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Pull-Ups. You’re either thinking to yourself, “Ew!” or “Yay, my specialty!”.

Whether you crush them, or they crush you, upper body pulling is mandatory in a well rounded movement practice. Both novices and veterans ought to be logging some serious time on the pull-up bar. Maybe you are that novice individual, working on bar hangs and bent-arm hangs. Or, rather yet, you know your way around a rig and are instead chipping away at strict/weighted repetitions. It makes no difference because the technique tips shared in this blog are for any effort performed on the pull-up bar.

Does Your Pull-Up Suck?
A fairly common pull-up error folks make is to perform reps with bent legs and an arched spine. This is characterized by a back that looks more akin to the letter C than the letter I. You can see this in the image to the right. I’ve outlined my shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles to showcase the unmistakable difference between the error and the ideal.

So Why Should I Care? Great Question!
It’s all about tension and pulling mechanics. Fixing that broken “C” position by adopting more of a canister or hollow shape is aimed at engaging larger muscle groups to assist the pulling action. Think of it this way:
How do you tense up before blowing your nose? Do you arch your back? Do you get all loose? No. You likely stiffen your abs, bracing as you expel all that dried nasal mucus. It’s no different with lifting — sans boogers. 

To find tension in your pull-up or chin-up work, follow these cues:
1) Guts and butt – squeeze them both
2) Shins forward, point the toes
3) Squeeze the pinky fingers – hard

Try it out!
Make some steps to improve your strict pulling work on the bar. I assure you that by following some of those basic cues, your chin-up and pull-up reps will look more like a gymnast than a gym rat!

To help make this point, we filmed a visual aid on Instagram. Check it out below and follow us on Instagram @MSP.Fitness for daily visual content!

A post shared by MSP Fitness (@msp.fitness) on

Taylor Gish is an Exclusive Coach at MSP Fitness and Lead Instructor to the Strength+Endurance Program. His individual training focus is on the sport of Olympic Weightlifting where he has been competing locally and nationally since 2013. Taylor enjoys spending time with his wife and kids, cooking, and lecturing on health and fitness as an adjunct professor at his alma mater.