How To Get Better At Pull-Ups For Seniors


senior man pull ups outdoors

There is no other feeling quite like the one you get from pull-ups.

The freedom to grab a bar and pull your body up is so exhilarating and fun that it quickly makes most folks fall in love with the exercise.

Plus, being able to bang out a set of pull-ups is impressive and says a lot about your fitness level.

Today, we’ll go over how to get better at the pull-up as a senior.

The Pull-Up: One Of The Best and Most Fun Exercises You Can Learn And Do

If you’re looking for an exercise that trains your entire upper body, builds your core strength, improves your stability, strengthens your grip, and makes you more athletic, then look no further than the pull-up.

The pull up does a great job of training the back muscles (particularly the lats), but it also emphasizes our grip strength, forearms, shoulders, and biceps.

Repetition for repetition, you’d be hard-pressed to find another exercise that is quite as effective as the pull-up.

Plus, doing pull-ups says a lot about your fitness level, and you’ll be sure to impress most folks at the gym.

But, if you’ve never done pull-ups and can’t do a single rep, how do you get started? Let’s see.

Before All Else, Learn How to Pull Yourself Up Properly

While the exercise seems simple enough – grab a bar and pull – there are a few things you need to keep in mind:

The Grip

Extend your arms up and grab the bar with your palms facing forward. Your grip width should extend slightly outside your shoulders.

Too wide of a grip puts your shoulders in a compromised position and makes it more challenging to engage your back.

Engage Your Core and Legs

Before pulling, you need to stabilize your body, and that primarily comes from your core and legs.

By engaging both muscle groups, you create a solid frame, which makes it easier to use all of your strength for the pull, and it more easily stabilizes your body.

Set Your Upper Body Properly For The Pull

As you’re preparing yourself for the pull, bring your shoulders back and chest up. This will help better engage your back while keeping your shoulders in a safe position.

Also, make sure that your grip is solid and think of the pull-up as if you’re trying to pull the bar toward your body. That’s a neat mental trick that can make the exercise seem a bit easier to do.

How to Perform The Repetition

To perform a proper pull-up, make sure that you pull as high as you can – your chin should be over the bar every time.

Once at the top position, hold for a moment before doing a controlled descend. This is important because dropping to the starting position can cause stress to your joints, and it takes away the work from your muscles. As a general rule, the pull and descend should take the same amount of time.

Pull-Up Progression Plan For Seniors

Even if you can’t do a single pull-up right now, this progression will help you work your way up to your first, fifth, and even tenth repetition.

Band-Assisted Pull-Ups

Band-assisted pull-ups serve to take some of your body weight away and thus make the exercise a bit easier. This is a great variation to practice while you’re still working your way to your first five pull-ups in a row.

To perform it, grab a band and loop it once around the bar. Then, step inside it and start performing pull-ups.

If it feels too easy, switch to a band that provides less resistance.

Perform Slow Eccentrics

Slow eccentrics are a great way to build the needed back strength and become familiar with the movement pattern even if you can’t pull yourself up. No matter how weak you may feel, you can almost certainly lower yourself for at least two to four seconds. And, if you can do that, then you can build on it.

To perform these, step on a chair or jump to the top position of the pull-up. From there, lower yourself as slowly as you can. Also, track your eccentrics. If you can do four 10-second ones today, make sure to aim for at least 11 seconds next time. 

Remember: progress matters most.

Do Inverted Rows

Inverted rows (also known as bodyweight rows) are an excellent exercise to use as they closely mimic the pull-up, but you can adjust the level of resistance by changing the angle of your body. 

The primary difference is that your body is in a horizontal position, and your feet are in contact with the floor. 

For starters, you should set the bar at chest level, plant your heels on the floor, and begin rowing yourself.

As the level of incline gets easier, lower the bar one notch and see how it feels. You should aim for at least ten good repetitions per set.

Perform The Pull-Up More Frequently

To get better at the pull-up, it’s a good idea to expose yourself to it more frequently. Sure, you can get better at it by doing it once per week, but you will make faster progress if you work on that skill more often. For example:

  • Monday: 4 sets of band-assisted pull-ups
  • Wednesday: 4 sets of negative pull-ups (slow eccentrics)
  • Friday: 4 sets of inverted rows

That, in combination with the fifth tactic, will set you well on your way to your first regular pull-up.

Lose Some Weight If You Need To

If you have some excess weight on your body, it’s a good idea to lose some of it. It’s much easier to get better at the pull-up when you have less unnecessary weight on yourself (i.e., body fat).

As an example, most folks find it much easier to get better at the pull-up once they lose some fat but maintain the muscle mass they already have.

This, in combination with the other four tactics, will help you get better at the pull-up in no time.

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