The pullup is widely-known as one of the most effective and beneficial ways to strengthen your arms and back. Fitness legends like Arnold and Jack swore by it, due to its ability to sculpt the rest of the body. But with that said, there needs to be a starting point — pullups can be hard to do, especially for beginners. Even those of you who have been doing pullups for years can improve your efficiency at the exercise. Use the following five exercises to get you to where you need to go!
- Assisted Pullups
If you’re in the same boat as many of us, lifting your body weight over a bar can be tough. But don’t despair! Just because you can’t lift your entire weight just yet, doesn’t mean you can’t do a pullup! Grab a resistance band (whatever tension-level you think will assist you, not make it easy!) and tie it around the bar. Place your foot/knee into the loop and grab onto the bar. The band will allow you to go through the pullup motion in a slow, functional manner and provide the boost needed to get you over the bar. As you get stronger and can keep your form in-check, gradually lessen the tension-level until you get to the real thing!
- Lat Pulldowns
The lats (or latissimus dorsi) are the main muscles involved in the pulling movement of this exercise. Lat pulldowns closely mimic the motion of the pullup, with the only real difference is that requires a machine to use. But this is beneficial, because it allows you to adjust the weight to your liking/ability-level and one can easily perform drop-sets, burn-outs, or whatever suits your fitness needs. Perform 4-6 reps, using heavy, but manageable weight. The next time, drop weight and pump out 15 reps. Rinse. Wash. Repeat.
- Bicep Curl
The biceps act as the peripheral muscles involved in pullups, so go about training them a little different than your back and lats. Load up and train with heavier weight one week, then alternate the following week with working out with less weight but higher reps. A good rule of thumb with going heavy on biceps, is to load up the weight just enough that your form isn’t compromised — shoot for four sets of 4-6.
The best way to pound your bi’s? Incline curls!
Setup a bench at approximately 45 degrees and grab a pair of dumbbells. Have your arms down by your side, with palms facing forward (toward your feet). Slowly curl both arms up while maintaining the starting point of your palms. Do a total of 12 to 20 reps and feel that wonderful burn!
The deadlift doesn’t necessarily train the same back muscles as the pullup, but does
require a large amount of grip strength. The stronger your grip-strength, the easier pullups will be moving forward! Work on conquering the proper form and mechanics first. Once comfortable, shoot for six sets of 5-7, and watch your grip improve drastically.
- Isometric Holds & Negatives
If you cannot perform one full pullup, then the most effective way to gain strength quickly, would be by doing “negatives”, which are essentially eccentric muscle contractions. To perform a negative, get your chin over the bar (by either jumping or standing on a bench) and release your body down into a dead hang as slowly as possible.
Isometric holds and contractions are also very beneficial. As before, use a bench to get your body into a partial pullup. Hold yourself at the halfway point for as long as you can — even if that means only a few seconds!
Negatives and isometric holds aren’t just meant for beginners. Cranking out four sets of 6-10 negatives will work your back and arms just as well as any round of pullups.
And there you have it! You’ll be surprised by how much strength you’ll gain by performing these exercises a few times per week. Before you know it, you’ll be doing pullups for days! Enjoy!