Most people would be happy to do any pull-up, but you still need to follow the cardinal rule of strength training: use proper technique and form. This video from Buff Dudes can help by addressing some common pull-up bad habits. Being able to do a pull-up hangs on having solid strength in your upper back, lats, arms, core and ability to grip. For many people, weak lats are the limiting factor, so a common tendency to "cheat" the pull-up is to jerk your legs and use the resulting momentum to launch yourself upward (similar to kipping).
It might look like you're doing a pull-up, but you're robbing yourself of the exercise's major back and total body strength-building benefits. So, if your legs are swinging, you need to tense up your core. Additionally, Buff Dudes points out these other common mistakes:
- Elbows in the wrong position: In a pull-up (not a chin-up), think about forcing your elbows down and back, as if you were trying to "put your elbows in your back pockets". When your elbows are too close together and facing forward, you are using a lot more bicep (which is fine if that's what you intend).
- Shoulders are not "down and back": As with the elbows, keep your shoulders back so that you target the proper muscles and also reduce your chances of pulling something unpleasant. We've previously shared a tip to help you imagine what "shoulders down and back" feels like.
- Not completing the full range of motion: A full range of motion begins from a dead hang all the way to having your chin go slightly above the bar. This is really just a matter of reaping the full benefits of this strength movement.
A pull-up is a great showcase of overall strength, but it's definitely not easy (here's me doing my first wider grip pull-up after working on it for a while). If you're still working on your first pull-up, work on small progressions. It helps to develop your grip strength from just lifting heavy dumbbells and barbells, back strength with rows (like inverted rows and seated rows) and biceps strength.
5 Common Pull-Up Mistakes to Avoid [Buff Dudes]