Sometimes, a first pullup is a team effort.
Requiring back strength and an abundance of determination, the pullup can be the ultimate challenge for the fitness enthusiast, mostly because that first one seems to be so elusive. Working against gravity to lift and sustain your body while pulling yourself up on the bar is no easy fete. Despite the difficulty, pullups are attainable for most people, as long as you strengthen the proper muscles and practice often.1.
Warm up before practicing pullups; working cold muscles can result in injuries, such as tears and strains. Perform five to 10 minutes of cardiovascular exercise, such as jogging or jumping rope.2.
Strengthen your pullup muscles -- the lats, biceps, rhomboids and trapezoids -- on the assisted pullup machine, carried by most gyms. The machine also lets you practice the pullup motion. Select your resistance level to allow for failure between eight and 12 repetitions. The assisted pullup machine works on counterbalance, which means that the lower the weight, the harder the exercise will be; start with the resistance level set at 20 pounds less than your body weight. Take hold of the outer handles with an overhand grip. Step or kneel on the pad, depending on the machine. Pull yourself up until your chin clears the handles, if possible. Hold the contraction for one count and lower to starting position.3.
Continue to strengthen the muscle groups that pullups activate during your resistance training sessions. For example, target your lattisimus dorsi and rhomboids with the lat pulldown machine and barbell rows, the trapezius with shrugs, and your biceps with biceps curls. Incorporate these or similar exercises into your training program two to three times per week. Perform three to four sets of eight to 12 repetitions for each exercise. Resistance levels should allow you to complete at least eight yet not more than 12 reps with proper form.4.
Try your first pullup during the first five or 10 minutes at the start of your regular strength training sessions, following your warm-up, when your muscles are fresh. Reach or jump up and take hold of the bar with an overhand grip, hands separated slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Cross your legs to keep your lower body stabilized. Engage your abs and slide your shoulder blades down your back. Bend your elbows as you pull your body up toward the bar. Aim to have your chin clear the bar. Reverse the movement in a controlled manner until your arms are straight.5.
Ask a friend or personal trainer to spot you as you practice your first pullups. Taking hold of your legs as you hang from a traditional pullup bar, the trainer pushes you up as you pull your chin to the bar. This allows your body weight to be supported as you practice the motion required to execute a full pullup.
- Assisted pullup machine
- Lat pulldown machine
- Consult with your physician before starting a new fitness program.