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How to Do a Pull-Up

The Pull-Up Guide — It's Not as Scary as You Think!

Despite what you might think, pull-ups are not impossible and can be adjusted for any fitness level. This infamous exercise offers a great upper-body workout that quickly tones the back, arms, and chest. Not only will it make you stronger, but conquering this move will also give an extra boost of confidence and help you feel like you can tackle anything — because, let's face it, you can.

Beginner Pull-Ups

  • Assisted Pull-Up Machine: The pull-up machine is a great way to try your first go at pull-ups. The machine uses counterbalance weights, which means the higher the weight you set the machine, the easier the exercise becomes. Start by setting the weight to 20 pounds less than your weight, complete three to five reps, and then adjust the weight accordingly. Here are step-by-step instructions on how to use the assisted pull-up machine at your gym.
  • Band Pull-Up: With the help of a superband — a giant, two-inch-thick rubber band — you can tackle consecutive pull-ups. All you have to do is wrap the rubber band securely around the pull-up bar, put it under one knee (or one foot for even more assistance), grab onto the bar (stepping off a stool if needed to reach), and begin your pull-up. Superbands are the same length, but the wider the band, the more assistance. Eventually, you will no longer be a "groupie" to the band and will be able to use your body weight!

Intermediate Pull-Ups

  • Jump Pull-Ups: Consider jump pull-ups (pull-ups with a jump start) the next level after the assisted pull-up machine. Standing under the bar, jump up to grab the bar, harnessing the momentum of the jump to pull your body and chin to the bar. If your chin doesn't come close to the bar, don't give up — this move often takes practice.

Advanced Pull-Ups

  • Traditional Body Weight Pull-Ups: Using your body weight is the most traditional, but often the most challenging, way to complete a pull-up. With palms facing away from you, grip a pull-up bar with arms extended. Keeping your core tight while engaging your back and lats, bring yourself up until your chin passes above the bar, then lower yourself down into the starting position. The trick (and challenge) to any pull-up is to avoid swinging your entire body or using your neck for added momentum.
  • Weighted Pull-Up: When you're ready, let your inner gymnast shine. Following the movements for a traditional pull-up, add a weighted plate for an extra challenge. Using a weight belt or simply holding a weight between your knees, you will be the star of the gym and any workout.
Image Source: Thinkstock
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Nancy-Einhart Nancy-Einhart 3 years
This is inspiring me to finally try the assisted pullup machine.
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