How To Get MORE Gains From Pull-Ups (4 Mistakes You Need To Fix)

Want to do better pull ups? Want to increase reps on pull ups? You’ve clicked on the right video. Pull-ups are one of the oldest yet most widely used back exercise out there – and for good reason. They’re convenient to do and very effective at growing and strengthening your mid and upper back muscles. But, despite how simple this exercise may seem, the truth is that most lifters screw this movement up with a few common pull up mistakes that take away from the effectiveness of this exercise. In this video I’ll cover exactly what those errors are so that you can instantly build MORE muscle with pullups – in turn, helping you increase pullup strength. And get more pullups.

The first mistake has to do with grip width. Gripping the bat too wide makes pull-ups less effective for two reasons. One is that it shortens the range of motion of the movement which may enable you to do more reps can compromise growth due to the limited range of motion your back muscles will experience each rep. And second, is that it puts your shoulders in a more compromised position. Which can obviously be detrimental for your gains in the event that you do actually end up harming your shoulder. You also don’t want to grip the bar too narrow. This can not only shift some of the tension away from your back muscles, but can also make your forearm muscles now the limiting factor in your pull-up. So, what you want to do for better pull ups is grip the bar not too wide and not too narrow. Use a grip that’s slightly outside of shoulder width.

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The second mistake you’re making is failing to properly engage your core during the exercise. Now although this isn’t necessarily “bad”, it does create a great deal of instability and wasted energy during the pull-up which can negatively affect your strength in the movement. So instead, before you even go into your pull-up, start with your legs straight if possible and then crunch yourself into this “C” position by engaging your abs. Then from here, keep your core engaged and maintain that position as you perform each rep. This will not only instantly provide a ton more stability into your pull-ups, but by setting your lower back in this more stable position it can also enable your lats to pull with more force because they attach into the low back.

The next mistake is losing form at the top of the pull-up. Usually, they do so by letting the shoulders shrug up to the ears and roll forward as they struggle to get above the bar. This not only puts the shoulders in a compromised position but also disengages the back muscles that we’re trying to target. Instead, to build more muscle with pullups, we want to keep the shoulders back and externally rotated and chest upright even as we get to the top. To do so, before you initiate the pull, first set your shoulders by pulling your shoulder blades down and back so that your shoulders move down away from your ears. Then, as you’re pulling, simply think about pulling yourself up by leading with your chest and trying to get your upper chest or collar bone to the bar.

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The last mistake you want to fix so you can get more pullups is you’re simply not doing enough volume for your pull-ups. Focus on doing more total pull-up volume, instead of the lat pulldown, as this will better transfer to your pulling strength. And there’s a variety of different ways you can achieve this. So, if you’re currently stuck, then add in some additional sets of pull-up negatives after you’ve fatigued yourself during your normal pull-up sets. Or, if you can only do let’s say 5 or so pull-ups in a row, then just perform more sets but with less reps per set.

So, to sum the video up, here’s a quick recap of the main points that’ll help you increase reps on pull ups:

First, use a proper grip of about 1.5x shoulder width.

Second, keep your core engaged before and during the movement.

Third, don’t lose form and roll your shoulders forward at the top.

And lastly, ensure you’re doing enough pull-up volume as that’s key to improving your strength with this movement.

So hopefully you were able to see that although yes choosing the right exercises is important, executing these exercises in the right manner is really what’s key to maximizing the growth you experience from them. And for a step-by-step program that uses science to not only show you what to workout week after week, but then shows you exactly how to perform each and every exercise for maximal activation and growth while pairing this with a nutrition plan to support your recovery, then take the analysis quiz to discover which science-based program would be best for you and where your body is currently at below:

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Filmed by: Bruno Martin Del Campo

Music by Ryan Little – Body Language –

57 thoughts on “How To Get MORE Gains From Pull-Ups (4 Mistakes You Need To Fix)

  1. Jeremy Ethier says:

    GUESS TO WIN! My back is still sore… How many pull-ups did I have to do to get all the shots for this video? Comment below and the first 10 people to guess the right number (or the closest ones to it) will get enrolled into a BWS program for free! Winners will be chosen tomorrow!

  2. Eternal Wellness With Jonathan says:

    pull ups are definitley one of the staples for building a strong back and upper body. the grip is a crucial element and defintley see that wide grip alot in the gym. great video and these tips are very usefull

  3. Sharkiri says:

    Jeremy, i want to thank you so much for your channel. Im finally 15lbs into my first true bulk. Your nutrition videos helped me so much with understanding how important it is to eat enough to actually build muscle, as well as work out. Im 6 foot 4, age 24. im currently eating 3800-4000 cals a day and working out 6 days a week. My workout days are like this. Push day, Leg day, Pull day, abs day.
    Before i found your channel i was lost, i used to not eat enough and workout all wrong.
    Anyways,Thanks again!!!! You really helped me!

  4. Perfect Royale says:

    I just want to ask you one thing Jeremy; are chin-ups a good alternative to pull-ups because many studies show that both of them activate lats to a similar degree. And second thing; for chinup, is a medium grip like pull up better or shoulder width grip?

  5. Timothy Lee, MS, OT, CPT says:

    When I started to engage my core while doing pull ups, I felt like my lats became the main muscle worked. If you see gymnasts doing pull ups, this is exactly what they do. It’s that often forgot “hollow body hold” and the pointing of the toes that gets the core engaged during pull ups IMO. Also, they do a ton of pull ups and they often have strong and developed back, shoulder, arm, and ab muscles. Nice, informative vid as usual, Jeremy!

  6. hiphophead555 says:

    The best way I have found to get safe volume is pavel’s ladder method. The waving ladder is best imo. for example… do 8, 1, 7, 2, 6, 3, 5, then 4. A total of 36 (clean pull up’s) Trick is to take long deep breaths in relation to how many reps you do, or rest longer if you’re that tired. Do 2 ladders and you got ya self 72 clean reps in under 15 minutes. If you are just doing pull ups 3 or even 4 ladders are a possibility. But I say have the highest rep 2 below your max to stop fatigue. The idea is clean overall reps and max volume without stress!

    But if it’s just part of an upper body day 1 ladder of 8 is fine. That’s still 36 reps. basically 3 sets of 12 but without the junk volume included or failure on the last or even second to last set. Most people will start at 12 then hit a 10 then a 7 or 8 accumulating to less reps in total and not as clean anyway. Thank me later!

    • hiphophead555 says:

      @Lautaro Malmierca No problem at all dude. I can only go off of personal experience as I am not a proffesional in this field. But for me the strength carry over is like nothing I have experienced from any other way of training. I worked out with a friend the other day and found 10 pull ups pretty easy. Could have gone to 13, maybe even 14 if I really pushed. But I didn’t want to fatigue my muscles.

      So with the overall volume in mind and if you go upto around 7 or 8 reps per ladder than yes! Hypertrophy is also taken care of. Plus you also get some endurance from it as you will be completing so many repetitons. This is why I am such a HUGE fan of this style. It kinda ticks all the boxes.

      You can also make it what you want. For example. for the lower rep ranges in the ladder. Say 1 – 5 you can really slow the tempo down and focus on the strength side and for the 6 – 8 range you can speed it up for the hypertrophy and fast twitch muscle fibre responses. And also another benefit is you can do one ladder like I mentioned above or…. You can do 8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 then 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 descending or ascending give a little of a different response. Depnds on what you want to focus on daily, weekly or monthly?

      An example of pure strength focus could be a 1 – 5 ladder or even 3,5,3,5,3,5,3,5,3,5 or even a 6,2,6,2,6,2,6,2,6,2 There’s so many ways to achieve your personal goal. You can approach it one week one way, then one week another or monthly. The thing I enjoy most is there’s no clock watching for rest times. It makes you learn about your body, rather than being a slave to a timer when your body is not ready. Hope this helps. A bit long winded I know lol

    • D. Wrye says:

      This is definitely not the hardest body weight exercise out there. It took me about 2 months to go from 0 reps to 8 reps (knocking out x8 20kg weighted pullups now). Practice them every other day (pull-ups, hammer grip and then chin-ups) and you will be in muscle-up territory in no time.

  7. Swapnil Karmakar says:

    Lockdown was a blessing in disguise for me cause during the lockdown I did the first ever pull up of my life and I’m so proud of it all that is left is to increase it to 10 before November…

    • Joshua Bartleson says:

      @tej sandhu man, it is a work in progress. Don’t be taking the wind out of his sails. He’s trying, which is way more than I can say for half of the lazy, un-motivated losers out there. Keep it up Swapnil Karmakar.

    • Mario Robe says:

      Dude I literally did the same thing… when quarantine began I couldn’t do a single pull up, I was barely doing 4 reps with the green resistance band (one of the thickest ones)… now I can do 8 with my bodyweight plus I now can do clapping push ups, leg raises, a lot more dips and can hold an L sit (with paralletes to be fair which is easier).

    • Swapnil Karmakar says:

      @Mario Robe bro your progress is insane even I couldn’t do a single pull up at the start so I started doing pull up negatives and now I can do 3 clean pull up bro the feeling you get when you can finally do something which you once thought was impossible is just indescribable now even I will aim for clapping push up along with my 10 pull ups goal good luck to you bro.

    • Deep Fried Bucket says:

      It’s muscle to fat ratio so basically the lower your body fat is the easier the pull ups are that’s why you usually see the ripped guys doing the most pull ups because they’re pulling muscle they can activate rather than fat that’s basically just loose weight

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