How to do a Perfect Pull-Up

Daunted by the challenging pull-up? A Level 3 Crossfit coach teaches you how to master it.


How to do a Perfect Pull-Up

How to do a Perfect Pull-Up

A pull-up is a functional upper-body strength-building exercise. The pull-up involves hanging onto a pull-up bar with your palms facing away and your body extended fully, then slowly pulling your body upwards until your chin is above the bar. This exercise engages your back, shoulder, arm and core muscles, and also improves your grip strength. According to research conducted by the Department of Exercise Science in Quincy College, USA, regular strength-training improves your overall physical health by increasing lean weight and reducing visceral fat, which can help you prevent type 2 diabetes and reduce your normal blood pressure, and pull-ups are one of the best strength training exercises.

Whether you are new to exercise or an advanced gym-goer, the pull-up is thus incredibly beneficial for your physical health. If you struggle with high-impact exercises because of sore joints or injuries, the pull-up is perfect for you, as it is a low-impact exercise that can be done without straining your joints.

It is a common belief that pull-ups are tricky and hard to grasp. But it is possible even for beginners to master the exercise if you learn the correct form, and put in the time and effort. There are many variations on the exercise, like body rows or assisted pull-ups, that can help you to build the strength required to execute a full pull-up, and you can also practice at home with a doorframe pull-up bar. Neha Agarwalla, CrossFit Level 3 coach and co-founder of 303 CrossFit Drive, demonstrates the perfect pull-up, and shows four progression movements you can use to train for a complete pull-up. 


How To Do The Perfect Pull-Up

  1. Stand directly below a pull-up bar. Grip the bar with your hands a little more than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Take a deep breath. Lift your feet up from the floor by engaging your core, so that you are hanging from the bar. Pull your shoulders back and down.
  3. Engaging your arm and back muscles, slowly bend your elbows and lift your upper body up towards the bar, until your chin is above the bar.
  4. Inhale, then extend your arms and lower yourself back onto the ground.



Four Movements To Master a Good Pull-Up

These progression exercises are suitable for beginners. They involve the same muscles as the pull-up and require a similar movement technique, but they are easier to perform than the full pull-up. If you find pull-ups challenging, you can use these to build strength and perfect your form, or even to add variety to your daily workout.




1. Body Rows

  • Lie face-up on the ground under a pull-up bar that is suspended at waist height.
  • Grab the bar with an overhand grip slightly further apart than shoulder length.
  • Maintaining a straight line with your body by contracting your abs and butt, pull your chest up to the bar.
  • Lower yourself by maintaining the form.

2. Negative Pull-Ups

  • Place a box or a gym bench under the pull-up bar, and stand on it for height. Grab the bar with your arms shoulder width apart.
  • Jump off the bench, using the momentum to make your chin reach above the bar.
  • Engage your shoulder and core, and slowly lower yourself by lengthening your arms, until you are hanging off the bar.
  • Push yourself back onto the bench.

3. Chin Over Bar Hold

  • Grip the pull-up bar with your hands shoulder width apart.
  • Perform a pull-up until your chin clears the bar.
  • Tighten your core, stretch your legs out straight, and hold for desired time.

4. Leg Assisted Pull-Ups

  • Sit with your legs stretched in front of you under an overhead pull-up bar. Grip the bar with hands a little further than shoulder width apart.
  • Placing your ankles firmly on the ground, use the bar to pull your upper body upwards.
  • Tighten your abs and glutes in order to form a straight line until your chest reaches the bar.
  • Lower yourself back to the sitting form.