A pull up bar is a fantastic way to build strength across so many areas of your body, it is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment you can own if you know how to use it. There are many variations of pull up bar workouts however what you need to focus on is finding a workout that is at your skill level and engages all the muscles you are trying to strengthen. Pull up bars differ from specialized workout machines in that they focus on many muscles of the body instead of just one or two. Not only do you work a large amount of muscles at once using a bar, you also can take it anywhere! From hotels to weekend getaways, your pull up bar can collapse and go anywhere a door frame is.
Pull up bars are old school and have been used since we have been trying to pull ourselves up sides of mountain cliffs. If you doubt the capabilities of a pull up bar, consider they are a favorite workout tool of the military and rock hard convicts alike. There are two ways to approach using a pull up bar, you can either focus on building strength or building endurance. Women will typically want to focus on endurance and men will often want to building twitch muscle strength. Either is possible with a pull up bar and the fundamentals remain the same.
The Ordinary Pull Up
First you should see if you can do an ordinary pull up. This is where you put both hands around the bar and pull yourself up, you can use palms facing you or palms away. The position of the palms will change the muscles being worked out so consider a mixture of both. You should aim for sets of 15, four sets of 15 would be a great ideal and is in line with the US Navy’s guidelines. You may not be able to get to that point at first, no worries. Give yourself a day of rest in-between sessions and focus on incrementally inching towards 4×15 Pull Ups.
You should also make sure that your legs are elevated off the ground so you cannot just push yourself up with your feet. Avoid jumping up to the bar or assisting yourself. Helping yourself do a pull up by pushing up with your feet will make the workout easier. Try to cross your feet behind you while doing a pull up, which will help you to maintain balance and avoids having your feet reach the floor.
The Core Pull Up Workout
You may be surprised that you can get an amazing core workout by using a Pull Up bar. What you do is hang from your pull up bar and lift your legs from resting until your knees reach a 90 degree angle. So your body should look like an L with your knees at a 90 degree angle from your body. This workout is surprisingly intense and difficult for most people. You are working against gravity to keep your knees up. Aim for 4×15 sets and see how you can do. You will find this workout surprisingly challenging and is far better at working your core than crunches or situps.
Combining Burpees and Pullups
Once you get good at doing a Pull Up you can move upwards to doing a burpee and as you jump in the air to complete the Burpee you grab the Pull Up bar and do a pull up. This is a fairly intense workout that enables you to easily do high intensity interval training while working your legs and upper body at the same time. If you are fairly short on time and want to maximize your workouts, this is a fast way to work a lot of muscle.
Taking Pull Ups To The Next Level
Think Pull Ups are easy? You ate those 15×4 reps like a piece of cake? Let’s take it up a notch. You can start out by doing assisted one arm Pull Ups like in Rocky, or if you feel really confident you can go straight for One Armed Pull Ups. It works exactly like it sounds, you pull your entire body up with one arm instead of two. This workout is VERY difficult for most people and usually requires working towards it through progressive steps. Here are some of the modified One Armed Pull Ups you can try while building up to the real thing:
Chair Assisted One Armed Pull Up: This is where you stand on a chair with the Pull Up bar and pull yourself up from that half way point. This makes the workout easier because you only have to go half-way instead of doing the full pull up from the ground.
Rope Assisted One Armed Pull Up: This is where you tie a rope to the pull up bar and grab the rope with one hand. You grab the pull up bar with the other hand and you lift with both to pull yourself up. This helps you work towards a one armed pull up because you are using both arms but there is a different amount of work being done by each arm. The arm grabbing the pull up bar is working a lot harder than the one holding onto the rope.
What about if one armed pull ups are too easy? There is another level you can take it to. Lift yourself up with one arm and do a one armed pull up. Then after you accomplish that, push your body up above the bar, and invert your entire waist until you are upside down over top of the bar. The mastery of this technique goes beyond the scope of this article and you will have to talk to a gymnast to learn all the nuances. The principle remains the same though, balance and a great deal of strength.
Taking Your Core Workout To The Next Level
After you have been able to do those L shaped knee-ups like there is no tomorrow, its time to kick it up a notch! You can move on to pointing your legs out straight and lifting them up to the same L shape. This is a harder workout because the lever arm is longer, so the amount of work your abs have to do to get your legs up in the air in an L is greater than with your knees, even though they are the same weight. The basic answer is the torque is greater on your legs than your knees due to a longer lever arm.
If you can crush it with those leg-ups then you probably have a very strong core and want to test yourself. Okay here is a really hard one for you. Go from a relaxed position and try to get your knees to touch your elbows on the pull up bar, if you dont feel a workout from that, you are probably superman or superwoman. You may want to take it up to another level though, no problem, I have something more for you.
Then next stage is to take your legs out in an L shape and then lift your legs all the way up to your hands with control. Then slowly bring your legs all the way back down. See if you don’t feel the burn at this point 🙂
Okay you have discovered a wide range of ways you can use Pull Up bars to get yourself in better shape than ever! The next step is to simply get started, try the easier workouts first. Judge where you are in that workout and then progressively make your way towards the harder workouts a little bit at a time.
Remember that even just one Pull Up can be incredibly hard if you have not worked out those muscles in a long time. Focus on improvement and progressively increasing the difficulty. Remember that Rome was not built in a day and consistency in your workouts is far more important than working out like crazy once in a while. Find the routine that you can do 3x per week and still feel exciting about hitting the bar. You want to pick something that is challenging and achievable.