When it comes to upper body strength and development, few exercises rival the effectiveness of pull ups. Whether you’re a beginner just starting out or a seasoned fitness enthusiast, there are always ways to enhance your pull-up routine and maximize your gains. In this article we will explore some strategies to make your pull ups way more effective than ever before.

What you will learn in this article:

Try a higher rep range

Man training with 6-15 reps

Of course there is nothing wrong with testing your limits and improving your max strength, but working in a 1-3RM rep range all the time will not lead to a better back development! This is very important, especially for beginners who still need to develop their muscle mind connection. The harder the progression and the lower the rep range, the more you’re likely to use other muscles and make huge mistakes just to get your chin over the bar. 

So if you really want to feel and build your back it’s necessary to lower the intensity every now and then. In other words: Swallow your ego and include easier progressions that allow you to work in medium and high rep ranges (6-15 reps) as well. The easier the progression, the more you can focus on the correct technique and the muscles you want to target in the first place.

Pull from your back instead of your arms

  • Man doing pull ups pulling from the arms
  • Man pulling from the back to make pull ups more effective

Back exercises are all about the elbows. Instead of using your hands to pull yourself up, just put all of your focus into moving your elbows down and back. This is a bit tricky because it requires a lot of experience and a good muscle mind connection. Imagine someone standing behind you tries to push your elbows forward and you want to resist.

Another trick is to use a band and fix it right behind your elbow. This is not really recommended for real workouts, but could help you with the right imagination. Summed up: Try to pull from your back with the driving force of your elbows, while the forearms, the biceps, and the brachialis only assist the movement.

Body alignment

  • Man doing pull ups with neutral spine
  • Man doing pull ups with arched spine

If you mainly want to work on back width, you have to focus on the lats. The best way to do this is by aiming for a hollow body position with a neutral spine. If you want to work on back thickness you have to focus on muscles like the middle & lower traps, the rhomboids, rear delts and the teres major. Here you aim for an arched spine with maximum elbow extensions and scapula retraction. Just imagine it like doing rows in a pull up position. 

This execution is very challenging and requires some experience. So we suggest focusing on Hollow Body Pull Ups for the Lats and targeting the other muscles with regular row exercises. The Arched Back Pull Up is still a nice all rounder when it comes to back development. You should at least try it once you’ve passed a certain level of experience. That could be somewhere around 10 clean regular pull ups.

  • Man shrugging his shoulders during push ups
  • Man not shrugging his shoulders to make pull ups moreeffective

No matter which execution you choose, always make sure to not shrug your shoulders. This is nothing more than a compensation that can lead to overused and tight upper traps, while shifting the focus away from the muscles you want to develop!

If you want a complete workout program that implements those tips, you should join our Calisthenics Program on The course is divided into 5 levels, each of which contains different workout routines that either prepare you physically to learn new skills or help you master them.

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Here is how to make pull ups more effective!

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