Pull-ups are one of the best bodyweight movements to hit the majority of the upper-body muscles at once. There are endless ways to modify and play with your pull-ups, and you could build a very complete pulling routine using only pull-up variations. However, before you can get to the more advanced versions, you should master the basic pull-up.
A basic pull-up is performed by first grasping the bar with a protonated grip, which means with your palms facing towards you. Leverage yourself off the ground by bending your knees back at a right angle and crossing your ankles. Holding the bar at the bottom of the pull-up is called a dead hang. To initiate the pull-up, retract the shoulders blades back together and engage the muscles of your back. Pull your body up to the bar in a fluid motion. This should be accomplished primarily with the lats, with some engagement of the biceps and forearms. For full range of motion, keep pulling until your chin clears the bar. Try to pause and squeeze at the very top of the movement. Some womyn find it helpful to think of pulling the bar to the body rather than pulling the body to the bar. Throughout the pull-up, keep your entire core tight and engaged, all the way down through your glutes – this will help minimize extraneous movement.
If you’re not ready to do standard pull-ups yet, there are many ways to modify the pull-up so you can work your way up to it.
If you have a training partner, partner assisted pull-ups are the best option to start with. Grasp the bar again in a dead hang. Have your partner hold you at your shins or knees and provide just enough assistance to help you pull your body up until your chin clears the bar.
If you do not have a training partner, you can use a resistance band to effectively reduce the amount of weight that you are responsible for pulling up to the bar. Loop the band between your legs, rather than at the feet or knees, for a movement that most closely resembles a standard pull-up. Again, grasp the bar, pull the shoulder blades back, and pull the bar to your body.
If you do not have a training partner or a resistance band, there are still two good options for modifying your pull-up.
Find a chair that positions you with your chin above your bar when you stand on it. Using this chair, you can jump slightly up into a flexed arm hang, which is just the top part of the pull-up motion, and hold yourself there for as long as you can. If you are completely new to pull-ups, you may not be able to hold yourself for longer than a second, which is perfectly fine. When you cannot hold yourself up anymore, slowly lower yourself through the eccentric or negative portion of the pull-up, focusing on keeping your muscles tight and engaged.
You can also use your chair for chair-assisted pull-ups. Grasp the bar again in a dead hang with the knees bent and your toes on the chair. Using your feet, give yourself just enough assistance to perform a pull-up as usual.
No matter what kind of assistance you use, try very hard to use your back and biceps as much as possible. Rely on your assistance less and less as you progress over time and you’ll be doing standard pull-ups before you know it!
Many people will find chin-ups (which is a pull-up with a reverse or supinated grip, meaning the palms face towards you) or neutral grip pull-ups (with the palms facing in towards each other) to be easier to perform because they recruit more bicep. Once you’ve got a basic pull-up down, it’s a good idea to rotate through all three grips in your training to make sure that you are covering any possible weak points in your pull.
As a caveat, please be careful when using pull-up bars at home. It is not recommended to jump up to these bars and you should check them every time before you use them in order to make sure that they are stable in the door frame. Be safe, Amazons!