When it comes to being able to perform pull-ups, once you have mastered being able to simply support your bodyweight from a hanging position (part 1), you need to learn how to lower yourself down in a controlled manner. Focussing on the eccentric phase of the exercise is one of the next steps I like to take, and is an integral component of the pull-up.
Here is another exercise that will help you develop the strength and skills that are required to perform pull-ups (and chin-ups).
- Set your grip so your palms are facing away from you (pronated), and are approximately shoulder width apart (or slightly wider). You can also use a chin-up grip where your palms are facing you (supinated), or you can use a neutral grip where palms are facing one another.
- You have the option of standing on a bench so you are already in the top position of the pull-up, or you can jump and pull yourself up.
- Before you go, take a deep breath in through your nose (360 degrees of air around the spine), brace your core, actively tuck your ribs towards your hips (close the space in your midsection), and squeeze your glutes. This will stabilize your pelvis and spine and will allow you to focus on your upper body.
- Now jump up, squeeze the muscles in your mid/upper back, and draw your shoulder blades together and down (retract and depress). You can pretend that you are trying to draw each shoulder blade towards the opposite hip. Once you are in the top position, gain control and pause for a brief count, and make sure your body is totally still. You will achieve this by really focusing on bracing your core, actively tucking your ribs towards your hips, and squeezing your glutes. Do not perform the eccentric component until your body is totally still.
- Repeat the breathing, bracing, and rib tuck that I described above, now perform the eccentric movement and slowly lower yourself down to the bottom position in 3-10 seconds.
- As you are lowering yourself down, your shoulder blades should spread apart and move away from your spine (protract), elevate, and return to their original position.
- Slowly exhale through your teeth as you are lowering yourself down. Do not let all of your air out at once.
- Do not disengage your muscles for the duration of the exercise. Your elbows should be close to fully extended, but not hyperextended. Keep your shoulders packed.
- You can either keep your legs straight and be in a hollow body position, or bend your knees.
- Your spine should remain in neutral(ish) alignment for the duration of the exercise. I used the word ''neutralish'' as there is no one definition of neutral. It varies from person to person. I like the canister analogy. Do not allow your lower back to hyperextend, or ribcage to flare.
- Reset before each rep. Perform 1-3 sets of 3-8 reps.
- You can make this exercise easier by decreasing the length of the eccentric phase.
- You can make this exercise more challenging by hanging two sturdy towels on the bar and performing this exercise while holding on to these. You can also use additional weight resistance.