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9 Ways to Amp Up a Pull-Up

Take this classic training move to the next level with these variations.

By Jon-Erik Kawamoto

Clap Pull-Up

For most, chin-ups are a staple in their upper body workouts, while some feel more comfortable sticking to the lat pull-down machine. But, for those competent in doing 10 solid reps (dead hang and no swinging), progressive overload must be applied to ensure continued progress in strength and size.

First, some lingo:

Chin-ups use a double underhand or supinated grip.
Pull-ups use a double overhand or pronated grip.
Neutral grip pull-ups involve performing a pull-up on two parallel bars with the palms facing each other.

Second, correct technique:

So we’re all clear, pulling your chin just over the bar is not a full repetition. Finishing with the elbows beside your ribs actually brings the top of your sternum to the bar, not your chin. So the term chin up is a misnomer—they should be called sternum-ups.

When doing pull-ups, keep your shoulders away from your ears. When pulling yourself up, pull your shoulder blades down toward your hips. Keep your chest out and neck in a neutral position. Reaching for the bar with your chin is wrong. It’s tempting, but wrong. Once you pull your sternum to the bar, lower yourself under control to a slight bend in your elbows. At this point, don’t let your shoulders shrug upward. Keep them down in preparation for the next rep.

Scissor your legs to prevent any swinging. Driving your knees upward and swinging doesn’t constitute perfect reps; neither does kipping. If you do CrossFit and need to hit your reps, you’re going to kip, but if you’re looking to increase the size and strength of your back muscles, dead-hang pulls are the way to go.

We can obviously progress pull-ups by adding more reps to each set, but why not add a little spice?

START: Take your pull-up to the next level >>