Are you stronger than you think?

The number one mistake you're making in the gym that limits your strength.

I see it all the time. Buddy jumps up to a pull-up stand and rips a dozen over-arched shoulder chins for an agonizing 20 seconds and brushes it off as a warmup set.

Bullshit.

First, let’s look at one of my favourites. The crossed-leg fault.

Crossed-leg Fault

Here we go... this one is all too common. I could count on one hand the times I've seen someone actually perform this exercise correctly. This image actually has a host of faults, but the one I want to spend some time on is known as the crossed-leg (or ankle) fault.

Why is it bad to cross your ankles and hang your knees behind you while you attempt a chin up/pull up?

When you cross your ankles it prevents your legs from flying apart which generally happens when you're not actually strong enough to perform a strict pull-up. This compounds the problem though, as with your legs crossed you are completely incapable of engaging your glutes, the single largest muscle group in your body and a huge component of pull-ups. It also prevents you from setting your rib cage over your hips, so you start out in an overextended position (think swinging "arch" shape from hips to shoulders...) which is not ideal and sets up for numerous shoulder and spine problems. So... just don't do it.

 
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How to Correctly Perform the Pull-up

Start by hanging from a bar of pull-up stand. The grip is very important helps to set the shoulder socket in optimal position. I encourage the hook grip for this reason.

Once your grip is set, try to "break the bar in half"...this maximizes your stability though the shoulder girdle. You're then going to brace your core as if you were going to be whacked in the guts. Then, squeeze your butt, point your toes out in front of you, about 15 degrees hinged at your hips, keeping them side-by-side and tight together and slowly pull your body towards the bar. As you pull ensure your eyes gaze forward, your chin is tucked and your rib cage stays over your hips. Once you're at the top of the motion, slowly lower yourself to the start position.

Whammy. Now you know how to properly execute one of the most beneficial strength movements. I bet you aren't going to be doing 15 of these in 20 seconds.

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Try this:

Pull-up Challenge

Perform 5 strict pull ups and rest for 5 breaths

Perform 4 strict pull ups and rest for 4 breaths

Perform 3 strict pull ups and rest for 3 breaths

Perform 2 strict pull ups and rest for 2 breaths

Perform 1 strict pull ups and rest for 1 breath

Repeat 2-3 times