12 Ways to Your First Pull-Up
Posted by Brenda Wallace
Pull ups are hard work regardless of what movies or fit people show us! Most people who have not engaged in a full-on fitness routine cannot do even one complete pull up. It’s a body mechanic exercise that’s just not called on much in daily life. The good news is, of course, that there are some great ways to acquire enough strength for your first real pull up without killing yourself in the process.
A good option for beginners is the Australian pull-up. This is sort of like a reverse push-up. Find a bar a few feet off the ground, lie beneath the bar, reach up and grab it either over- or under-handed. Using your heels as a fulcrum, proceed to do a standard pull-up, raise yourself up off the ground until your chin clears the bar. This angled style allows you to lift only a fraction of your weight, and build yourself up to full hanging pull-ups.
The Knee Push-Up
An exercise working the opposite set of muscles at a beginner level is the knee push-up. First, get a workout mat that sufficiently supports your knees. Next, get on all fours, and walk your hands forward a few inches. Attempt to do a push-up like this, using your knees as a fulcrum. Keep your shoulders aligned with your hips and your knees, and keep your back straight as a board. If you’re not getting enough of a burn on your shoulders, walk your hands out a little farther. Do 15 to 20 reps.
The Tricep Pulldown
Hook your set of workout bands around the top of your pull-up bar. Wrap them around a few times in order to get the tension you need. Now stand in front of the bar, keep your arms straight above your head, palms forward, and pull the bands down in front of you, mimicking the action of a chin-up. The bar can take the strain, and you can work against your own body weight to build triceps and back muscles.
The Band Chest Press
Loop workout bands around a sturdy railing or bannister a few times to shorten them up. When you reach the desired tension, grip the handles with your palms facing down. Stand facing away from the railing, with one foot forward to brace yourself. Push the bands forward at chest level and then slowly release to strengthen chest and triceps. Do 15-20 reps.
Simple Bicep Curls
Curls are the simplest and probably most iconic exercise on this list. Grab your dumbbells and stand with your back and elbows against a wall. Hold the dumbbells with a palm up grip. Press your elbows back against the wall and pull the dumbbells up toward your shoulders. Keep them parallel to the ground. This will help you develop good form to isolate only the biceps for this exercise. Once you learn good form from this, you won’t need the wall for support.
Using the band one more time, grip the handles palms facing forward in front of your chest. Pull them out to shoulder with, holding your shoulder blades down and back. Keep your chest and chin up. Hold them for 20 seconds, but don’t tense up your neck. Allow your core and back to do all the work.
Shoulder Blade Squeezes
You’ll need some dumbbells for this one. Depending on your starting strength anywhere from 3 to 10 pounds would be ideal. With one dumbbell in each hand, stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Bend your knees slightly and keep your back straight. Hold your elbows to your sides, with the dumbbells straight out in front of you. Pull your elbows back, and push your chest out. Do 20 to 30 reps, and you’ll really feel it in your back and shoulders.
Renegade Dumbbell Row
This exercise is great to work your triceps! Using the same dumbbells, assume a push-up position on the floor. One at a time, draw each dumbbell up to your armpit and then lower it back down, for about 15-20 reps each.
The “Y” Raise
This one works legs, core, and arms simultaneously. It’s a bit complicated. Using a pair of 3 pound weights, shift your hips back and bend your knees to bring your torso parallel to the ground. Draw your elbows up to shoulder height to form a 90° angle with your arms. Holding your upper arms in position, bring your forearms up, and rotate the weight forward. Extend your arms all the way to straight. Reverse the movement, and do about 10 reps.
These look deceptively simple, but specifically give your shoulders and upper back a great workout. Grab your weights again and stand straight up, letting your arms hang at your sides. Now, simply shrug! Bring your shoulders up and let them fall back. Do 20 to 30 reps to really feel the burn!
In the words of Woody from Toy Story, “Reach for the sky!” Stand with your heels and back flat against a wall. Hold your arms out flat to your sides, with your forearms up and perpendicular to the floor. Pressing back against the wall with your arms, using your body weight as resistance, slide your hands upwards along the wall. This is a slow, deliberate motion, so you only need about 10 reps, but it’s a great way to keep your chest muscles stretched and worked out at the same time.
To specifically work and isolate your triceps, stand with your feet wider than shoulder width, knees bent, and chest as parallel to the floor as you can. Hold the heaviest dumbbells you have at your sides, with your forearms perpendicular to the floor. Now, slowly extend your arms behind you, feeling the resistance of the dumbbells on your triceps. Try for 15 to 20 reps on this, and do multiple sets.