The pullup is one of the classic tests of a person’s strength. Generally if a man can’t do at least one he’s regarded as weak and not a real man. And if a woman can do one or more she’s strong.
Many people write about training to achieve your first pullup. But that’s not what this article is about. Instead I’m going to be discussing what to do next. Where can you go with pullups?
The most common things are to add more reps. This is great. A phenomenal goal to shoot for that puts you at a high level is 20 reps and anything above that is gravy.
The other common route is to add weight. You can use a weight belt or hook a kettlebell in your toes. A common but great goal here is to pullup with an added 50% of your bodyweight hanging onto you.
There’s also lots of articles and training plans to help you achieve those two goals. Here I’m going to show you a bunch of bodyweight only exercises, that make pullups harder.
Extended Range of Motion
Hopefully you’re already doing full range of motion pullups. I see lots of people never lower all the way to lockout on their reps. Make sure you do that (unless you have injuries that prevent you) to strengthen the joints and tendons.
But what I’m talking about here is going further on the way up. Although pullups are commonly considered complete when you get your chin over the bar, you can actually pull further. This last added range of motion takes much more strength especially in the lats.
This is kind of like doing handstand pushups. Touching your head to the floor is considered full range in one sense, but there is also much further to go.
Try pulling to your collar bone.
Try pulling to your chest (nipple line for men and top of the breast for women)
By doing this you’ll be better suited to do the next exercise.
While I’m not a big fan of kipping pullups, a kip on a muscle up is necessary for many people, especially in the beginning.
In the muscle up you pull as far as you can in the pullup, and then move your arms so that you complete the movement with pressing up as in a dip.
Doing this on a bar has a much different feel then on the rings. In either case a false grip is almost essential. A false grip is where you wrap your hands deep on the bar or rings as in this picture.
To kip swing your legs through extending your body. Then pull your legs up towards the bar and explode the upper body over them while making the arm transition.
To do this without the kip is easier on the rings. To do it on the bar you need all that extended range of motion.
Side to Side Pullups
This exercise starts building strength that is useful towards the one arm pullup, which is basically the end goal of pullup strength and what we’re working towards.
Pullup to the top. Once here, shift to your left as far as you can go, then to the right. Come back to the center and then lower down.
An alternative version involves pulling to the top towards the side then shifting to the other side and lowering down. Regardless of which version you use make sure you work both sides evenly.
One Arm Assisted Chinnups
Here I’m specifically moving from the pullup grip to the chinnup grip, because when you go on one arm it feel much better. Try it for yourself but I’m sure you’ll agree with me.
This series of exercises is one of my favorites. You’re chinning with one arm with the other in a position to assist, though it won’t lend the full help as when it’s on the bar.
- Wrist Assist
- Mid Forearm Assist
- Low Forearm Assist
- Bicep Assist
- Shoulder Assist
By moving the assisting arm further down on your main working arm you’ll be able to use it less and less. The top range of motion will then be done completely with the working arm once you’re past your assistance arm. This is because unlike doing a similar setup with a towel, you can’t press down on your body to help you get to the top.
This progression alone can eventually lead to the true one arm chinnup.
Of course, all these exercises can be tested with biofeedback and made to fit inside your workouts, to help you achieve your goals. I recommend you give them a try and report how they go for you here.
Logan is an experienced physical culturist that started his passion for gymnastics after high school. You can read the knowledge he shares with us on his personal website where you can learn things like how to do a backflip and many more.