6 Tips to Improve Your Pull Ups Without Looking Like an Idiot

So you want to get strong? I mean REALLY friggin’ strong? Learn how to do pull ups and ditch the Nautilus groin machine/lat pull down super sets.

Pull ups are probably one of the toughest body weight exercises (or exercises in general) to master. See there’s this thing called ‘Relative Strength’ or in meathead terms – how your strength matches up to your own body weight.

Great. Why is this important?

Think of it this way – if you watch a guy who is 120 lbs do 10 pull ups and a guy who is 250 lbs do 10 pull ups, which is more impressive? THINK BEFORE YOU ANSWER. (There’s a good chance the 120 lb. guy is kipping and wearing Vibrams. Exactly.)

Super-human relative strength = Beast Status.

The problem nowadays is that many guys in the gym do one of two things when it comes to training and working on things their not good at – especially at a big box gym:

[1] Stick to exercises that make them ‘look’ strong. I know plenty of bros who can’t do a single ‘real’ pull up so they opt to use all the weight on the lat pull down machine and perform ‘look at me’ cheat reps (usually followed by some sort of animal noise).

[2] Avoid exercises that make them look stupid. If a bro can’t do a pull up, he’ll avoid them at all costs to save himself (what he thinks is) the embarrassment of doing partial reps, or assisted pull ups with bands

[NOTE] Many times, these points go hand in hand. They don’t want to look stupid, so they go use the lat pull down and they go use the lat pull down because they don’t want to look stupid. After all – that ONE chick who’s not afraid to use the free weight section in the gym, might be looking at you, right?

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So now that I just made fun of some of you, if you’re still here I’m guessing you want to learn how to do more pull ups and get better at muscling up and getting stronger. If you left, well – I guess you like to do kipping pull ups and wear vibrams. Wrong blog for you.

Here are 6 ways to improve your pull ups without looking like a douche:

  1. Slow Negatives. This is exactly what it sounds like. Jump up to the bar (or use a stool) to get your chin above the bar. Slowly lower yourself using a 5 count, activating your arms (biceps and forearms) and then your lats. Go ALL THE WAY DOWN, until your elbows are completely straight. Start with a set of 5 of these per day, adding a rep and a second each week until you can do around 10.
  2. Fat Gripz. You hear me talk about these all the time. Use them. Just by using them for sets of 10 on pull ups during my training for about 2 months, they doubled my pull up numbers. I can do 20 no problem, and this was the only change I made recently to my pull up training. Use them. (If you need a pair, get them HERE).
  3. Mixed Grips. Mix up your grips. You can go over hand, underhand, mixed (baseball bat) grip, fat gripz, neutral grip, etc. Mixing your grips will not only make your forearms and grip stronger, but will work your back and arms from different angles which will indirectly improve pulling strength.
  4. Use Bands. Bands are a huge help in improving your pull ups. Do what you can in terms of reps without them (if you can) and finish your sets using some banded help. For example: If your workout calls for 12 reps, and you can only get 3, do the remaining 9 with a band around your foot (or knee), which will help pull you up to the bar. (Get some bands for your home gym HERE).
  5. Drop some body fat and lean out a bit. You might not realize this, but your relative strength (i.e. beast status strength) will improve much quicker if you drop some serious body fat. You don’t have to eat to get ‘inside out’ ripped, but if you’re sporting the beer belly or a dad bod, that’s all EXTRA weight you have to pull up to the bar. Pulling an extra 20-50 lbs. up is like doing a pull up with a weighted vest. Much tougher. If you’re serious about dropping body fat there’s snag a jump rope and go for rounds a few times a week. You’ll trim up and your pull up progress will improve MUCH quicker.
  6. Ditch the Lat Pull Down (at least for now). Trust me, the lat pull down machine has it’s place when done properly and I am a huge fan, but not at the expense of doing old-school pull ups. If you want to do them give that cable machine a break – especially if you’re doing them to avoid looking stupid doing pull ups. If you’re not doing them for fear of looking silly, you will NEVER master them. Get over yourself and accept the challenge. In order to grow, you need to do things you’re not good at in front of people who just might judge you. (Plus, that one girl in the free weight section isn’t looking at you anyway. She’s too busy practicing her pull ups. Creep.)

Hit that pull up bar.

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