- Go slow
Far too often pullup newbies expect to be able to grab a bar and pump out 50 pullups in a row without breaking a sweat. When they find out that it can be struggle to do just a couple, let alone a couple dozen, pullups they quickly become discouraged and give up. Just about anybody can do a pullup, but it’s important to be realistic, especially when first starting out. Set your goal on doing five sets of one rep, for example, and when you’ve mastered that, increase the reps to two of ten pullups in one workout session. These small incremental increases will be easier to manage and will get you to your goal of mastering the pullup bar much faster than simply trying to pump out an unrealistic number on your first try.
- Perfect form
Mastering form is important in any exercise, but especially so with the pullup because it is often so easy–and so tempting–to cheat. Managing a dozen poorly executed pullups may make you feel good at first, but it will provide fewer fitness benefits than, say, executing just a handful of perfect pullups. So how do you do the perfect pullup? The first rule is to begin each pullup in a dead hang, which means hanging from the bar with your arms straight (but not locked). The second rule: at the top of the pullup your chest should be close to touching the bar. If you’re only going as high as your eyes or chin then you are not really doing a proper pullup. Finally, don’t rely on momentum to get you through a set. Going slowly and pausing briefly between each rep will help cut out any reliance you may have on momentum.
- Go down
It may be called the pullup, but the descent is just as important as the ascent when it comes to getting the most out of this exercise. When descending from the bar, don’t just rely on gravity to do the work for you. You should feel the back muscles burn a little on the way down. In fact, the descent is so important that at least once a week you should use a chair or stepladder in order to start the pullup in the top position and just focus on your form going down. This strategy is especially good for beginners who want to build their way up to a full pullup.
The pullup is a challenging exercise, so don’t feel bad if you struggle with it early on. Taking this exercise slowly and focusing on form, rather than number of reps, will get you on a path to conquering the pullup bar in no time.