Five Pull-up Variations for More Strength

Even with the best form, performing the same variation day after day leads to boredom and plateaus. To boost your numbers and build up your strength, try mastering these five pull-up variations.

1) Mechanical Advantage Drop Sets

This variation makes use of different grips to decrease the difficulty of the exercise as the set goes on, allowing you to perform more reps. Start with a wide grip to focus most of the work on the lats. Perform as many reps as possible. When you’re tired, move to a parallel grip, which engages more of the biceps, and perform a few more reps. Lastly, move to an underhand chin-up grip to finish off your lats and biceps.

2) 1½ Pull-ups

Range of motion is a prime method to increase the difficulty of an exercise. This variation uses both full range and partial range of motion to fatigue your entire back. Start by performing a typical pull-up starting from a dead hang and finishing with your chin over the bar. As you lower back down, stop once your elbows reach 90 degrees and pull yourself back up over the bar. Lower all the way down. That’s one rep.

3) Assisted Single Arm Pull-ups

Using assistance on this impressive variation helps you improve strength while still preserving form. In terms of assistance, there are two main options. The first option is to use a band to help yourself out. Attach a resistance band to the bar. Place your resting hand on the band while you grab the bar with the other arm. As you pull up, pull down on the band with the other hand to help yourself up. As you get stronger, use a lighter band to get less help. The other method is to lock your helping hand around your wrist. As you pull up, you can pull down on your wrist to give yourself a boost.

4) Pull-up Negatives

Building up eccentric strength (think lowering a weight under control) is imperative for increasing your pull-up numbers. Eccentric exercises put a greater strain on your muscle meaning they spur more growth and adaptation. Start this variation by performing a standard pull-up, getting your chin over the bar. Focus on lowering as slow as possible. Aim for at least five seconds on the way down. Pull yourself back up and repeat. If you find you’re getting too fatigued to pull yourself up, resort to jumping from a box or step to get your chin over the bar and continue to lower under control.

5) Alternating Grips Pull-up

Using the same grip over and over gets monotonous and leads to a plateau. Use this variation to build insane amounts of forearm and grip strength. Start with an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Perform a pull-up as usual. At the top of the motion, change one hand to an underhand grip so your hands are alternating. Lower slowly then pull yourself back up to the bar. Move your other hand to an underhand grip so you’re in a chin-up position. Repeat changing your grips each rep until fatigued.

Article Credit: Jeremey DuVall, M.S., CPT,


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