Peter Miller’s health tips: How to perform pull-ups

PeterMiller_250x250_blog2You tell yourself that today is the day — the day you’re finally going to go to the gym. So you muster up the motivation and show up in your gym attire. You look like you fit in, but you feel lost. And you don’t know where to begin.

I understand exactly how you’re feeling, especially if you’ve recently had neck or back surgery. It can be hard to get back into a workout routine after surgery for a lot of reasons — the main one centering on fear of another injury.

That’s why I’ve partnered with Laser Spine Institute to create instructional fitness videos to help you safely navigate your way around the gym after neck or back surgery. Today, we focus on how to properly perform a pull-up.

Why you should do pull-ups

Pull-ups can be daunting. You may think, “Do I really have enough upper body strength to do a pull-up?” You might not at first, but with practice, you can be a pull-up pro. Pull-ups are a great way to build strength in your shoulders and arms and get in some cardio. They’re also excellent for helping build your back muscles, which will help prevent future neck or back pain.

Getting started

So how do you do a pull-up? Here are some tips:

Step 1: Stretch. Never begin an exercise without proper stretching. Before you do a set of pull-ups, you should warm up your arms and your back. Start by holding one arm in front of you, using your other hand to pull back on your fingers. After a few seconds, switch arms. You can also try rotating your arms in a fan-like motion to warm up.

Step 2: Perform a set of pull-ups. Start by standing in front of the pull-up bar, with your legs shoulder-width apart. Grab the bar, making sure your hands are spaced shoulder-width apart with your palms facing away from you. Now, using your upper body strength, pull yourself up until you chin is just above the bar. Slowly lower yourself back down to a hanging position and repeat until your set is complete.

Step 3: Rest and repeat. Once you have completed you first set, you should rest for about a minute. Consider performing some stretching during your resting period to ensure your muscles don’t tighten up and to avoid injury. Once you’ve rested begin your next set.

For beginners

If you’re new to pull-ups, you might consider performing the exercise below to build your strength before transitioning to a full pull-up.

Negatives that are really positives (half pull-up.) If you don’t have enough upper body strength to perform a full pull-up, consider doing a half pull-up, also called negatives. A half pull-up simply requires you to start by standing on something that allows your chin to be above the bar. Then, lower yourself down. You’re only using your strength to control your body as you lower down. This will help build strength so you can perform a full pull-up with practice.

Pull-ups are some of the most difficult body strength exercises to perform, but with practice, you’ll be a pro in no time. Make sure you check with your doctor before you try any exercise to avoid re-injuring your back.


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