Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
11 Aug

How-To: Proper Pullup/Chinup Technique

pullupOver 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!

You want comments? We got comments:

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  1. How do you feel about the inverted or Australia pullup as an alternative in the progression?

    Laura wrote on August 11th, 2010
    • I’m a fan of inverted pullups/rows. You’ll see rows, dips, lunges and other variations of PBF Essential Movements in Workouts of the Week (WOWs).

      For those wondering what we’re talking about check out this video from Al Kavadlo:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJe5xLbxaxg

      Mark Sisson wrote on August 11th, 2010
  2. Why did you choose to go with strict pull-ups rather than kipping pull-ups? Kipping pull-ups seem like a much more functional exercise.

    Tim wrote on August 11th, 2010
    • Snarky answer: Because the goal is strength and fitness, not tendonitis and bursitis.

      Real answer: There is a good argument that the upstroke of a kipping pullup is a more natural or functional or primal or whatever motion, but the hard landing onto the joints of the negative half of the motion is not natural and definitely not something that our bodies are made to do repetitively. We’re built to climb things; we’re not really built to climb a little way up something and then change our mind about it 100 times. Grok’s brain may have been a little smaller than ours, but he wasn’t that much of a bonehead.

      Rock climbers found this out the hard way in the 70’s when everyone started training by going up and down overhung ladders and promptly developed elbow problems. A lot of people doing lots of reps of kipping pullups are getting the same injuries these days — it’s probably the most common injury from crossfit.

      Most body weight exercises create a kind of natural equilibrium in the positive and negative motions that allow a lot of different muscle groups to get in on the act when they’re done dynamically. Pullups, unfortunately, just don’t work that way. You can use virtually your whole body getting yourself up in a kipping pullup, but on the way down only the arms and shoulders can get in on the act. No coach would tell you do do 100 pushups where you pushed up with both arms but only lowered down with your right, but that’s what kipping pullups amount to.

      If you can do the upstroke of a kipping pullup and a controlled lower that’s a lot more like a static pullup you’re getting the benefit of the full body movement without doing the damage of a hard lower, but you can spend hours and hours watching people doing kipping pullups at gyms or on the web and maybe see one in 20 people actually doing this. It’s rough on the ego to go from doing 100 kipping pullups to maybe 20 like this, and it cuts against the “strength exercises done for time” mentality of crossfit — you can snap out bad kipping pullups a lot faster than you can do controlled lowers.

      Mike wrote on August 11th, 2010
      • I cannot agree with this. I do lots of kipping pullups for CrossFit all the time without injury (and my form’s not perfect).

        Your argument that only the upstroke of the kipping pullup uses the whole body is patently false. One kips on both the upward and downward movements. During the downstroke, you do this by pushing off with your arms and shoulders while simultaneously arcing the rest of your body into a “C” shape. This whole process creates momentum in the horizontal plane that is transferred to momentum in the vertical plane.

        In the downstroke, you are effectively training to push yourself under an object at an high(er) speed–a highly athletic movement that is transferable to many other skills. Assuming that you agree that the pull under during a snatch or clean is valuable, the natural extension of this is that the kipping pullup is valuable.

        The kipping pullup increases maximum (and average) power output, requires more total-body fitness than a dead hang pull up, and is more functional.

        Why would you choose not to do them?

        Alex wrote on August 11th, 2010
        • So you’re claiming that you’re actually absorbing just as much momentum on the downstroke kip as you’re generating on the upstroke and not transferring any excess to the elbow joint? Or that you’re actually generating more downward momentum and then converting it into forward force. If the former were the case you wouldn’t swing forward, if the latter were the case then that just feeds my argument that you’re generating force with other muscles on the upstroke and then transferring it to the elbow joints on the downstroke. That’s the recipe for tendonitis.

          Mike wrote on August 11th, 2010
        • I work out in a crossfit gym, but do my own programming (mtnathlete). In the last 2 years I have seen at least 9 specific instances where folks injured themselves kipping. That’s just remembering off the top of my head and happened when I was in the gym. Shoulders, elbows, and even, somehow, a knee (don’t ask me to explain the physics of it, but it wasn’t a “contact” injury it was in the motion). I would second the observation that it is by far the most common injury for crossfitters.

          I know crossfit makes kipping a priority and I used to do lots of them. But after a while I realized that they really didn’t make me any stronger, mobile or flexible. I quadrupled the # of kipping pullups I could do, but the number of strict pullups stayed essentially the same (+1 rep or a 5% increase). That is to say, doing lots of kipping pullups made me better at doing kipping pullups. Sweet. If you’re like me and train in the gym to be better outside the gym, then you want to focus your gym time on movements with the most carryover. Kipping just isn’t one of them.

          Marc wrote on August 14th, 2010
      • Also, the key movement of a kipping pull-up is powerful hip flexion/extension. That is where you are driving from, and is the key to chaining a number of kipping pull-ups together. If your scapula are retracted and your shoulders and core are tight through the movement I really don’t see how you could get the injury you describe in the plane of motion you would travel. It sounds like you are talking about dropping straight down at the top of the bar until your elbows lock, which is patently NOT the way to do a KPU.

        Kris wrote on August 11th, 2010
        • A kipping pull-up is not practical, primal or otherwise a good idea unless you have room for the swing and a small bar or small (really strong) branch to hang onto.

          Try kipping up a rock face, a window ledge, or a large diameter branch that you cannot fully wrap your hand around.

          If you are shooting for big numbers of reps or trying to make the movement more metabolic then a kip is great but it is not inherently superior to other types of pull-ups.

          Have a look at the MovNat videos for a truly practical “pull-up”. It more closely resembles a dead-hang than a kip and uses the legs to mount the branch.

          Brad Gantt wrote on August 11th, 2010
      • You can also give yourself rhabdomyolosis by doing the ‘controlled’ lowering.

        It isn’t actually about ‘ego’ at all.

        Corina wrote on August 12th, 2010
      • I agree, but in fact Grok’s brain was larger than ours.

        Daniel wrote on February 8th, 2013
  3. I know there are a lot of people who won’t even attempt a pull up because they think they can’t do them. I just wanted to point out that you can get resistance bands that will assist with pull ups, allowing you to do the motion and build your muscles until you can do them unassisted.

    jus wrote on August 11th, 2010
    • Thanks jus! I’m starting to build my strength with the 100 pushups (& situps & squats) routine & I need to begin adding the pull-ups. I like the band idea… I also think the reverse progression will work for me.

      Peggy wrote on August 11th, 2010
    • I love these videos! Pull ups are something I’ve especially been wanting to work on. I’ve never been able to do a full pull up in my life, but it’s great to see how to progress through each step to get stronger.

      Due It! wrote on August 11th, 2010
    • Where can we get more information on the band technique? I am totally intimidated by the pushup. I cannot do even your most basic with the stool or chair. I suspect there are a lot of women in particular in my situation, 57+ with minimal upper body strength.

      I hate getting frustrated on Day 1!

      Adriana G wrote on October 25th, 2010
  4. Mark,

    Great post! Pull ups and chin ups in my opinion are the best resistance exercise anyone can do. Between sprinting and chin ups you’ve got yourself a superior workout to just about anything. I’ve also found that chin ups (when done often for max reps) develop the biceps much larger and more defined than any other direct bicep workout done with free weights.

    Mike wrote on August 11th, 2010
  5. While I understand the purpose of strict pull-ups from a purely strength perspective (and do incorporate them into my training on an occasional basis), I would argue that the kipping pull-up is a far superior movement when it comes to functionality, power generation and overall athleticism.

    If you watch a person surmount an obstacle using a pull-up type movement, he or she will invariably use power generated from a hip and/or shoulder swing to do so. So why, then, would we advocate practicing a movement in a different and less “functional” way than we intend to use it?

    Comments? Opinions?

    Carli wrote on August 11th, 2010
    • The rationale, as I see it, is that strict form isolates and strengthens the specific muscles used for the pull, so that, should you need to flee from a predator (whether you’re being stalked in a park or otherwise), the inclusion of the rest of the body in the move will make it that much easier.

      Rafe wrote on August 11th, 2010
    • Keep in mind that Workouts of the Week will contain many variations of the PBF LHT Essential Movements.

      Mark Sisson wrote on August 11th, 2010
    • In terms of the training effect, the use of ‘kipping’ pull-ups varies significantly to that of a ‘standard/strict’ equivalent.

      Kipping employs more momentum but generally sees a quicker rate of muscular contraction. This recruits more motor units and therefore more muscle fibre, but results in less time under tension. Compared to the strict technique, this gives you more of a neural load rather than a muscular one, which requires more time under tension.

      As alluded to above, this often means that improvements in ‘kipping’ pull-ups are not mirrored in the ‘standard’ equivalent, and vice versa.

      In my opinion, both are useful for different reasons BUT I prefer my clients to do the standard versions as, in my experience, the repetitive/fast/tired movements involved in kipping increase the likelihood of injuries. No doubt Crossfit fans will disagree with me!

      Marek London wrote on August 16th, 2010
  6. Mark,

    I have been doing pull-ups consistently ever since I have been primal (4 months).

    When I do them I do half pull-ups and half chin-ups as you would say. Is this ok? What is the difference between a chin-up and pull-up as far as working your muscles goes? Anything?

    If a pull-up is a lot better than I am fine doing just those. I have just been switching the grip as you showed in the video.

    Just wondering what is best overall.

    Thanks for another awesome video and explanation!

    Primal Toad wrote on August 11th, 2010
    • “What is the difference between a chin-up and pull-up as far as working your muscles goes?”

      Point 4. “Chinups work the biceps more and are slightly easier than pullups, which work the back more.”

      Both moves work the biceps and back (and grip), but the bulk of the effort shifts from the lats to the biceps when you move from a pronated to supinated grip.

      Rafe wrote on August 11th, 2010
      • Thanks!

        I do notice my biceps working more when I do a chin up as opposed to a pull-up.

        Do you (or anyone else) think its best to do both or just choose one?

        I will be diving into primal fitness this week – maybe tomorrow.

        Primal Toad wrote on August 11th, 2010
        • Chin-ups have a better range of motion throughout the entire movement. I PREFER chin-ups.

          However, a goal of mine is to do muscle-ups…so, I also incorporate pull-ups into my routine as well.

          Evan wrote on August 11th, 2010
        • For me, as a climber, pull-ups are more useful. We seldom haul ourselves up a cliff palms toward our faces (palm face?!). But i do some chin-ups just for the sake of working opposing muscle groups. Also I do regular grip (shoulder width) and wide grip pull ups…but the wider grip can irritate my shoulders if I do too many. I also do weighted pull ups, during my serious weight training cycles. (We hang metal weights from the climbing harness or any belt). Then you really get some strength to weight built up! It’d be interesting to hear the primal take on rock rings and hang boards. Pull ups hanging from finger tips on these things are more difficult than from a bar, especially on the swinging rock rings. One should work up tendon strength first though. The thing someone wrote about climbers hurting their elbows on overhanging terrain in the 70s I had never heard. The climbers I know tend to pop tendons or tweak their shoulders. That’s been my main experience…never had any elbow issues. And people boulder overhanging terrain a lot more now than they did in the 70s, since the advent of sticky rubber climbing shoes.

          DThalman wrote on August 13th, 2010
      • In addition: the wide grip of the pull up will also recruit the internal rotators of the rotator cuff and also the rhomboids as there is more medial/lateral movement in the scapula.

        Bryan - Workouts Without Weights wrote on August 11th, 2010
        • There is an interesing study floating around that suggests you’ll actually get more work through your back (lats etc) through doing chinups rather than pull-ups. The reason being simply that the assistance you get from you biceps allows you to get more reps in.

          Not a game changer but reason enough to feel cool about doing chinups instead of pullups!

          Take it easy folks.

          Ev in Oz wrote on August 11th, 2010
  7. I’m yet to see pull-ups and its variations performed correctly at my gym. Women don’t even try doing them as they are busy ploughing away on the treadmill or stairmaster.
    Most guys do partial range and never go to a dead hang (their ego takes a beating).
    My personal fav now are the sternum chins where you have to lean back while you pull up and you end up with your sternum touching the bar.
    Strength coach Poliquin’s test of a good trainer is if he/she can get a female to do 12 pull-ups in 12 weeks. That would automatically disqualify most of the ‘trainers’ out there.

    kishore wrote on August 11th, 2010
    • I can’t do a dead hang due to a reconstructed right shoulder and a bad back but still get a hell of a workout doing partial. I can almost get to the point of a dead hang but physically its not feasible.

      Matt wrote on August 11th, 2010
    • Please be careful suggesting people start from a “dead hang”. It is very important to ALWAYS have your scapulas back and engaged even at the bottom. Failure to do so will inevitably cause shoulder damage. The damage may not occur suddenly but it will occur as time goes on. Many people think a dead hang is just that, hanging with nothing more than your grip engaged. Again this is very dangerous to the delicate shoulder joint.

      PMAC wrote on August 11th, 2010
      • Agree 100%. Always keeping the muscles engaged is crucial to injury prevention.

        Evan wrote on August 11th, 2010
      • The main point being full range of motion and not the dweeb style half range of motion pull ups you see more often

        kishore wrote on August 11th, 2010
    • Well MOST women don’t even try doing them but some of us do! I think it doesn’t require any mad trainer skill. All you have to do is do 50 a day, however long it takes ya, every other day, with pull ups and push ups mixed in on odd days. Google for Navy Seals pull up routine. As with sprints, the trick is motivation. As my climbing partner put it, pull-ups are “painful and demoralizing.” But gains can be made quickly…just be doing a bunch of them daily.

      DThalman wrote on August 13th, 2010
    • I can vouch for one woman who has pretty good form.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-0SIPhekQ8

      DaveC wrote on August 14th, 2010
  8. I am curious as to whether anyone can tell me how to begin a “kipping” pull-up. I have watched them online, but what is the progression? In other words, how do I know I am concentrating my strength/form in the right way and not just flailing?

    Thanks.

    Sarah wrote on August 11th, 2010
    • Sarah,
      Start with kipping swings to get the rhythm of the movement. Just hang on the bar and practice swinging back and forth metronomically until you feel comfortable with it.

      The power is generated in the leg kick and hips-it is horizontal movement that is converted to vertical movement when you pull. The key, though, is getting used to the swing. Lots of videos out there to learn from. Good luck.

      Javier wrote on August 11th, 2010
    • Sorry forgot the other tip that I give on kipping pullups-pretend there is a pole going through your hips around which your body is swinging, so that when your upper body is in front of the bar, your lower half is behind, and vice-versa.

      Javier wrote on August 11th, 2010
      • Thanks Javier! I will give it a go.

        Sarah wrote on August 11th, 2010
    • I’ve found that the kip is almost impossible to effectively teach both verbally and textually. Even videos are tricky because it really helps having a person standing next to you noticing what you are doing.

      Try thinking of the two extreme cases. 1) You are doing a strict, deadhang pullup. You are working entirely against gravity pulling yourself directly away from the ground. 2) You are floating in the air vertically, and the bar is out in front of you at arms length and all you have to do is pull yourself toward it. You don’t work against gravity at all.

      It may be useful to think of the kip as a combination of/transition between those two cases. Effectively, you use your “swing” momentum and a hip pop to ripple movement into your upper body and position your it so that you incorporate more horizontal pull instead of pure vertical pull.

      To avoid flailing, keep your feet together and practice hanging from the bar and doing the “parentheses” exercise. Swing lightly, transitioning from a convex to concave shape. Like going from ( to ). Focus on keeping your feet together and as directly under the bar as possible through the whole movement. As your coordination between the swing and changing your body improves, you can push the limits fowards and backwards. At the front of the swing it’ll feel like you’re spreading your chest, arching your back, and throwing yourself forward a bit. The back of the swing you somewhat stick your butt out, but keeping a good curve to the whole length of the body. Towards the back of the swing is when you would explosively pop your hips and pull towards the bar. The exact leg movement is best shown in person…

      As you get better and better, you can reduce your swing for a more effective kip. I left out a lot of nuance, but just getting the hang of the swinging exercise helps a lot.

      Neil wrote on August 11th, 2010
      • My daughter’s gymnastics coach used to call the “parentheses” exercise: “Banana, Canoe” :)

        Carrie wrote on August 11th, 2010
    • Kipping pull-ups are for dorks, just like bosu ball squats.

      kishore wrote on August 11th, 2010
      • kishore wrote on August 11th, 2010
      • ^^haha no doubt. Where did that idea come from anyway? I can see kipping to do a soldier mount on the bar, but kipping just to chin up? Uh, worthless.

        SLS wrote on August 11th, 2010
  9. Great video. As someone who has struggled with back pain I love pull-ups. these have single handedly (well with a tweak to my diet) have all but erased my pain. I have a pull-up bar that fits the doorway and we leave it downstais so when ever we walk by it we do 2-3. At the end of the day I do about 40-50 on average. Gotta love it.

    Matt wrote on August 11th, 2010
  10. Kips are great! The crossfit message boards have great discussions about them. Can anybody out there do butterfly pullups? I’m learning them now. Really fun!

    Jack wrote on August 11th, 2010
  11. Mark,

    I love pull-ups and chin-ups for developing your back and arms. It really does make you feel strong when you can bang out a dozen dead hang pull-ups. My goal is to do 25 dead hang pull-ups (i’m at 15 right now).

    As for kipping pull-ups, they are also a great exercise. You get the added benefit a cardio workout as you can do many more kipping pull-ups versus deadhangs. And let’s face it, if you were hanging off a cliff and had to pull yourself up you would kick and kip as much as you could to get up.

    Do the deadhang version first then once you can do a dozen start working on your kipping. Grok on!

    David

    David Grim wrote on August 11th, 2010
    • I love a good kip in the gym but on a rock face it’s not really an option. Perhaps if the route were really overhanging but the risk of losing your grip with a big swing would be high.

      The most practical thing to practice in this case are uneven grip pull-ups which more closely emulate what you’d face in the field. Better yet, go climb a rock!

      Brad Gantt wrote on August 11th, 2010
      • YUP! On a cliff, we stick a leg out and find purchase with our feet. Course grok didnt’ have La Sportiva sticky rubber

        DThalman wrote on August 13th, 2010
    • Well said. I am a trainer and encourage people to mix in all varieties of pull ups with in their ability. Not just dead hang or kip. Doing pull ups extensively for 6 years I have learned by doing your best to maintain form challenge yourself, your mind and body to try different pull ups at different reps and weights. The kip is what allowed me to first learn the muscle up and after mastering that I was strong enough to perform 10 strict dead hang muscle ups and now after mastering that I am able to perform one super slow muscle up. So mix it all into your routines to achieve maximum results.

      Phil wrote on December 11th, 2011
  12. I’ve been doing pull ups for years (i’m 48) because i hate gyms.

    I find excercise paths or hang from soccer goal posts. So i can run or walk in between sets.

    Truth is the more you do them, the more you can do.

    Unfortunately, at some point you wear out your elbows and its back to doing fewer in a set.

    Mark wrote on August 11th, 2010
  13. How much does hand position matter? The bar I have at home has two grips pointed outward, so that when you grip them your palms face each other rather than facing forward (pullup) or backward (chinup). Does this hand position have any value? Also the position of these grips forces the hands to be pretty close together for a standard pullup or chinup – about shoulder width, narrower than I see Mark using in the video. Is this a problem? It doesn’t seem to affect chinups but it makes pullups seem harder.

    Ely wrote on August 11th, 2010
  14. Mark, thanks for the detailed answer and explanation re kipping pull-ups. I have noticed that while I do use a kip for the upstroke, I have always instinctively used a controlled lower, as you describe at the end of your post. I’d never really given much thought to the reasoning behind it (other than perhaps preserving the skin on my hands!), but now I understand exactly why it feels more comfortable.

    Carli wrote on August 11th, 2010
  15. Another scaling option that is not often discussed is using a body of water to reduce your body weight. If you have a pool with a corner, you can make an adjustable-height bar that allows you to keep some portion of your body in the water.

    This one’s fun, too, because you get heavier the higher you pull, so you get a nice muscle squeeze at the top of the motion. You stay nice and cool in the summer months, too!

    I’m sure Grok had to make an escape from river rapids by pulling himself out using an overhanging branch at some point.

    Neil wrote on August 11th, 2010
  16. Any suggestions for a good pullup bar? I have never done a pullup in my life. Haven’t tried, either, ever since 3rd grade gym class where I had to just hang there until the teacher let me drop. My volleyball team called me noodle arm… obviously I need to do these ;-)

    De wrote on August 11th, 2010
    • Any bar that you can reach and grip comfortably. If there’s a park around you with monkey bars they work perfectly.

      jus wrote on August 11th, 2010
      • Thanks jus, I was actually looking for something to use indoors during hot weather…

        De wrote on August 11th, 2010
        • I have an Iron Gym that works well for me, but be careful because it can leave marks on the wall and door frame.

          jus wrote on August 11th, 2010
        • Hit up amazon, you can grab an iron gym knock off for twenty bucks. I’ve also seen the actually iron gym pull up bar on sale at CVS for twenty five. They work great and have several different places to grip so you can incorporate different types into your routine.

          Mike wrote on August 11th, 2010
    • The Lifeline Jungle Gym is a good, portable pull-up/chin-up/body row alternative. It’s not a bar but you can take it anywhere.

      Brad Gantt wrote on August 11th, 2010
  17. wont doing pullups and push ups cause High bp??? In the long run it could lead to Aortic dissection…. :S ?

    frank wrote on August 11th, 2010
    • Ummm…no. Anyone with any experience or knowledge about exercise and its effects on the body will tell you that resistance training is good for your heart.

      Will it cause an elevated heart rate? Yes. That is what exercise does. That’s the sign that your body is working harder than normal which results in adaptation i.e. increased work capacity at whatever it is you’re doing.

      Nic Kirkland wrote on August 11th, 2010
    • This is generally more of a problem when dealing with loads well above bodyweight such as heavy squats. With proper progression you have little to worry about from BW exercises.

      Brad Gantt wrote on August 11th, 2010
  18. Anyone else having elbow issues after a pull/chin session? I know it’s commonly referred to as “golfers elbow” but I ain’t play no golf!!!

    Seriously though, I love pullups but this seems to be my limiting issue.

    Doesn’t seem to bother me doing inverted rows but even after taking about 6 weeks off from doing pulls or chins my elbow (left only) was bugging me after the first session when I got back into them.

    Charlie Golf wrote on August 11th, 2010
    • I’m wondering about the elbows too. It seems like starting from a dead hang every time would put a lot of stress on them. Or is that just something we need to strengthen? My elbows would always hurt after doing bicep curls too because I’d bring the weights ALL the way back down instead of keeping my arms tense.

      Alyssa wrote on August 11th, 2010
  19. I don’t kip BTW.

    Charlie Golf wrote on August 11th, 2010
  20. Mark,

    Thanks for the terrific e-book you have changed a lot of lives through your blog/books.

    This is off-topic, but why are there no Deadlift (or other predominatly glute/ham excercises) in the PFB LHT workouts? Does the sprinting work those muscles enough? Or is there another reason?

    Deadlifting is a pretty fundamental human movement, I am wondering why it was not included. Thanks.

    dave wrote on August 11th, 2010
  21. My opinion on kipping pullups is that they are fine once in a while. The skill is useful as it is very athletic and functional. You need to know how to kip if you ever want to do a muscleup. They are also useful in the context of a metcon since you involve more of your musculature.

    On the other hand, you still need to do regular pullups and chinups. And when you can do 15 or so you need to add weight. Crossfit is way too enamored with the KPU and they do way too many of them, too often. It isn’t surprising to me that people are getting RSIs from doing 100’s of KPUs every week.

    Matt Lentzner wrote on August 11th, 2010
  22. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a progression. I was always expected to just do it from a dead hang.

    This is why I really hated PE in school. Too many kids and we were all expected to just know what to do and be able to do it.

    Great! Now I just need to locate a bar and I can get started! Thanks Mark!

    Lori B. wrote on August 11th, 2010
  23. I like the progression. I would have tried to go straight from the two leg assisted to a standard pull-up, and probably would have become quite frustrated.

    Turling wrote on August 11th, 2010
  24. Hey Mark! First of all, have to thank you so much for the wonderful new ebook on Primal Blueprint Fitness. Secondly, wanted to thank you for this great video clip on how to do a pull up…as the timing is perfect as I just installed a pull-up bar with handles in one of my doorways!
    Also, since I attend the Primal Con 2010, I have been following the PB fairly well and have lost weight, but I notice that my body is really changing shape and composition! I haven’t been doing a lot of exercise, so this new PBF is a great new motivation.
    However, I have to tell you that this summer, a couple of weeks ago in fact, I actually went SURFING for the first time in my life and managed to get on to my knees! Surfing in the Pacific ocean in 12 degrees Celcius (in a wetsuit, ofcourse) is not the same as you probably do it in California, but YOU were my inspiration by your surfing pic on your website! My goal after leaving the Primal Con last April was to be fit enough to surf and I did it! I still have a long way to go..but I really wanted to thank you and share my surfing story with you :-)

    Janine wrote on August 11th, 2010
  25. When I was 12 years old I was proud of myself that I could do one handed pull-ups. I have no idea if these are bad for the bod ….but hey, I was 12.

    In college I could only swing myself up on the bar.

    Now, at 70 I can’t even begin to do a pull-up. So, Friday we start with the PBF and I am looking forward to getting strong enough to do at least one pull-up. That will be an accomplishment.

    Thanks Mark for giving us weaklings a place to start.

    Sharon wrote on August 11th, 2010
  26. Good post, pull ups are one of my favourite exercises :)

    Ashley wrote on August 11th, 2010
  27. Mark,
    This is great, but what advice do you have for the pullup challenged? To be able to get to the point of actually being able to do a pull up?
    Thanks!

    Erica wrote on August 11th, 2010
    • In Mark’s fitness book he demonstrates a progression for pull-ups. He also has links to video demonstrations. I am not fit enough to do a pull up, but I started at level one with the two-legged assist. I was surprised at how much of a workout I received while using my legs to assist me. If you focus on using your upper body as much as possible and your legs as little as possible you will find you get a good work out.

      Jonathan wrote on August 12th, 2010
  28. i had to stop doing pullups because of elbow problems. Now, it has been about 1.5 years since i tried and my elbows are fine. i would really like to do pullups again but am reluctant due to the elbow concerns. any recommendations on how to get going and not reinjure the elbows?

    michael wrote on August 11th, 2010
    • I’d recommend starting slow, good range of motion and not jerking to start or dropping in to finish. A lot of people get “elbow” issues but it is actually forearm/grip issues. Be aware if its joint related or tendon insertion points.

      Nate wrote on August 14th, 2010
  29. Great Post, Mark!

    I often wonder about the average guy in the gym who has no clue about form. It’s just “add more weight!” – but only rarely do people stick to the right form.
    Regarding pull-ups, I always found it most important to remember keeping your head straight and lead with your chest. Pretend that you are trying to touch the pull-up bar with your chest and keep your head level.

    If you’re just starting out with the whole pull-up thing, try to concentrate on the muscle movement in your back. Concentrate on your upper back muscles and shoulders and think of it as if you’re trying to crush something between your shoulder blades.

    Dominik wrote on August 12th, 2010
  30. I just did pull-ups today (I do them 3x a week) and noticed that my grip was a little off.

    I have a pull-up bar and there are 2 places to put your hands.

    Mark – thanks to your video I moved my hands outward so they are more outside of my shoulders and it felt MUCH better!

    For the chin up I use the closer grip.

    I hope everyone does this correctly!

    Primal Toad wrote on August 12th, 2010
  31. Great video and explanation! Lets get more people doing pullups!

    Yavor wrote on August 12th, 2010
  32. I have one above the door & petite me (5’0) can’t even reach it to do 1 so I run & jump high to grab hold & use my legs to climb up to the sides of the door to reach above the bar & steady hang on a few seconds & drop down. I have lots of fun doing this & do like 10 or so through out the day. My son loves to see his mommy to be strong & calls me “primal mom” :D (of course he copies what I do & I let him build his own little strength while having fun)
    Thanks for the video. I’ll try those & eventually do 1 pullup. Lol… I’m going to need a higher chair :)

    madeline wrote on August 12th, 2010
  33. I, like Dave above, am curious as to why the deadlift is not included in the PBF exercise. Picking up a carcass from the ground and putting it on your shoulder has at least a little bit of deadlifting action. I guess sprinting does work some of the same muscles.

    P.S. On topic though, I love me some pull-ups.

    jess wrote on August 12th, 2010
  34. Too bad I haven’t been able to do a pull-up since the 4th grade. Sad times :(

    Jess wrote on August 13th, 2010
  35. I’ve never been able to do a pull-up at all, even in fourth grade. So I’m excited about the possibility of learning to do one, using a chair at first.

    Yesterday I took a plastic chair down to the creek near my house and found a low-hanging branch to use as a pull-up bar. I put the chair under the branch and did my pull-ups. I left the chair there for next time. Fun!

    shannon wrote on August 15th, 2010
  36. Using the natural world as your gym is a good idea.

    shannon wrote on August 15th, 2010
  37. I’ve been doing pull-ups on my own for about 2 months, but I’ve only been doing it sporatically (sp?).

    I’ve been wanting to get my wife to join me, but she had shoulder surgery 2 years ago (they reattached the ligament by drilling into the bone), and I don’t know if it would do damage to put her full weight on it. Any ideas?

    Dennis wrote on August 19th, 2010
  38. I can do 8 regular pull-ups, which puts me at reverse pull-ups in the progression. However, I find that reverse pull-ups are too easy: I can do 20 or so, even though the goal is only 7. Still, I haven’t moved up to regular pull-ups, because the pull-up goal is 12 and I’m far from that.

    Has anyone else had a similar experience? Any ideas on other exercises for improving the pull-up?

    Glenn Ammons wrote on August 27th, 2010
    • Anything that works back and bi, I use Hammerstrength lat pulldown machine and row machine.

      rob wrote on August 27th, 2010
  39. Mark,
    where does that portable chin-up bar comes from? it seems most stores only have the one that fits on doorways. I’d like to get my hands on a bar that’s just like the one in the video

    Michael wrote on August 31st, 2010
  40. Nancy wrote on August 31st, 2010

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