How To Do The Perfect Pull Up | Wellington Calisthenics

Perfect Pull Ups

If doing pull ups hurt or you struggle really hard despite training them all the time, you’re probably doing them wrong! Imperfect pull ups can lead to:

  • Sharp jolt like pains (potential nerve impingement)

  • Bad posture

  • Overuse injuries (such as tendinopathy)

  • Muscle imbalances

However, done correctly pull ups have amazing benefits:

  • Strength and definition through arms, back, and upper body

  • Great for improving hunched posture

  • Whole body exercise with correct form

  • Boost your overall athleticism

Your Pull Up Is Unique

I have seen a lot of pull ups! Whether it’s at my local Wellington Calisthenics group or with my personal training clients, there is one thing that holds true for everybody.

Each pull up is as equally unique as you are. Your pull up will be slightly different to everybody else's. This can be due to different limb lengths, genetics, injuries, training styles, etc. There is honestly an infinite number of different reasons why each pull up can differ.

Despite each pull up being different, there are still some foundational techniques that you should learn to make your pull ups easier, stronger and all around better.

What Is A Perfect Pull Up?

“A perfect pull up is a pull up done using correct technique to the best of your body’s ability.”

The perfect pull up is relative to you and your bodies potential. Obviously this will change over time as you get stronger/weaker, lighter/heavier, etc.

Perfect Pull Up Technique

✔  Hands Shoulder Width Apart

  • The most commonly used grip is roughly shoulder width apart or just slightly wider. This is the easiest and strongest grip for most, but it is possible to experiment with other grips.

✔  Full Dead Hang

  • Start by hanging on the bar as a dead weight, everything is relaxed and as long as possible except for your grip. Your shoulders should be up around your ears.

✔  Feet Off The Floor

  • A proper pull up starts with the feet off the floor. Even starting with the smallest amount of foot contact with the floor can make a pull up significantly easier.

 Pull To Active Hang (Protraction, depression, and external rotation)

  • Often called “packing the shoulders” this is the transition from our dead hang to an active hang. This is an important step to prepare out back muscles and shoulder stabilizers for the upcoming pull up movement so we aren’t just relying on our arm muscles.

 Thoracic extension

  • This gives us a proud chest posture to our pull ups. Creating an arch in our upper-mid back (thoracic spine) will help us recruit more of our back muscles.

 Elbows In

  • It’s important that we keep our elbows in line with our wrists. Stacking our wrists, elbows, and shoulders in line with one another allows for a much more smooth and harmonious movement from top to bottom. This achieves a better looking result with less total effort for your body.

 Hollow Body

  • Create a dish shape with your body. Point your toes towards the floor, your legs are locked straight, tighten and flatten your abs, and pack your shoulders down.

  • This shape transforms a pull up from working a few muscles to a whole body exercise. By sharing tension throughout the whole body we get help from more muscles to make the movement feel easier.

 Chest To The Bar

  • No goose necking and no hunched shoulders! The aim isn’t to throw your head above the bar, instead you should be visualizing your proud chest being pulled up to the bar.

  • Keep your proud chest posture throughout the whole movement. You will see a lot of people collapse their shoulders forward at the top of a pull up. This will disengage your back muscles and ultimately prevent you from doing perfect pull ups.

 Controlled Descent

  • Too many people free fall from the top of a pull up. This put’s a huge amount of stress on your body and is dangerous! You need to put as much effort into the descent of your movement as the accent.

  • Put a conscious effort into making the downward movement feel like the upward movement, but in reverse.


Try these tips out and let me know if they help. Share these tips to help others with their pull ups!

Author: Sam High


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