The Move: The Basic Pullup

Where It Hits: Lats, biceps, rhomboids

When to Do It: Anytime during your back workout

How Much to Do: 3 to 4 sets to failure


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Start Position

Hanging from a pullup bar, shoulder blades relaxed. l Grab a pullup bar with a shoulder-width grip and then squeeze your shoulder blades back and together. l Once they’re tight, pull yourself up, leading the pull with your elbows and focusing on your lats being engaged.

End Position

Chin at or over bar level, back slightly arched. l You don’t have to, but holding the top position for a second or two will increase your lats’ time under tension. l Don’t drop back into position; instead, take your time to increase your muscles’ tension, then lower to a count of two.

Pulling Power

Three ways to enhance your pullup form.

1. Don’t Be So Stiff

Arching your back enables the spine to extend and allows your thoracic region to open up. This forces your shoulder blades together and recruits more of your upper back.

2. Engage Your Lats

Before you begin, lower your shoulders, raise your rib cage, and elongate your neck. This puts your body in an advantageous position that allows for better muscle activation. Failing to preengage the lats will result in more help from your arms and shoulders.

3. Do Dead Hangs

Lower yourself to a dead-hang position—arms fully extended—each rep. Not doing so means you’re doing half-rep pullups, reducing your muscles’ time under tension. The dead hang is a reset that preengages your lats before pulling. Add even more difficulty by including a one-second pause at the bottom.


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