How to improve your Pull-ups (from home or at the gym)!

Mike Boyle has long been a strength and conditioning coaching giant who has been known for his work in athletics. The man has been in the trenches for the past 30+ years teaching, coaching, and training all kinds of athletes. And not just any athletes either. Mike has worked with many high-level professional teams and athletes – including Olympic athletes and even some pro athletes with multi-million dollar contracts. Needless to say, Mike is truly a world-renown professional, and more importantly, the man knows his stuff. Can you tell I'm a fan of his work?


In this post I'm going to share with you three tricks to improving your Pull-Up performance. I learned these tricks from Mike Boyle and had great success using them on my clients. Even if you can do zero pull-ups right now, try this, and I promise you will improve... consistency is key!


Mike’s three go-to exercises for working up to your first chin-up/pull-up are:

a) Band-assisted chin-ups b) Flexed-arm hangs (aka holds) c) 5 second flexed-arm hang followed by a 5 second eccentric lowering rep (aka negative rep)


The first mistake people make when learning to do vertical pulls is going right into a regular pull-up grip. First off, we are going to regress to a chin-up grip with hands under gripping the bar (palms up grip). This grip is going to help you get some assistance from the biceps. If this movement is still too difficult, add a band for assistance. The band will give you the most assistance at the bottom of the hang, and the least assistance at the top (i.e. you will be able to gain strength over-time to be able to progress to a chin-up without the band)


Step two, flexed arm hangs (aka holds). Most people try to make pull-ups an arms exercise, when its actually a back exercise. We are going to try to isolate the back by doing a 5 second isometric hold at the top of the chin-up, followed by a five seconds eccentric hold (counting to 5 as you lower your body down)


These first two exercises (a & b) are going to help you get from zero chin-ups to one chin up. If you have mastered performing one chin up, keep repeating these exercises until you can do 3-5 reps. From there you can add progress by repetition. I find doing ladders works best in this case. Perform 3 reps, then 2, then 1. Then progress into going back up the ladder (1 rep, 2 reps, 3 reps.. etc).


A true pull-up grip (overhand grip) should be the last step of the progression as it is the most difficult one. Start by adding a band. Work on isometric and eccentric holds, single reps, and ladders until you can master 3-5 consecutive repetitions.


Remember, consistency is KEY!


Make sure to reach out with any questions or if you're looking for more coaching tip!


Thanks for reading!


- Coach Caro








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