The pull-up might be the best indicator of upper body strength.
Your arms and back have to do an enormous amount of work to lift your entire body, which is why being able to perform many reps is an effective way to improve not just the obvious muscles — your back, arms and forearms — but can also help you build incredible core strength.
In fact, as an exercise physiologist and strength coach, I’d go so far as to say that the pull-up is the world’s most under-appreciated way to develop your abs—and every other muscle in your midsection, for that matter.
All of that is great, but there’s one problem: It’s an exercise that gives a lot of people a lot of trouble, regardless of whether you’ve been training for years or just started.
If you are struggling to perform a pull-up — or you wish you could do many more — I’ll share a few simple-to-learn techniques that aren’t taught enough and will change everything about your pull-up performance.
By the time you’re done, you’ll not only be surprised by how quickly you can improve, but also by how many of the methods used to increase your upper body strength aren’t actually pull-ups.
Can’t Do a Pull-up? Start Here
If you can’t do any pull-ups, odds are you’ll blame it on your lack of back strength. To become stronger, you might start doing countless 1-arm rows and other dumbbell or barbell exercises.
While those exercise will make you stronger (and are a part of the solution), they won’t guarantee that you’ll be able to do more pull-ups. That’s because pull-ups aren’t just about your back.
Even if you have a really strong back, you can struggle with pull-ups if you have a weak core.
Core stiffness, or being able to create tension throughout your torso, is a key part of successfully doing a pull-up.
Your shoulder blades are connected to your torso. A stiff, stable core gives your arms something strong to pull on. And that can have a massive impact on your ability to lift your body.
So if you are struggling with your pull-ups—or can’t do a pull-up at all—train your core with these moves.
(If you prefer to watch all tips, here’s a video breaking down a lot of the progressions we’ll discuss today. In it, you’ll see my friend and fellow coach Tony Gentilcore demonstrating a lot of the moves discussed here.)
Hollow Body Holds
Start by lying on the floor. Lift your arms overhead (biceps in line with your ears), keeping your elbows straight.
Cross your hands and your ankles. Then press your hands and ankles into each other to create tension, and lift up into the hollow body position.
Let’s talk about that term “hollow” for a second. You might hear it and think: “belly button to spine.” DON’T DO THAT.
In a good hollow position, your abs are securely braced, as if they were about to take a punch. Take a breath in and squeeze. If anything, your abs will move slightly outward.
Start by holding a hollow body position while pressing your hands into each other and pressing your ankles into each other. This builds some of the body tension related to the position of hanging from a bar.
Hold this position for 5 seconds or 2-3 breaths per rep, maintaining as much head-to-toe tension as you can (more on how to create tension). Take a 5-second break, then repeat for 5-6 reps per set. Over time, you can increase the duration of your holds. If you can maintain tension for a full minute, that’s really good.
Hollow Body Horizontal Pull-ups
Next, you’re going to use a dowel or broomstick. Hold it in both hands as if it were the pull-up bar.
Start with your arms straight and elbows locked out, as if you were hanging from a pull-up bar. Then, while you hold the hollow position, bend your elbows to pull the bar across your face and toward your chest line, mimicking the pull-up movement.
The goal here is to maintain the core strength requirement while including an arm movement that replicates the pull-up—all while trying to breathe.
Hold the hollow body and try to complete 8-10 reps, breathing out as the bar comes to your collarbone.
Hollow Body Leg Raises
Are you a boss at the hollow body work? Great! Then it’s time to take it up another notch.
You can create some additional arm stimulus, and increase the challenge to your core, by doing a leg raise. Keep both knees locked out and cross one foot over the other. Pull down on the stick and lift your toes toward it. You may even be able to touch your toes to the bar, depending on your level of strength and control.
The big thing to remember here is to maintain tension throughout your lats to help pull your torso up. Squeeze the bar as hard as you can in your hands and think about pulling down on the bar as much as you are pulling up with your legs. This tension in your arms, back and core will help you lift your legs more easily.
Perform a set of 5-8 reps.
Stability Ball Rollouts
Another exercise that develops core stiffness is a stability ball rollout. There are two ways you can perform the movement, and both are helpful to your pull-up quest.
Option #1: Try to keep your abs tensed and press your hips forward, allowing your arms to extend out as you move. Then pull back with your hips. This version will place more emphasis on your abs and lower back, while taking some of the work off of your shoulders
Option #2: Do the same thing as you did in option #1, but use your lats to try and pull the ball back with your elbows to return to the starting position. In this version the shoulder angle is changing, which means the muscles that control the shoulders will be under greater load.
Complete 5-10 reps of either option, or both if you’re a little crazy.
How to Build Strength on the Pull-up Bar
Before you start pulling, it’s helpful to build your skill hanging from the bar.
You might struggle at maintaining a dead hang from the bar due to grip strength. Hanging for 10-30 seconds can be a simple and very effective way to build the grip strength needed to perform pull-ups.
Hanging Shoulder Shrugs
When you can conquer that challenge with ease, your next goal is pulling your shoulders down and tight to your ribs while holding the same hollow body position you used on the ground.
Hold that position for 5 seconds per rep, breathing out forcefully with each contraction.
Hanging Leg Raises
Have the hollow body hang down cold? Good. You can add in some leg raises to really take it up a notch.
Start with a bent knee leg raise. The key is to not sway.
If that’s no problem, try a straight leg raise. Again, you want to avoid rocking back and forth. The movement should be slow and controlled.
In all likelihood, you will find at least one of these moves challenging. Because your goal with these is quality, not quantity, you can use “micro sets” to accumulate volume. Try to hit 10 amazingly good reps total. To do that, you might need to perform 5 sets of 2, or 4 sets of 2-to-3, or 3 sets of 3, and so on.
If you wanted to get a little crazy, you could try to bring your toes to the bar. Use your arms to help pull-up on your torso to get a more horizontal angle on the movement.
Pull-up Training: Mastering the Movement
Now let’s “grease the groove” of the movement in a way that will help you develop strength if you’re a beginner, and provide value if you’re more advanced.
Flexed Arm Hang
The flexed arm hang is a simple, yet underutilized move that will have all the muscles in your back and arms firing hard.
To perform the move, just grab the bar and jump up. Keeping your chest as close to the bar as possible, hang there as long as you can tolerate. When you start to feel yourself coming down, fight the lowering for 3-5 seconds so you can get some eccentric strength development out of the move.
Try to maintain 10 to 30 seconds per hold, accumulating up to 30 seconds in a workout. For eccentric reps, try to keep it to a max of 5 reps of 3-5 second eccentric lowering unless you want to look like a T-Rex for a few days after your workout because you’re too sore to extend your elbows.
Band Assisted Pull-ups
Once you are able to do flexed arm hangs (and the 3-5 second lowering) with skill and control, you should be ready to try the pull-up.
If you want to ease yourself into the movement, start by using a band for assistance.
The thicker the band, the more assistance it provides. Similarly, placing two feet in the band versus just one gives you more help when you perform the move.
Start with the thickest band you need in order to execute the move, then work down to smaller, thinner bands over time.
(More ways to use resistance bands in your workouts here.)
The “Pernicious Pull-up Power” Workout Routine
So how do you put all of this together into a realistic pull-up training plan you could use on a regular basis? Glad you asked.
You want to “train for the movement” frequently. Three to four times a week is ideal.
Notice I said “train for the movement” and not “train the movement itself.” That’s because not all of your sessions need to include pull-ups. In fact, you’ll only perform actual pull-ups one day per week on this plan.
Here’s a sample calendar of what this pull-up training plan looks like:
Hollow Body Holds – 4 sets x 5 reps/set x 5 second hold per rep
Bar Hangs – 4 x sets x 6 reps/set x 5 second hold per rep
Flexed Arm Hang – accumulate 30 seconds
Hanging Shoulder Shrugs – 4 sets x 5 reps/set x 5 second hold per rep
Hollow Body Horizontal pull-ups – 4 sets x 8-10 reps/set
Hanging Leg Raises – 10 total reps
Hollow Body Leg Raises – 4 sets x 5-8 reps of smooth controlled tension
Eccentric pull-ups – 4 x sets of 4-5 reps working on 3-5 second eccentrics
DAY 4 (Pull-up day!)
**If you can’t do a pull-up, perform…
Band Assisted Pull-ups – aim for a max of 3 reps per set
** If you can do pull-ups, then….
Pull-ups – start with a single max set, then perform 3 sets of 50% of this number. For instance, if you do 6 on the first set, do 3 sets of 3.
Following this pattern will help you develop pull-up specific strength in your back and arms and the core stiffness needed to accomplish the movement. Since there are a max of three moves per session, you can combine this simple calendar with your current training program.
Pull-ups may never be easy. But by training for them specifically, you’ll soon be able to do a lot more than you think.
The Fastest Way to Do More Pushups
The Tension Weightlifting Technique: How to Make Every Exercise More Effective
Do Carbs Actually Make You Fat?
Dean Somerset is a kinesiologist, strength coach, author and public speaker who specializes in injury and medical dysfunction management through exercise program design. The seriously in-depth “The Complete Shoulder & Hip Blueprint,” which Somerset and Tony Gentilcore teamed up to create, is available now. Born Fitness is not an affiliate and has no financial stake or interest in the product, but we do genuinely think Dean and Tony are rad, and are way better at pull-ups thanks to their knowledge.
How To Make Your Meditation Practice Rock So That You Stress Less And Accomplish More
Do you find meditation boring, time-taking, or too difficult? This interview with Emily Fletcher might just change your mind.
Emily Fletcher is the Founder of Ziva Meditation who has trained the teams of Google and Harvard on what meditation really means in the modern world.
In this interview she shares…
- Why clearing your mind has nothing to do with meditating
- Why top performers don’t go a day without their practice
- What’s the difference between meditating like a monk and modern meditation
- The science behind why meditation gives you a deeper rest than sleep and reduces aging
- And how you can use meditation to perform better in every area of life
As Emily says,
We meditate to get good at life, not to get good at meditation.
If you liked this interview, check out Emily’s new book: Stress Less, Accomplish More: Meditation for Extraordinary Performance. It’s an amazing guide for everyone who wants to improve their relationships, level up at work, or heal themselves.
This is not just another meditation book. In Stress Less, Accomplish More, Emily teaches a powerful trifecta of Mindfulness, Meditation, and Manifesting to improve your personal and professional performance, clarity, health, and sleep.
You’ll learn how to cultivate Mindfulness through brief but powerful exercises that will help you stop wasting time stressing. Plus, you’ll get Manifesting tools to help you get crystal clear on your personal and professional goals for the future. Grab your copy on Amazon.
What’s your biggest motivation to get better at meditating? Share it with us in a comment below.
What Part Of The Brain Controls Balance?
Standing upright, maintaining balance, and walking are all pretty natural processes to us. We don’t consciously think about balance during our daily activities.
But have you ever wondered how you manage to stand on one foot? Or perform any sports activity? Or how you don’t fall down every time you stumble? Today we’re learning what part of the brain controls balance.
What Controls Balance In The Brain?
As your body moves , your brain grooves.
—Jim Kwik, Author of Mindvalley’s Superbrain Program
Maintaining balance is a very complex process in the brain. It’s performed by multiple parts of the brain and occurs as a result of the brain communicating with our environment.
The main part of the brain that control balance is the cerebellum.
But there are other parts of the brain that help out too, such as the brain stem which helps us develop healthy breathing practices.
The cerebellum or “little brain” is located in the back of your skull, above the amygdala (the part of the brain that controls emotions).
Besides controlling balance and posture, it’s also responsible for monitoring voluntary movement, eye movement, and speech.
What Part Of The Brain Controls Balance And Hearing?
The processing of sound happens in the temporal lobes which are a part of the cerebrum. The audio stimuli come through the ear and go directly into the primary auditory cortex located in the temporal lobes.
But how does the temporal lobe affect balance?
Have you ever heard a loud noise and reflexively found yourself moving away from the source of the noise?
That’s the temporal lobe at work. Your temporal lobe is directly connected to the cerebellum by neural pathways. This connection enables a quick reaction to loud noise.
Which Part Of The Brain Controls Balance And Posture?
We already mentioned that the cerebellum does not work alone. It controls equilibrium by combining sensory information from the outside world.
Those pieces of information come from the eye (visual), the ear (auditory) and muscles and joints (motor). The cerebellum sends information out to your body in order to stay balanced during movement. But that happens as a response to the information that comes in.
Consider standing on one foot. Your joints and muscles use receptors, called proprioceptors, to gather information about the spacial position of your body.
These receptors the send the information back to the cerebellum which adjusts your position by making you shift body weight, or even stretching your arms out to help maintain equilibrium.
Now, continue standing on one foot but close your eyes. It is much more difficult to stay in that position, isn’t it?
This is because you have limited the information coming to the cerebellum. It’s now unable to use visual information from the eyes and has lost a little of the spatial orientation.
Usually, we are not aware of these processes — they happen reflexively. But we often become aware of them when we exercise — especially exercise that involves a high degree of coordination.
For example, a ballerina doing a pirouette on one leg has to learn how to use surroundings in order to perform the movement without losing balance. And that’s no easy feat!
What Controls The Body’s Balance?
In addition to the cerebellum, two crucial structures in maintaining balance are the inner ear and the vestibular cranial nerves.
The vestibular system, located in the inner ear, enables you to be aware of the position of your head in relation to the floor. It’s responsible for helping you know that the object that you are looking at is not moving but that you have, for example, tilted your head.
Damage to any part of the brain related to balance can result in jerky, uncoordinated movements. Damage to any of these structures isn’t inherently life threatening, and movement is still possible. It simply requires a little more conscious attention than usual.
Are you skilled in any activity that requires good balance? Share it with us in the comments below!
What is the Rig Veda? Behind The Veil Of History
The Vedas are a peculiar topic of study.
They are one of the most primeval and mysterious texts known to man. They have no celebrated author and no timeline of origin… Yet, they have inspired world religions (namely, Hinduism) and their hymns are regarded as law — shaping societal, political, and economic philosophies.
The Vedas are split into 4 separate sacred texts, but are often compiled into a book referred to as the Chathurveda Samhitha.
The Rig Veda: The Book of Mantra
The Sama Veda: The Book of Song
The Yajur Veda: The Book of Ritual
The Atharva Veda: The Book of Spell
The Vedas were originally formed, recited, and passed down from generation to generation by Aryan nomads (considered “the noble ones”) in ancient India. It is most commonly believed that the Vedas were created during the Vedic Period (1,500 – 500 B.C.E.). Although, many scholars and great yogis today hypothesize that the creation of this oral tradition could have started as far back as 12,000 B.C.E.
However, it wasn’t until centuries later (long after the Vedic Period) that the Vedas were written into physical form, creating what we know today as the Vedic Texts.
The oldest and most fundamental of these texts is the Rig Veda.
What Is The Rig Veda?
In Sanskrit, the word Rigveda means “knowledge of the verses (or mantras).”
The Rigveda is by far the most prominent of the Vedas; it was the first Vedic text ever written and is the main source of history on the ancient Hindus.
The text is comprised of 1,028 hymns (sūktas) dedicated to various deities, including the Purusha Sukta and Creation Hymns. These hymns are all organized into 10 different books, which are commonly referred to as “circles” or “mandalas.”
The older books contain hymns that are more devoted to the praise of various gods and goddesses. The younger books are more concerned with philosophical questions, the virtue of dāna (generosity, charity) in society, and other metaphysical issues.
The hymns include praises, blessings, and sacrifices written in enchanting poetry and prose. When these beautiful words are chanted, one is transported to another state of mind.
This light hath come, of all the lights the fairest,
The brilliant brightness hath been born, far-shining,
Urged on to prompt the sun-god’s shining power.
Night and Morning clash not, nor yet do linger.
It’s awe-inspiring, to say the very least. But who wrote such wise and captivating hymns?
Here’s the thing about the Vedas — there is no acclaimed human author. They are simply a “language of the gods” in comprehensible human form.
The Vedas were channeled by risis (the seers, the sages) from the very breath of “Source.” “Source” being the Paramātman: the “Primordial Self” or the “Absolute Atman.” The risis saw and interpreted the Vedas, but they did not compose them.
There are seven risis credited to channeling the Rigveda: Atri, Kanwa, Vashistha, Vishwamitra, Jamadagni, Gotama, and Bharadwaja.
Just as one is transported to another state of mind when reciting the Vedas, it was within that same mind-state they were written — in a state beyond.
The Vedas contain universal truths that can help you understand and experience your connection to the Divine through study and practice. Sacred study reveals the practice, and practice helps you implement the powerful spiritual truths that can transform your life.
— Deborah King, Spiritual teacher and author of Mindvalley’s Be a Moder Master program.
Do you want to learn more about spiritual empowerment? Heal emotional wounds and past traumas that are holding you back and take the next step in your spiritual journey with this FREE Masterclass below:
Like the ancient sages, have you ever experienced mystical encounters with deities? Have you ever been transported to that “state beyond?” Share your experience with us in a comment below.
Health & Wellness4 weeks ago
How To Upgrade Your Brain With These Simple Daily Habits
Health & Wellness4 weeks ago
How To Use Transcendental Practices To Get Creative Ideas For Your Business
Health & Wellness4 weeks ago
What Is The Upanishads Definition? Discover The Ancient Vedic Insight
Health & Wellness4 weeks ago
The 7 Types Of Meditation And Why They Should Be A Daily Practice For Everyone
Health & Wellness4 weeks ago
5 Philosophies From The Upanishads The World Needs Today
Health & Wellness4 weeks ago
Is There A Single Hinduism Holy Book?
Health & Wellness4 weeks ago
Ego Dissolution On The Way To Higher Consciousness
Health & Wellness4 weeks ago
How To Easily Understand States Of Consciousness