Weak links are the fastest way to fail your pull-ups.
“Weak links” are weak muscles or patterns that limit your overall performance. If even one of your muscles is too weak, you’ll not get your pull-ups.
Today we’ll give you everything you need to fix your pull-up in a few hundred words!
Weak Links: Stop Holding Yourself Back
Here’s an example: your lats and other back muscles can lift 120% of your bodyweight, but your biceps can only handle 90% of bodyweight.
The result? No pull-ups, because being strong everywhere else doesn’t get you through the whole rep. Everything else works fine, but this one muscle sucks – and fixing it might take you from 0 reps to 5, rapidly!
This is why fixing weak links is key. Working your weaknesses brings the fastest, most sustainable gains.
Common weak links for pull ups
The pull-up is a compound movement: it involves a lot of muscles. Because there are so many moving parts, there’s a lot to go wrong.
Let’s look at some of the most common…
This is usually the reason you struggle at the bottom of a pull-up, or why you struggle to do multiple reps. The scap is crucial for a good pull-up.
- Scap pull-ups are a great way to build strength at the bottom of the movement. These build strength in retracting your shoulders and staying tight between reps.
- Wall slides just take your body, a wall, and a foam roller. They’re great for strengthening the under-trained stabilisers around the shoulder (like the serrati) and activating the scap.
- Horizontal ring rows are a key exercise for gymnastic strength. They build up the biceps, as well as the rhomboids and lower traps. Great for building strength and pull-up posture!
The lats are one of the muscles we use pull-ups to develop. They’re the big prime mover that covers the middle portion of a good pull-up. Being weak here means being weak at pull-ups.
- Slow Eccentric Pull Ups are great here. Lower yourself as slowly as possible and think about keeping your shoulders down and away from the ears.
- Vertical Ring Rows are a great way to build lat strength. They’re similar to pull-ups but reduce the overall difficulty, allowing you to build strength and familiarity.
They’re not just for the beach: strong biceps make up a big part of a good pull-up. They’re useful at the top and bottom of a pull-up, so don’t be afraid to get jacked.
Vertical rows and slow-eccentrics are useful again here, so try combining them with some bicep-specific training:
- Chin Ups are like pull ups but more bicep-dominant. They tend to be a little easier and will strengthen your biceps faster due to the increased involvement.
- Top-half pull ups are an unconventional method for building bicep strength. They’re the opposite of scap pull-ups and focus on the role of the elbow, building strength where it counts.
The core is key for a good pull-up. It stabilises the midline and helps you transfer force through the upper body.
The hollow position for the core is a great training accessory, but it is also important when performing your pull ups.
Keep the position during all your pull-up and gymnastic variants to build greater strength in the mid-section.
Hollow holds are a great way to develop this strength when you’re not training pull-ups. Building isometric strength will carry over to your pull up and stop you coming undone in the core.
You can also lean on hanging leg raises (pictured below) to strengthen your lower abs and get used to using your core during your pull-ups. Both bent-arm and dead hang variations are great choices.
The best way to progress is to find your weaknesses and hunt them down. Focus on these weak links and you’ll see advanced pull up progress in a short space of time.