Pull-ups are a functional exercise and in my opinion are the best back exercise for upper back mass.
If you can’t perform weighted pull-ups perform bodyweight pull-ups, if you can’t perform body-weight pull-ups perform assisted pull-ups or simply jump up and grab the bar while focusing on the negative portion of each repetition.
The only way to get better at pull-ups is to do them! Don’t skip pull-ups simply because you find them a struggle (I recall repping out sets of weighted dips with a 45lb plate before I could even perform 1 proper form wide grip pull-up, so don’t get discouraged!).
Targets: Back & Biceps
Required: Pull-Up Bar
Optional: Weight Belt
With Arms fully extended and slightly wider than shoulder-width grasp your pull-up bar and assume a dead hang position.
Tilt your head to look slightly upward and maintain a small arch in your back, this will create the slight angle you'll maintain in your torso for the duration of the set.
Drive your arms down and back, pulling through your lats until your chin clears the bar.
Slowly lower yourself back down to the dead hang starting position.
Repeat for the desired number of repetitions with this full range of motion.
Instead of gripping directly onto your pull-up bar opt to hold onto either end of a towel, draping it over your pull-up bar.
The towel pull-up is harder than it looks and is fantastic for developing both grip and core strength as well as smashing the lats.
Form wise the chin-up is the same as the pull-up however you'll be utilizing an underhand, closer grip - placing greater emphasis on the biceps.
Neutral Grip Chin-Ups
Form wise the chin-up is the same as the pull-up however you'll be utilizing a neutral hammer style grip (palms facing inward).
Additional emphasis is placed on the biceps and forearms.
Easily hitting sets of 10 or above with your regular pull-ups? Time to increase the resistance! Use either a dip belt with a weight plate or lock a dumbbell between your legs.
Common Pull-Up Mistakes
In order to add size and increase back strength we need to be using our back when we’re performing pull-ups.
By default most guys attempt to pull through their arms (especially when lifting heavy) as opposed to their lats… this results in a bicep pump and a half assed back workout.
Using correct form and ensuring you’re activating the right muscles requires conscious effort without a doubt.
At the beginner of each set I ensure I lean back and have a slight arch in my back to ensure I’ll be driving through my lats to pull myself up to the bar.
Sitting completely upright or hunching forward is a sure-fire way to set yourself up to struggle the weight through your arms.
Similar & Substitute Exercises
- Lat Pulldown
- Bent Over Rows