Updated: Mar 24
Pull-ups are an essential exercise that works multiple muscle groups in the upper body. However, many people find it challenging to perform pull-ups due to the strength required. Thus, this article aims to provide an extensive guide on how to get stronger for doing pull-ups using academic research and statistics.
The Mechanics of Pull-Ups
Pull-ups primarily rely on the strength of the back muscles, specifically, the lats, rhomboids, and traps. Additionally, pull-ups engage other muscles such as the biceps, forearms, and shoulders. The biomechanics of pull-ups involve the following steps:
Initiate the exercise by gripping the pull-up bar with a shoulder-width grip.
Fully extend the elbows and shoulder blades downward.
Start the pull-up by strongly contracting the lats, pulling the elbows down to the hips.
Continue pulling up to the bar until the chin is above the bar.
Lower yourself to the starting position while fully extending the elbows and shoulder blades downward.
Research-Backed Strategies to Get Stronger for Pull-Ups
1. Progressive Overload
Progressive overload is a training concept that involves gradually increasing the resistance or weight lifted, causing the muscles to adapt and grow stronger. To get stronger for pull-ups, incorporate progressive overload by systematically increasing the number of repetitions per set and adding resistance.
A study by Peterson et al. (2011) revealed that gradually increasing load intensity improved the strength of the trapezius, lats, and biceps. The authors recommended using a weight vest or attaching weights to the body to increase resistance gradually.
2. Eccentric Training
Eccentric training is a training technique that involves emphasizing the lowering (negative) phase of a rep. Eccentric training has been shown to be particularly effective in improving pull-up strength by promoting muscle hypertrophy.
A study by Hortobágyi et al. (1996) found that eccentric training increased the strength of the elbow flexors and extensors by over 50%. To incorporate eccentric training into your pull-up routine, focus on the lowering phase of the rep, taking 3-5 seconds to lower yourself back down.
3. Isometric Training
Isometric training involves holding a static tension in a muscle without moving. Isometric training can help you build a stronger mind-muscle connection and increase muscular endurance.
A study by Fisher et al. (2017) found that isometric training improved grip strength and muscle endurance. To incorporate isometric training, hold yourself in the top position of the pull-up for as long as possible before slowly lowering down.
4. Lat Pull-Downs
Lat pulldowns are an effective exercise that targets the same muscle groups as the pull-up. The lat pulldown offers a progression towards a full pull-up and can be used to build the strength necessary to perform a proper pull-up.
A study by McKean et al. (2010) found that lat pulldowns were an effective exercise for increasing upper body strength, particularly in the lats and trapezius. To use lat pulldowns to increase pull-up strength, aim for sets of 8-15 repetitions with an appropriate weight.
Pull-ups are a challenging exercise that requires considerable strength in the upper body. However, by incorporating progressive overload, eccentric training, isometric training, and lat pulldowns into your routine, it’s possible to significantly increase pull-up strength. By utilizing research-backed strategies, you can successfully build the mind-muscle connection and muscle hypertrophy necessary for performing pull-ups. Remember to track your progress, and be patient – gains take time. Happy pull-up training!