How-To: Proper Pullup/Chinup Technique

Over the next week I’ll be covering some key concepts related to the recently-released Primal Blueprint Fitness. You can get your own copy of the free eBook here. Yesterday I covered proper pushup technique. Next up, proper pullup/chinup technique.

Not everyone loves doing pullups and chinups, but they are an absolutely necessary part of the Primal Blueprint Fitness program. See, with most other bodyweight exercises, it’s possible to make the case for the superiority of their weighted analogues. There is at least a debate to be had for bench presses and barbell squats versus pushups and pistol squats, but nothing trumps the pullup. You could spend years training with lat pulldowns and bent over rows, but they will never match the strength-building capacity of pullups and chinups.

Pushups don’t ask you to handle your entire body weight; you’ve always got your feet on the ground, taking a load off your upper body. Pullups force you to manipulate the entirety of your body weight. If you are good at pullups and chinups, you possess, by definition, a superior strength-to-body-weight ratio. In our distant (and not so distant) past, the ability of a human to pull his or her own body weight up and over cliffs, branches, vines, and trees was crucial for his or her success and survival. Likewise, we modern humans must be able to manipulate our body weight on the vertical plane if we want to call ourselves physically fit. Training pullups and chinups are the most effective ways to develop that ability. They make us strong; strong enough to climb ropes and trees and pull things toward us with great effectiveness. The pullup is vital – here’s how to do it.

How to Do the Basic Pullup/Chinup

  1. Begin from a dead hang: arms fully extended, hands about shoulder width apart (palms facing out for pullups, facing you for chinups), elbows straight, chest up, shoulders back and tight, eyes trained on the bar above.
  2. Pull yourself up toward the bar, leading with the chest and keeping your eyes focused on the bar. Drive your elbows toward the floor.
  3. Clear the bar with your chin.
  4. Lower yourself in a controlled fashion, then repeat the process.

Things to Remember

  1. Stay honest when you clear the bar. Don’t lift your chin and strain your neck just so you can say you cleared it. You run the risk of pinching a nerve and cutting off muscular power.
  2. Keep your body neutral. Don’t swing with your hips to generate momentum on a strict pullup or chinup.
  3. Keep those shoulder blades tight/retracted. Pulling with a loose shoulder girdle can lead to rotator cuff problems.
  4. Chinups work the biceps more and are slightly easier than pullups, which work the back more.

That’s the basic pullup or chinup. If you can do these, you’re stronger and fitter than most people!

Now, watch this video on proper form and technique for the first 4 of 9 total pullup movements in the PBF Lift Heavy Things bodyweight progression.

Find out where you should begin in the pullup progression by taking the self-assessment test found in Primal Blueprint Fitness and then get started today!

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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