I love pull ups. They are probably one of my most favorite exercises. They build the back extremely well.
It’s hard to find an exercise that can beat pull ups when it comes to developing the back. The feeling you get from pulling your bodyweight against gravity is amazing.
Pull ups are great because you can do them anywhere you see a ledge or a horizontal pole. It doesn’t matter if you have a gym membership or not, you can always get a quality free workout with pull ups.
Pull ups involve all of the back and pulling muscles, so fitting them into your training routine will certainly be a wise choice!
The Story Of Mr. V;
I remember once sitting in the gym on a bench, tired and sweaty from the countless back exercises I was doing. As I waited for my little brother to finish his set on the rowing machine, I watched other people in the gym discretely by looking at the reflection in the surrounding mirrors ahead.
These people consisted of meathead ‘macho men’ in tight vests growling and snarling while they were heaving dumbbells up and down. Then I noticed something that changed my whole thinking on back workouts.
I noticed one man walk in past the bench press, past the dumbbells and straight up to the pull-up bar.
Now the pull-up bar area was a part of the gym that hardly anyone used, in fact, I could probably count the amount of people I had seen use it on my hand. I certainly avoided it as I couldn’t even do one single pull up.
Anyway, this man looked in his late 30’s. He was about 6ft tall of a slim build. He didn’t look very ‘big’ in bodybuilding terms.
He proceeded to stretch and warm up and then he took off his jacket. At this point, a lot of people in the gym turned their heads. Under his jacket, this man had SLABS of muscle packed onto his frame.
I’m not talking about the soft, watery muscle that I had seen a lot of steroid users possess. This muscle was hard and dense with lines and contours as deep as the Grand Canyon.
It was unnoticeable whilst he was wearing his jacket but in his vest, you could see the amazing physique he had. The thing that was most impressive was the ‘cobra’ shape of his back. He had a V-taper that started at his board shoulders then narrowed down to his small waistline.
He then proceeded to use the pull-up bar. As he used the pull-up bar I could see every individual muscle on his back moving and I could see his lat’s pumping away.
He spent most of his session at the pull-up bar alternated with a few other compound exercises. This was something I remember very well and after that day myself and my brother would refer to him as ‘Mr. V’.
The same day when I returned home I couldn’t stop thinking. This man had such an impressive back and the main exercise he was doing was pull ups.
There I am busting my ass in the gym doing countless back exercises with no improvement whatsoever. Then there was Mr. V doing just two exercises for the back and had a body shape that even the ‘big macho men’ envied.
My mind wondered and I started to think about gorillas. Their backs are huge. Apes have amazing muscles all over their backs and huge shoulders. What do they do?
Answer: Pull ups. They hang around on trees all day pulling their body weight constantly. That’s when I decided, I NEED to learn how to do a pull-up.
At that time, I had the ability to do about 0.25 of a pull-up. That’s when my eagerness kicked in. I went to my garden and found an old pole. I sanded it down and painted it.
I then proceeded to my shed and found two pieces of 2×4 timber wood. I drilled two holes into the wood big enough for the pole to slide through.
I went back to my bedroom and started to cut two holes in my ceiling! I fed the 2×4 wood pieces through the holes in the ceiling. After I went to the attic and bolted the 2×4’s to the wooden beams that ran across my ceiling. I then fed the pole through the two pieces of 2×4’s.
Result: I ended up with a very crude pull up bar, but it worked.
I figured that if I could place a pull-up bar where I would see it every morning and every evening, I could practice pull-ups all the time.
Sure I could have purchased one of them doorway pull up bars but, firstly I couldn’t wait for delivery (I wanted to start straight away) and secondly I wanted something where I could use a wider grip (like the gym pull up bar).
At first, I couldn’t perform one single pull up. With persistence, I was able to start doing sets of pull-ups which enabled me to start building my back in the way I wanted to.
Proper technique for the pull up is important. Here’s how to do them with good form;
- Grip the pull-up bar a little past shoulder width.
- Take a deep breath and brace your core by tensing your abs.
- Tighten up the tension in your whole body and squeeze the pull-up bar.
- Without swinging, pull yourself up with to the point where your chin goes over or touches the bar. Squeeze your back muscles at the top. (You can bend your knees and cross your legs to help you to stop swinging).
- Breathe out and slowly lower yourself back down until your arms are locked straight.
- Don’t forget to get a full stretch and contraction. This builds the muscle allot quicker than half reps.
Once you can do 3 sets of 10, start using a weight attached to a weight belt to perform them. This will make your back grow extremely well! Use a 5.5lbs/2.5kg weight. Once you can complete 3×8 reps with this weight add another 5.5lbs/2.5kg. Go up in small increments (that is key).
If you cannot do a single pull up yet then here are some tips to help you on your way;
- If you’re serious about performing them then you have to be at a reasonable weight. If you’re overweight, you will need to cut some fat first. It’s quite difficult to perform pull ups if you have extra pounds of fat to pull also.
- You need to be persistence. I kept on trying. Every time I saw my pull up bar I would attempt to do one.
- Negatives! This is what helped me to do pull ups. To do negative reps, stand on something so that your chin is level with the bar. You can use a chair, table, bench etc. Grip the bar slightly wider than shoulder width. Now slowly lower yourself down to the floor.
- Do 3×10 reps of negatives. This gets your body used to holding your weight and also strengthens the muscles. If you can do negatives, that’s 50% of the pull-up. Try negatives for a while then try to do a normal pull up after.
- Strengthen your back by performing back exercises with heavy weights. Barbell row and one arm dumbbell rows are great for this. Keep the weight as heavy as possible and perform 5 sets of only 3-5reps. This rep range will build strength. Soon you will be able to complete your first pull up.
Doing sets of pull ups is something that is overlooked in many gyms. Don’t be like I was in the past and underestimate them.
Pull-ups are one of the best back exercises around. They are the main exercise that enables you to attain the cobra head shaped back.
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Let me know how you’re progressing. If you need any further advice feel free to drop a comment below or you can email me.