As a calisthenics athlete, pull-ups are one of the basic exercises for bodyweight training. It’s important to know the perfect pull-up technique to unlock more complex moves on the bar. Unfortunately, there are a lot of video’s on social media that show a bad technique. So before you copy that, let’s discuss 5 common pull-up mistakes and how to avoid them.
Pull-up Mistake #1: Not Using the Full Range of Motion (ROM)
A common mistake is not using a full ROM. Most people will stretch their elbows completely, but with a dead hang. By relaxing your shoulders and scapula your upper body is not in the correct position anymore and unable to maximize the next repetitions. Another mistake is not pulling up towards your chest. If your chin barely tops the bar the rep is not finished.
Before starting with the pull-up perform 2 or 3 sets of scapula pull-ups to feel the difference between a dead hang (starting position) and active hang (end position). An active hang is better for your posture and improves your pull-ups. Pull yourself up as high as you can. Then touch the bar with your chest. By pulling your hands a bit inwards, you activate your chest, which can help you gain more strength in this exercise.
Pull-up Mistake #2: Goose Neck
We see this mistake happen a lot every time we are in a gym or a calisthenics parc. Someone pulls-up and then lifts his chin at the end of the movement to raise it over the bar. First, this is not a full ROM. Second, by extending your neck like this, you increase the risk of neck injury since it has to lift the load as well. And third, moving like this may make you look ridiculous.
Before pulling yourself up make a ‘double-chin’ by nodding Yes and hold this position of your neck. It can feel strange at the beginning, but it will activate the right muscles in your neck to stabilize it.
Pull-up Mistake #3: Not Performing a Full Body Exercise
The pull-up is a full body exercise. Sure, the focus is on your back. But you also need to engage your chest, abs and legs to perform it well. If you do not engage other muscles you could wiggle a lot and waiste your full potential. This is called weak points. In case of the pull-up, these weak points can be your abs, pelvis, knees and toes.
First, make sure you activate your chest by pulling a bit inwards with your hands. Second, extend your upper back. Third, activate your abs and make a posterior tilt with your pelvis to decrease a hollow back. Fourth and last, tighten your quadriceps to extend your knees and tuck in your toes. The tension makes sure your movement pattern stays the same for every rep. This way, you can perform your maximum number of pull-ups.
Pull-up Mistake #4: Crossed Legs
Crossing your legs is also one of the pull-up mistakes. This mistake is related to pull-up mistake 3. Unknowingly, you could do this when you hang on a bar that is too low for you. You know it is too low if you touch the ground while hanging on the bar. As you start, you cross your legs and flex your knees. This gives you a bad movement pattern with a hollow back and a lot more wiggling. You can easily avoid this mistake by performing the pull-up with your legs forward, or buy a higher pull-up bar.
Pull-up Mistake #5: Kipping
If you want to increase muscle strength and/or hypertrophy do not fool yourself with kipping pull-ups. Kipping is lifting up your knees to gain momentum. Of course, this allows you to perform more reps. But the pull-up is not as difficult. You could use this as a trick to get above the bar. But it is not enough if you are aiming for strenght.
Use a resistance band if you are kipping because of a lack of strength. Otherwise, try to maintain your form as explained under pull-up mistake number 3.
These 5 pull-up mistakes mentioned above are common mistakes in pull-ups. We encourage you to focus on quality over quantity and use assistance like resistance bands needed. A perferct form and full range of motion is more important in achieving your goals than focusing on weight or volume. Keep up the good work!