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It’s no surprise that pull ups are one of the best exercises to thicken out your lat muscles; they’re great for widening too and require a strong form in order to pull them off. However, this means that when someone’s first starting out in strength training, they’re usually not able to perform a pull up. Pull ups require good strength in order to lift your own body weight and without effective training to get yourself to that level of strength, you’re missing out on one of the best workouts you can get.
If you find that you struggle with a pull up, or just plain can’t do it, you need to start working to fixing this as soon as possible. There are a few things you can do to help youself.
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Most gyms have this – it’s a machine that’s designed to help you do pull ups with assistance. Basically you rest your knees down on a pad on the machine and you can change the amount of resistance to a level that you’re comfortable with.
You initially want to start so that you’re able to do between five and six pull ups at a time, with the correct form, and then work from that point to constantly progress and improve until you’re able to do more and more reps at a higher resistance. Keep track of your resistance so that you can see how much you’ve improved over time.
Eventually, you’ll find that you no longer need the machine and you’re able to do the pull ups without being assisted.
Without Assisted Machines
While they’re becoming increasingly popular, some gyms are still without assisted machines. If your gym is one of these, it doesn’t matter. There are still things that you can do.
One of the first things you can do to get on the right path to be able to do your own pull ups is lat pulldowns. This requires a lat pulldown machine. You want to start with gripping the bar with an overhand hold, with your hands around six to eight inches outside of your shoulder width. This movement will simulate a similar movement to a pull up except the resistance will be downwards instead of pulling your entire body weight upwards.
Similar to using the machine, you need to start somewhere that is comfortable and then gradually increase until you’ve built the right amount of strength to be able to do a pull up unassisted.
Once you’ve got the hang of the pulldown, you can start working on the negative aspect of the pull up. This is the drop down rather than the lift, and is actually where your muscles are worked out more. This is also where most injuries occur so you need to make sure you’re careful.
You can start by putting yourself into the starting position: jump up and have your chin positioned over the bar as if you’ve just performed the pull up and then slowly work on lowering yourself back down. You need to make sure it’s controlled and that your form is correct. You want to start slow, doing a maximum of seven reps in sets of two or three at a time. It should take you around six seconds in order to lower yourself properly. You can then slowly increase the reps that you do, or add more weight to the let down to build the strength. After a few weeks of doing this, you should see significant improvement in order to do the pull ups eventually on your own steam.