6 common pull-up mistakes beginners make

The pull-up is one of the most popular bodyweight exercises and consists out of pulling your body upwards. They are a very effective exercise for developing upper body strength and are not just aimed at gymnasts or athletes. Contrary to popular belief, everyone can benefit from learning the exact technique to perform them.

The most common types of pull-ups are:

  • Pull up: prone grip, with the thumbs turned inwards;
  • Chin up: supine or reverse grip, with the thumbs facing outwards.

However, this exercise is an obstacle not only for women but also for men as they are putting their strength to the test. Paradoxically, in this exercise, the less you weigh, the easier it will be to deal with it.

Why is the pull-up so difficult?

There are three factors to consider.

  • The first is gravity, which pulls everything towards the center of the earth, including us. When you do a pull-up, you are essentially opposing this force, which is why it is so tough.
  • The second element is the distance, to be understood in this case as the length of the arms: the longer the distance to cover, the greater the energy required.
  • The third is mass: more weight equals more effort.

Muscles involved

The muscles involved during the execution of the pull-ups are so many and mostly concern the upper part of our body. In addition to the arms, there are two other muscle groups that have a profound effect on performance: the great dorsal muscle and the trapezius that lifts and moves the shoulders. A strong, trained torso and chest can also play a crucial role in the pull-up, although it is often underestimated.

How to start doing pull-ups

Pull-ups have many benefits, so it’s worth trying to learn them. Yes, but how do you start doing these blessed pull-ups? Probably the most difficult obstacle to overcome is to go from 0 to 1 Pull-up. But don’t lose confidence because the preparatory steps to follow in order to do a pull-up are listed below.

  • Horizontal pull-ups on the low bar or TRX (Australian pull up): final goal 10/20 repetitions for 3/4 series.
  • Isometric hold (dead hang): you hang from the bar and hold the suspended position (feet off the ground). Final goal: 60 seconds for 3/4 series.
  • Isometric hold with the chin above the bar (pull uphold or chin uphold): make a jump or help yourself with a chair and bring your chin over the bar, maintain this position by contracting core, glutes, and quadriceps. Final goal 30/60 seconds for 3/4 series.
  • Negative pull-ups (negative pull-up or negative chin-up): jump or help yourself with a chair and bring your chin over the bar, hold the isometric position for about a second and then slowly control the descent (negative or eccentric phase). Final goal ten reps for 3/4 sets.

After having acquired certain confidence and being able to do at least 1 pure and simple pull-up, you can start a weekly training program to increase the number of pull-ups we can perform.

What a clean pull-up looks like

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Pull-up mistakes

We live in the age of social networks and youtube that offers daily videos of fitness influencers or aspiring ones, where everyone is athletes and super experts. Many of these videos contain lots of tips under the aegis of “how to …” and most of these are really bad, so the probability of seeing incorrect exercises is very high.

Among the most common mistakes that are made when performing Pull-Ups or Chin-Ups are:

Pushing the elbow back 

At the end of the movement, you have to force yourself to pull the elbows back (in the same way as to contract shoulder blades and shoulders). In this way, you will have a better involvement of the dorsal.

Straighten arms

Many athletes in the gym do not fully extend their arms when descending after a pull. Unfortunately, however, going down completely allows you to complete the exercise in a profitable way as the ascent will take place from the most unfavorable point.

Half repetitions or chin below the bar

To perform a full pull-up, the ideal would be to get your chest close to the bar. It follows that, if you arrive at a different point (for example the forehead, the chin), you will have less involvement of the back.

Shoulders and back not active in the dead hang position

At the end of the movement, it is necessary to pull back the shoulders (and consequently the shoulder blades); doing so will give you a much more complete exercise, and you will be “safe” from any injuries.

Oscillations (or kipping)

Another thing to avoid; it is useless to help with the legs as what works must be the back (and the arms/shoulders as “accessories”). In addition, oscillation leads to sudden movements that can lead to injuries.

Feet crossed

Perhaps one of the most common mistakes (together with an incomplete traction or extension of the arms); crossing the feet is deleterious as it leads to an exercise by unbalancing the body to one side. Unbalancing one side of your body is an operation absolutely to be avoided because it leads to both muscle imbalances and injuries.

Pull-ups every day?

For beginners, you must train at the bar at least twice a week, people with a higher athletic level can safely perform the pull-ups every day. If you are unable to perform even a pull, then it will take you some time to achieve your goal, on average 6/12 months (depending on the subject, mobility, strength, and many other factors).