Angela Gargano is an AFAA-certified personal trainer and three-time athlete on American Ninja Warrior who also happens to be a self-proclaimed pull-up expert — she even has pull-up programs on her website. Gargano explained to POPSUGAR that she’s a fan of pull-ups because they’re such a physical move that requires mobility and stability in your body, specifically your shoulders, and they make people feel confident in their athleticism. However, it’s easy to get stuck and give up on your progress, she said.
Gargano calls the breakdown of a pull-up “started from the bottom, now we’re here” — yes, like that Drake song. Breaking it down in a few different steps is key, she said. For instance, you need to work on hanging from the bar and your grip strength; engaging your lats, which are large V-shaped muscles in your upper body that help with arm and shoulder movement; improving your ability to bring your chin to the bar and holding it there; and feeling comfortable with the eccentric movement of lowering yourself back down.
Gargano explained five pull-up steps she wants you to practice in the Instagram slideshow video seen above, and we’ve broken down the steps below.
Step 1: Hang
Hang on the bar with your arms a little further than shoulder-width apart. Your thumbs, Gargano explained, can be over or under the bar. “You should be able to hang for at least 20 to 30 seconds in order to do a solid pull-up!” she wrote.
Step 2: Leg Position
Your legs can be crossed behind you, or you can also have your toes in front of you. The biggest thing here is that you squeeze your glutes to activate your lats, Gargano said, so practice squeezing your butt while hanging from the bar.
Step 3: Shrug
Another way to activate your lats is to shrug your shoulders — and mastering the shrug is an important part of a pull-up before you bring your chin to the bar. “When you shrug your shoulders, make sure your arms are completely straight and away from those ears,” Gargano said.
Step 4: Chin to Bar
Next, bring yourself up to the bar with your elbows back 45 degrees and pulled in toward your ribcage. “You technically are coming in at an angle here when getting your chest to the bar,” Gargano wrote. (She told us you can practice hanging with your chin above the bar and shoot for 30 seconds.)
Step 5: Lower Down
Gargano doesn’t want you to “just drop” when finishing a rep; instead, lower back down slowly so you control the move. She also suggests recording your pull-ups even if you can’t get past the first step, because this helps you correct your form and allows you to keep track of your progress.
If your goal is to perfect pull-ups in 14 days, Gargano told POPSUGAR you have to work on drills every day. But “if you’re doing it maybe twice a week, it’s probably going to take you a couple of months, depending on who you are.” Plus, if you don’t have access to a pull-up bar, you can do drills at home, no bar required. All that’s needed are some bands, a towel, and a broom, which Gargano demonstrates in a handy YouTube video here.