By Laura Petrolino
Let’s make 2015 “The Year of The Pull-up.” There’s nothing more satisfying that pulling your own weight, and regardless of your level of training, you too can dominate the pull-up bar. Think it’s too hard? Think again. I recently revamped my pull-up skills, and you can too, with a little work.
I was a gymnast growing up (along with being a competitive ice skater and dancer), which meant from an early age I was a pull-up phenom (we can use a very loose interpretation of the word phenom here). Being highly competitive by nature, I always prided myself on beating out all the boys in pull-up tests at school (along with all the other physical fitness tests).
As I grew older, stopped gymnastics, and focused on other sports, my pull-ups suffered, but my competitive drive did not. A couple of years ago I decided to put an end to my struggling pull-ups and asked my coach at the time, Anthony Colpo, for help in getting them back up to par.
He automatically prescribed me pull-up negatives, which I did at the end of every back workout.
To do a pull-up negative, you start in the top position of the move (so often the easiest way to do this is to boost yourself up on an assisted pull-up machine or have a partner assist). Then you slowly lower yourself to the bottom position of the pull up, as shown in the video below. Start with lowering yourself to a count of 15 and then increase to 30 or even 45. Make sure the movement is slow and controlled.
If you aren’t at the point that you can lower unassisted yet, do so on an assisted pull-up machine and slowly decrease the weight used to support you until you can do it on your own.
Try doing three sets of five on days you work upper body or back. Put them at the end of every workout, so your muscles are already slightly fatigued. Another method is to do a negative every minute on the minute for ten minutes (you can also do this with regular pull-ups, assisted or unassisted. Try doing five pull-ups every minute on the minute for ten minutes).
Doing negatives religiously helped me increase the number of unassisted pull-ups I could do dramatically, and in a relatively short amount of time.
Another method often used to improve pull-up performance is to taper your use of the assisted pull-up machine. So just as you slowly lessened the amount of weight used to support while doing negatives, you’d do the same thing, but for the actual pull-up move.
All of us here at The Skinny and The Thick of It are working to improve our personal pull-up bests this year, and we invite you to join with us. Post your videos and pull-up victories to Instagram with the hashtag #pullupdomination and we will help answer questions, provide tips and tricks, and cheer you along.