Pull ups can be pretty intimidating. They’re probably one of the hardest bodyweight movements you can do — all the more reason to learn how to do one properly.
The question I’m asked most often is, “What’s the best way to tackle the pull up?”
I’m Pull Up Queen Shawna Kaminski. I can do multiple sets of pull ups, and I regularly include pull ups in my challenge workouts. Trust me, if I can do them, you can too.
I’m a woman, for starters — and we all know that girls can’t do pull ups, right?
I’m also close to 50 years old. I was never a gymnast or Cirque de Soleil performer. I’m just a normal mom who likes to work hard.
I’ve got a few tips that’ll help you increase your pull up power so you can get your FIRST rep of this difficult move, or make it to your TENTH.
Okay, so let’s get to it…
Body position is the one of the most important elements of success for the unassisted pull up. It’s imperative to be UNDER the bar, so that you are lifting your chest towards the bar rather than lifting your chin up and OVER the bar.
Once you get into this position, you need to learn how to do a SCAPULAR RETRACTION to engage the upper back muscles. Hang from the bar with straight arms and — without bending your arms — squeeze your shoulder blades together. See how that helps you elevate your chest a few inches towards the pull up bar?
This is also a great warm up exercise because it helps create that muscle-mind connection. Do a few reps of these before you begin your workout, and you start to pull you’ll be more likely to pull with the lats rather than just your arms.
Here’s a quick mini circuit for those of you learning how to do a pull up. Check out the video and use the write up below as a reminder:
Here’s the workout I presented in the video:
- Do an overall warm up and then do a few scapular retractions to get those back muscles ready.
- Do 10 assisted pull ups — you can do band pull ups, jump pull ups or step up pull ups. Just remember to do a slow hang every time you get your chest to the bar to work the negative or eccentric portion of the movement.
- Do 10 Dumbbell Rows per arm — use as heavy a dumbbell as you can. Start with your weak arm.
- Repeat this three times.
- Finish with hanging leg raises. Do 10 leg raises, and make sure you rock at the hip instead of just bringing your knees to parallel.
- Rest up to 30 seconds and repeat.
This is a sweet little circuit that will help you build your pull up power.
Shawna Kaminski is a retired schoolteacher of 20 years who found her passion in the fitness industry. She’s been a competitive athlete all her life, and has competed nationally in 3 sports. Shawna is in her late forties, and as a mother of two teenagers she understands how busy life can be. Her workouts are short and intense, and most can be done anywhere. Shawna’s always up for a challenge, and she loves sharing her personal fitness challenges with you. She runs her own boot camps, and coaches clients in person and online — and she gets serious results.