The pull-up is one of the best exercises you can do. It’s functional and invloves a lot of muscles.
To get the most out of it and make your pull ups perfect you should take a look on these 4 points.
When you do pull ups you should always aim for a full range of motion. Do not only use the upper or lower part of the movement and go into full extension of your arms at the bottom but on the contrary you keep your shoulderblades pulled down.
A pull up should also be performed with strength and not with momentum. Avoid any form of kicking and swinging.
Of course it’s also important to control the movement the whole time. Don’t let yourself fall into your joints.
The last mistake is to not pull evenly. You should control yourself to pull with both sides equally to avoid imbalances.
The next point is the width of your grip. Here you can choose different versions from a wide to a close grip.
Avoid a too wide grip because the wider you choose the grip the more your elbows go to the side & this is an not optimal position for the shoulders and can lead to injuries. When you choose a narrow grip your elbows stay close the body. This is not bad at all, but to target your latissimus optimally you should choose a grip which allows you do to a mix of retroversion and adduction. With this arm movement you will target your lats in an optimal way. A shoulder wide or little more than shoulder wide grip is optimal for that movement.
Of course you can also use other grips for your pull ups like the chin up grip or a neutral grip
The different grips will work different parts of your arms more or less and also have a little influence on your back.
The shoulderblade movement
The next point is often neglected but very important. It’s about the shoulderblade movement.
A pull up isn’t just about bending your arms! First of all you have to pull your shoulderblades down to get the necessary tension in your back. After that you bend your arms and also try to pull your shoulderblades together.
We want to avoid a rounded back because in this way you don’t target all the muscles in your back in an optimal way. The rounded shoulder position can also lead to imbalances and injuries in the long therm.
This leads us to the finetuning of the movement and here it gets a little bit controversial.
There are two different bodypositions for a pull up.
Some people prefer the straight or also known as the hollow body pull up and some the arched back pull up.
The straight pull up has the advantage that you work your core, because you tilt your pelvis backwards and with that you engage your abs. The negative thing about this movement is that it can be counterproductive for your back engangement. When you tilt your pelvis and engange your abs you trigger your anterior muscle chain, but the actual goal of a pull up is to activate your posterior chain in your upper body.
It is possible to do both at the same time, but it’s very hard and often leads to a suboptimal movement. You can try it while standing. Tilt your pelvis and your thoracic spine backwards simultaneously and keep your shoulderblades retracted. Even when standing without any load it’s very coordinative demanding. So guess how hard it is when you hang in the upper pullup position. The results are rounded shoulders in most cases.
Now when you do the arched back pull up you just focus on the whole posterior chain because you allow your spine to go in a complete extension instead of opposite movements during the movement.
Now some people might say that an arched lumbar spine is not good und unhealthy. This is only true, if you put load on that arched lumbar spine. During the pull up you have no load on your spine, but you actually relieve the load from it. So this is an active arched position which is not bad at all.
(It’s still possible to do the straight pull up with retracted shoulderblades but it’s really hard to maintain it especially in the last reps. )
When it comes to the position of your legs it’s possible to cross them or not. If you cross your legs it will be easier to stabilize the movement. If you do your pull ups with uncrossed legs your body has to do more stabilisation work especially at the core. This can be a pro or a con depending on your goals, but it plays a minor role in terms of back development.
If you want to achieve the perfect pull up for your goal you should practice it with a lot less load in the beginning to be able to perform the technique right and not suffer from fatigue with the full load. As you get better with the technique you can get back to your load step by step with the perfect form.