Most of the time people working towards a pull up focus on the movement itself and the prime mover (main muscle group used), the back. It’s easy to neglect the secondary muscles that help. This is where pull up accessory lifts come in. Accessory lifts are exercises that help strengthen muscles that support the prime movers, which in this case include forearms, abs, biceps, and rear delts.
In last week’s article, we talked about pull up progressions that you can follow to get a chin-up and eventually a pull up. Now we will go through movements that (combined with progressions) can really help strengthen muscles that are necessary for your pull up.
Pull Up Accessory Lifts
The ab rollout is great for your abs as well as learning to control your body weight. If you are just starting out, try using a swiss ball first!
- Get into a full kneel position.
- Place hands on both sides of the ab wheel.
- Push it out and roll out as far as you can.
- When fully extended, your hips and shoulders should be in a straight line.
One the closest relative to a pull up (along with inverted rows), lat pulldowns specifically target the main muscle group that helps with pull ups.
- Sit down at the lat pulldown machine.
- Grab the bar wider than shoulder width.
- Lean back a bit and keep your eyes on the pulley above.
- Pull towards your collar bone while keeping your elbows out.
- You do not need to reach your collarbone, just come towards it.
Learning to keep your chest out during a pullup is essential and low rows help target muscles in your back responsible for doing so.
- With a slightly bent knee grab the handles of the low row.
- Keep your back straight and pull.
- As you pull back, stick your chest out and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
- Slowly return the weight to the starting position.
Rear Delt Fly
This muscle is often neglected in most workout programs, but is absolutely essential to packing the shoulders. Though pullups and chin-ups are not shoulder exercises, learning to stabilize the shoulder joint is essential for all pushing and pulling exercises.
- Grab a set of light dumbbells.
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
- Push your hips back and slightly bend your knees so your torso is almost parallel with the floor.
- Your elbows should be slightly bent and hanging below you.
- Raise your arm until it is shoulder height.
- Slowly lower.
Possibly the most performed exercise in fitness, bicep curls target the front portion of your upper arm as well as your forearm.
- Grab a set of dumbbells (can also use a barbell).
- Grip can be varied but generally grab the weight in an underhand position.
- Squeeze your bicep BEFORE curling the weight up towards the shoulder.
- Pause and slowly lower.
SPECIAL NOTE: Always be in control of the weight you are using. Most of the time attention is not payed to the eccentric or negative portion of an exercise. This phase is where the muscle being targeted is lengthened (exp. lowering the weight in a bicep curl). Not controlling this portion will not allow you to get full benefit of the exercise being performed.