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11 Aug

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!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Using the natural world as your gym is a good idea.

    shannon wrote on August 15th, 2010
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. Nancy wrote on August 31st, 2010

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