In the above video I go over what constitutes a perfect pullup. You need to make sure you are going down all the way until the elbows are straight and preferably utilizing the “scapular pull” which is a movement that occurs in the shoulders and shoulder blades despite the arms being straight.
I can’t quite get my chest to the bar yet, how can I start pulling higher?
It’s all about quality over quantity in this case. Go for less reps, but replace them with higher quality reps and more sets. Stop the set when you stop hitting your upper chest. If that means you only get 3 reps, so be it. Rest as much as you need to (3-5 minutes should be enough) until you can do 3 more really high pull ups. Do a ton of sets like this. After a while you should be able to pull higher – maybe mid-sternum. Make your definition of “good rep” mean “to mid-sternum.” This will dramatically increase your ability of achieving a muscle-up as chest-to-bar pull ups are a prerequisite for it.
What about going down into a dead hang for every rep to make it even harder?
That will build even more strength in a greater range of motion. So by all means, DO IT! But you MUST follow these guidelines:
- You MUST keep the shoulder girdle stable at the bottom of the pull up so you don’t aggravate your shoulders. To do that you need to retract and depress their shoulder blades together. Pull ups are moreso about utilizing the muscles in the back than just using your biceps to get there.
- A lot of people misconstrue the idea of “lock out” to mean forcing the elbow extension to the point and actually end up creating hyperextension. This could be bad for their joints, especially if one is overweight, as the muscles are not under tension to hold things together for that moment. Locking out isn’t necessarily bad, I’m just asking you to be mindful of how far you’re taking it.
Learn the Bar Hook Grip to automatically put the shoulders into external rotation so your back is always ready to go.
Find a bar where you could actually hook your fingers all around it and you’ll find it much easier to get to the top of the pull up. When you do find a bar, the best is to learn the gymnastics bar hook grip while you’re at it (this is different than the barbell hook grip): While hanging off a bar, get your pinky-side of the hand liberally over the bar, hook your thumb UNDER the bar to hook over/onto your index or middle finger. (the barbell hook grip that weight lifters do hooks the thumb under the bar, but also under the index or middle finger, which is not what we want in this case).
On a pull up bar, grab the bar with greater emphasis of the pinky and ring fingers going over the bar and grip firmly (rather than letting them just go for the ride) externally rotates the humerus and if you’re in a dead hang you’ll find it’s not as passive or dead of a hang anymore and actually quite active as if you’re doing a scapular pull without needing to cue to pull the shoulders down away from the ears. It’s a very strong position.