Top 5 Ways to Improve Your Pull-Ups

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For someone who has been hitting the gym for a long time, pull-ups are often part of the routine. Those of you who have just started should know that pull-ups are one of the most rewarding exercises; nothing equals the feeling of strength and pride that results.

The pull-up is a powerful movement, helping athletes build up not only their physiques, but also their raw strength. Moreover, since pull-ups use body weight, the difficulty naturally increases as the athlete puts on muscle.

But… once this movement is mastered,  how can one keep it challenging and effective?

1: Add Weight

The first tip to make a pull-up more difficult is to add some weight. You can do this by using a weighted vest or  belt. Thanks to these tools, performing the same number of repetitions will be much harder, and you will eventually become stronger.

Exercise: Three sets of six repetitions, making sure to use enough weight. Those who have just started should make sure not to overload their belt or vest, for this could result in bad form and injury.

2: Change Speeds

Changing the speed of your pull-ups remains one of the best ways to quickly (no pun intended) increase difficulty. For example, when you reach the top of the bar, try to remain in this position for three seconds or more. Then, go back down and try to maintain the lower position for four seconds. Repeat this until exhaustion.

Variations for this movement are endless, and because your arms will be under constant tension your strength will greatly increase.

3: Pull-Up with Raised Legs (“L”)

Raise your legs until they are at a 90 degree angle. During the entire set of pull-ups, try to maintain this position:

Exercise: three sets, with as many repetitions as you need before burning out. If you are able to perform at least ten reps, feel free to wear a weighted vest or belt, as indicated earlier.

4: “Stop & Go”

While this exercise is similar to the second variation, it nevertheless constitutes an interesting challenge.

Stop your pull-up half-way through (try to get your elbows at a a 120 degree angle), then:

  • Hold for two seconds before continuing the movement.
  • Once you get to the top of the bar, maintain this position for two seconds.
  • While going down, stop half-way, and again, try to maintain the position for two seconds.
  • Finally, once your arms are fully extended, try to stay there for two seconds.

Exercise: Try 1 set of 5 reps. If this is easy for you, you know what to do: add weight 🙂

5 : The “2 -1”

The “2-1” is definitely a good option for the advanced athlete, as well as for anyone looking to develop a stronger and firmer grip. (For example, this is a good exercise for rock climbers). 

In order to perform this movement, start your pull-up using both arms. Then, once you get to the top of the bar, release one arm and lower yourself, using only the other arm. Go slowly and make sure to control the movement; no need to let yourself fall.

Once you get to the bottom, grab the bar with both arms before starting the next pull-up.

Exercise: Try to perform 10 reps, five times with each arm.

Besides the movements themselves, your imagination will be the limiting factor. Make sure to have fun and try other variations! I personally like the pull-up with raised-legs, as it is really efficient for building up the abdominal muscles and increasing core strength.

Bonus : Level Up

Once you have mastered pull-ups, you should be ready for the next level: muscle-ups.

Discover The Muscle-Up

Are you able to perform all of these variations? Is there a movement I forgot to talk about? Let me know down below!


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