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How To Guide

4 U Body Fitness

Building up to a bodyweight pull-up

Ask anyone who has worked out regularly and they will tell you that pull-ups/chin-ups are one of the best exercises for developing upper body strength and muscle size (with the right nutrition of course!). However this is not an easy exercise, and we know a lot of beginners struggle with the full exercise, so here are a couple of tips to help you build up to the full range body-weight exercise:


– Inverted rows: using a low bar (around mid-thigh height) get your chest under the bar and pull up to the bar. This is a similar movement pattern to a pull-up and helps train similar muscle groups


– Negatives: we are stronger in the downwards phase of an exercise (where the weight is moving down to the ground and we have to control it) so perform this motion without the lifting phase of the chin-up/pull-up. Try and lower yourself for 3-5 seconds



– Jumping chin-ups: instead of performing the full pull-up/chin-up, cheat just a little and jump into the upwards phase, this helps work the arms a little, while allowing you to reach the top. Make sure to focus on a 3-5 negative phase on the way down


– Lat pull-downs: using a cable machine you perform a similar movement pattern to the chin-up/pull-up except your butt is fixed to the seat and you pull your hands down, rather than pulling your body up.


– Assisted chin-up: most gyms have a machine to assist you with the up phase of a chin-up. Alternatively you could have a partner help you up by lifting you up through their hips


– Full chin-up/pull-up: once you’ve gone through all the exercises above, you are ready to give the full exercise a crack. A chin-up is performed with your hands facing you, and the pull-up is performed with hands facing away. Most people find the chin-up easier as you increase the use of your biceps, which makes this a great way to build the guns! Make sure the bar is always infront of your face to limit the strain through the neck.


Don’t worry if it’s a struggle, persistence is the only way to succeed! Remember that good technique is important to perform the movement correctly and limit the chance of injury, never sacrifice form to complete a repetition (I will personally smack any trainer that says you can sacrifice form!)


Let us know if you have any questions!!


Tim Coombs
Mobile Personal Training Specialist
University of Melbourne Doctor of Physiotherapy student


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