Three Exercises to Help Progress to a Pull up

Hey folks! My name is Melissa Marazzi, I am a Personal Trainer at TRUE Health and Wholeness.

I see a lot of people wanting to work on their pull ups these days. Whether you are working on perfecting your form, or shooting to hit your very first one, they are a challenging exercise for anyone. The body is a chain of moving parts so there are ways to strengthen those individual parts to progress you towards your overall goal. Here are three of my favorite movements to help work on those pull ups:


Hanging Scapular Retractions

High Plank Walkouts

Isometric hangs

Hanging Scapular Retractions:

One of the initial movements of a pull-up consists of the scapulae retracting, meaning the shoulder blades pull downwards to stabilize themselves against the torso. Practicing this pulling movement not only helps accustom you to being able to perform it well come pull up time, but also strengthens the neuromuscular connection, teaching the muscle fibers to properly engage. 


Start in a hanging position from a bar, arms straight and feet off the ground. Without bending the arms, imagine digging your elbows into your sides and squeeze the shoulder blades together and activating the lats. Perform 2 sets of 10, holding each for about 2-3 seconds.


High Plank Walkouts:

The core is heavily activated when performing a pull up, so making sure your core is tight and in proper working order is of utmost importance. A simple way to get your core up to par is by performing a high plank walkout. 


Begin in the high plank position up on the toes with straight arms, wrists directly underneath the shoulders, and tight abs; this is your starting position. One by one, walk your hands away from your torso so they are farther out in front, while still maintaining proper form. Take about three hand steps away and hold for about 2-3 seconds, then walk back to the original position. To make it a bit more challenging, see how long you can hold the end position with good form. Perform 2 sets of 10.


Isometric Hangs: 

Isometrics are a great way of building strength in an area that you know you are pretty weak. An isometric is a type of muscle contraction where the force matches the resistance – like pushing against a wall, your muscles are still working but you aren’t going anywhere. Therefore, practicing an isometric hold at the very top of a pull up is a perfect way to work on the overall exercise. 


Begin by placing your hands outside of shoulder width on the bar, palms facing away from you. Leap up so you position yourself at the top phase of a pull up, chin over the bar. Hold here. Start with 15 seconds, and progress your way up. See how long you can go for! Perform at least two sets.

There you have it. Hopefully these will be a step in the right direction. If you put the time in, you are sure to get there. Try them out and let me know how they go! Have fun y’all!
- Melissa


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