Lifting your body weight places a tremendous strain on your arms and back, so increasing your rep range is a great way to strengthen these areas and your core, which benefits from the added resistance.
As an exercise physiologist and strength coach, the pull-up is the most under-appreciated way to develop your abs and all other muscles in your midsection.
All of that is wonderful, but there is one catch: it's an exercise many people need help with, whether they've worked out for years or are complete novices.
If you need help with pull-ups or want to improve your performance, I'll go over some easy-to-learn techniques that aren't covered in many fitness programs but will make a huge difference.
Can't Do a Pull-up? Start Here
A lack of back strength is likely to be blamed if you cannot perform pull-ups. You may perform intense 1-arm rows and other barbell and dumbbell exercises to build muscle.
Strength training will help (and is part of the answer), but it won't necessarily lead to more pull-ups because pull-ups benefit more than just your back.
Hollow Body Holds
As a first step, get down on the floor and lie down. Raise your arms above your head with your biceps in a straight line with your ears. In this position, you should cross your hands over your ankles. Next, create tension by pressing your hands and ankles together and rising into the hollow body position. Put your hands together and press your ankles together to assume a hollow body position. By doing this, you can increase the tension in your body from hanging from a bar.
Maintain as much tension as you can from head to toe as you hold this position for 5 seconds or 2-3 breaths per set (more on creating suspense). After a brief 5-second rest, perform 5 or 6 repetitions. You can extend the time you can maintain a hold with practice. It's impressive if you can keep the pressure up for a full minute.
Hollow Body Horizontal Pull-ups
Use a broomstick or dowel as the following tool. Use it like a pull-up bar and support your weight with both hands. To begin, hang from a pull-up bar with your arms extended and elbows locked if you want to practice a pull-up while in the open position, bend your elbows and bring the bar across your face and toward your chest line.
The challenge here is to keep the emphasis on core strength while also incorporating a motion of the arms that mimics a pull-up, all while keeping your airway open.
Hollow Body Leg Raises
By raising your legs, you can strengthen your core and give your arms a workout at the same time. Hold a "tabletop" position with your knees locked, and one foot crossed over the other. Lift your toes toward the stick by pulling down on the post. You can touch your toes to the bar depending on your strength and control.
The key is to keep your lats tight to lift your upper body. Pull down on the bar with your mind as much as you pull up with your legs, and squeeze the bar as tightly as you can in your hands. You can lift your legs with less effort if you tense your arms, back, and core.