Pull-ups are an ideal measure of relative strength and fitness. The calisthenics of lifting your own body weight against gravity is a true test of strength, irrespective of size. For example, a 300-pound man is more likely to dominate a smaller 175-pound athlete at the bench press station. Gravity serves as the equalizer for pull-ups, and fitness enthusiasts view success in this exercise as a benchmark for prowess. Improve your overall physique by targeting the separate muscle groups that work together to perform pull-ups.
You Will Need
Pull-up / Chin-up bar
Comfortable workout clothes
Perform a self-assessment of your body by performing pull-ups at the gym, or outdoors at a recreational station. The pull-up technique requires an overhand grip on the bar. Bend slightly at the knees to suspend yourself, but keep the back straight while completing the exercise. You want to isolate your upper-body when doing the repetitions—without a leg kick, or torso wiggle. Exhale as you lift your chin over the bar, and inhale while lowering back down.
Count your repetitions and take note of the muscles that are being used. Feel the tension in your back, shoulders, biceps, forearms, and trapezius (traps) muscles. You should be able to finish 15 reps as a sign of good fitness.
Prioritize upper-body development according to your objectives. For example, men may wish to build large biceps and traps; while women work toward a look that features supple shoulders and toned arms. Lift heavier weights for fewer repetitions to add bulk. Conversely, lift lighter weights with more reps for definition. Add weight with each set to make gains.
Complete exercises in the gym that are similar to pull-up movements for strength training, such as lateral (lat) pulls, rows, military presses, bicep curls and reverse bicep curls.
The lat pull-down machine features a bar attached to cables; and is especially important to target your traps. Sit down at the station and lower the bar to the nape of your neck and back up to complete one repetition. Alternate between wide, close and underhand grips to target separate muscle fibers and build strength.
Some gyms do feature weighted-assist pull-up machines. Use the weighted-assist pull-up station if you are unable to complete several regular pull-ups at the chin-up bar. You should begin to see improvements within four to six weeks of using this equipment, which prepares your body for efficient use of the regular chin-up bar.
Coordinate your workout regimen with the proper diet. Strength training requires healthy foods that supply energy and material for recovery. Keep fat content to a minimum, for metabolic and cosmetic reasons. The National Institutes of Health identifies protein as the organic compound that is necessary to rebuild muscles after strenuous exercise. You may also consider taking whey protein shakes to supplement your diet with this vital resource.
Re-visit the pull-up bar and complete repetitions of the exercise to monitor your progress. Perform several sets to failure—with one-minute breaks in between each. Advanced athletes should wear a weighted belt for more resistance.
You may also use varied grips on the pull-up bar for development. Close-grip, wide-grip, and underhand grip chin-ups all target the upper-body well.
Weighted-assist pull-ups on machines are not a perfect substitute for the exercise. Use the chin-up bar instead, as soon as your body is physically capable of completing at least five repetitions against gravity.