One the hardest exercises to perform with good form for a whole set are pull-ups. This is because you moving a dead weight with each repetition. More than that, pulling up opposed to pulling a weight from underneath you (bent over barbell rows) is always more difficult. However, once you look beyond the difficulty, learning to master this exercise and use it every week will compound your gains!
Chin ups are just one variation of this great exercise. Simply put, you take a wide grip on the bar with your palms facing away and pull-up until your chin is at least parallel with the bar. This grip focuses on your latts, and it is excellent for developing overall width. In fact, I would say this is the ultimate v-taper building exercise!
Reverse grip pulls ups are another favourite and rightly so! This exercise also hits your latts, but it is also more effective at hitting the middle portion of your back at the top of each repetition. This one is particularly difficult to stop your body swinging, but that is down to your core strength and as you progress so will your core! This variation of pull up is great for adding thickness to your entire back!
Behind the head chin ups are another fantastic way to use your own body weight to hit your back! However, these take an immense level of strength therefore it may take you a while to get a decent set with this exercise! It hits all of your back, but it is particularly good at developing the upper portion of your back including the traps and rhomboids!
If you are a seasoned gym bunny, then pull ups should be something you can do for at least 12 repetitions. To really develop your back, try adding these variations to a wide grip chin up!
1 – At the top of the repetition push yourself away from the bar. It may only be a couple of inches, but this really hits your lower portion of the back and helps develop your overall v-taper. This is seriously hard but well worth it!
2 - Hold yourself at an angle, so that your back is lying more parallel to the ground. Again, this is very difficult but it puts an immense level of stress on your back muscles!
For beginners, who like couldn’t initially do many pull ups here are a few tips to get your strength up. Once you can get 6 per set you can start using pull ups as part of your workout. Until then, just use them to start your back workouts to help develop your ‘pull up’ strength.
1 – Even if you can only do one, do that repetition before every back workout and hold for as long as you can at the top and control the negative on the way down. This will really build your strength fast!
2 – Aim to add 1 rep to your set every other week! If you can only do one, aim to be able to do 2 slow and controlled reps in 2 weeks. This way you are forcing your body to get stronger!
3 – If doing one is too much, use an assisted pull-ups machine. This will take some of the weight off, and just apply the principles above to gradually build your strength. Make it very progressive so that your body is forced to get stronger!
There you have a few tips on how to really get the most out of pull-ups! Once you can get 3-5 good sets with these exercises your back will take shape very quickly!