To turn the lat-blasting pullup into a full body movement, this form tweak from Don Saladino, NASM, who recently went over the ins and outs of the exercise with Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S, delivers.
Typically, guys do a pullup with an arch in the lower back. This is especially for those in the bodybuilding community, according to Samuel. The theory is that this posture loads the lats differently than other pullup variations, but Saladino—who has over 20 years experience in the fitness industry and clients like Ryan Reynolds and David Harbour—says he’s skeptical. “I never like when your low back is in excessive extension: ribs are flared and lower back is extended,” he says. “If the low back is arched that much, we could potentially be causing a lot of pain.”
Here’s your game plan: Instead of hopping right onto the pullup bar, get into a proper forearm plank on the ground first. Your ankles should be dorsiflexed (pointed), glutes and lats engaged, and head down. Check out this helpful guide for some more pointers. “Basically during the pull-up, you should be doing the same thing,” says Saladino. So, stay here for 15 to 30 seconds to promote muscle memory.
Next, hop up to the bar and mirror that position. Point your toes, tuck your ribs, engage your glutes and core to stay tight, then pull vertically.
By maintaining this position as you pull up, “you’re taking the pullup [whose] primary mover is the lats and secondary mover is the biceps and you’re throwing a lot of abs and core work in there,” says Saladino. And, you don’t risk aggravating your lower-back.
“My attitude is lets get strong in a really safe position where we’re not added excessive unwanted strain on other areas of the body,” says Saladino. “Let’s make sure that the training we’re doing is adding value to the areas you’re trying to improve. Not removing value and causing pain in other areas of the body.”
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If you’re having trouble nailing standard pullups for reps, check out this guide. Once you’re able to run through reps, start adding them into your upper body and full body workouts.
Want to try out more exercises and workouts from Saladino? Check out his Men’s Health Superhero Shred program, which is designed with the same principles he uses to get his star clients in shape. You can also find Saladino’s program, alongside a ton of other fitness content, on our new All Out Studio streaming app.
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