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Catalyst Chiropractic Blog

How to strengthen your back and get better at pull-ups

By March 9, 2020February 16th, 2023No Comments

by Matthew Mundorf, DC, CF-L1

Check out these progressions to get better at pull-ups!

Remember when we were kids and we would see a tree and just pull our way up that thing in a heartbeat? Back then we didn’t even think about doing things like pull-ups. But now? Another story. As adults, our upper body strength relative to our own weight is severely reduced. Pull-ups, and climbing in general are nowhere near as easy as they used to be.

As human beings we have taken for granted how easy things used to be. As a movement specialist and exercise-focused Chiropractor, I highly recommend that you try to incorporate pull-ups in to a weekly strength training regime.

Why should you be doing pull-ups?

  1. Pull-ups are a great exercise to strengthen the back, specifically the Latissimus Dorsi (lats) and Lower Trapezius (traps). Right off the bat, these are large back muscles, and if you’re spending time strengthening these, you will also be strengthening many small muscles of the back as well.
  2. Improved posture… As “Desk Jockeys”, the lower traps are often hypotonic (or weak) while the upper traps are hypertonic (very tight). When this happens, our body suffers from feeling fatigue, and we have things like tension headaches occurring. By strengthening the lower traps, and lats, we can actually help to depress our scapulae (or shoulder blades), improve our posture and help to keep ourselves from struggling with posture-related conditions, like headaches.
  3. Pull-ups are a multi-joint exercise or compound exercise. The wrists, elbows, shoulders and back are all involved when performing pull-ups. This translates to the fact that when performing pull-ups, the muscles involved crossing each of those joints will benefit.
    1. Forearm muscles for grip strength
    2. Biceps of the upper arms when pulling
    3. Posterior shoulder and back muscles when pulling
    4. Don’t forget that the core will also be involved throughout the entire movement as well
  4. Improved Grip Strength. A 4-year study published in The Lancet Journal has suggested that measuring grip strength is a better tool for predicting death from cardiovascular mortality, and all case mortality, than blood pressure. In order to hang on the bar and actually perform a pull-up, good grip strength will be required.

Pull-up Progression

In this video, I have shared my 6 recommended progressions to get better at Pull-ups. Adequate time should be spent at each progression to the point where you can do approximately 20 repetitions unbroken before trying to move to the next.

Because pull-ups are a total body, gymnastics-based movement, be patient with progress. Do not get bent out of shape if you fail to see dramatic results quickly. If you feel like you’re carrying extra weight; diet and exercise together will allow you to see faster results. Good Luck!