is to ALWAYS BREATHE! Never hold your breath whilst executing the Pull up! A good guideline is to inhale as you lower and exhale as you pull up in the concentric phase.

Now for the main variants!

  • Neutral grip (palms facing each other/hammer style grip) Easiest, providing greatest mechanical advantage.
  • Close supinated grip (palms facing you, as if you were curling a barbell) Also providing considerable mechanical advantage.
  • Shoulder width supinated (reducing the mechanical advantage slightly)
  • Wider than shoulder width supinated (further reduction in mechanical advantage)
  • Shoulder width pronated (palms facing away from you/overhand grip) Slightly less assistance from the forearms and Biceps in this variant.
  • Wide (outside shoulder width) pronated. The classic “Wide grip Pull up” The least mechanical advantage is available here, also the range of motion is slightly reduced as a result (More emphasis on the Latissimus Dorsi)

There are even more “fancy” ways to “glam” up your Pull up, but those simple variations should provide an ample starting point. Concentrate on the simpler variant until you can achieve 10-12 reps with strict technique then aspire to progress to the next variant. Once you can achieve the above rep range on all variations, you can repeat the cycle with added weight in the form of a Dumbell (between knees or ankles) or you can invest in a weight belt or simply load a rucksack!

Here’s to a whole new stratosphere of pulling strength!




JR @ Straight-Talking-Fitness View All

The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.

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