Mistakes to Avoid for the Perfect Pull-Up

It takes a lot more than raw strength and a firm grip to do pull-ups. You’ve also got to pay attention to a variety of technical details that could hinder your performance if you overlook them. Before you start our Pull program or one of our Single Workouts to break your pull-up record, find out how to steer clear of mistakes while doing this exercise.


A reduced range of motion is a major problem that keeps you from getting the most out of this exercise. You should be using your movement to your advantage. In order to stimulate your muscles enough with this exercise, you need to be using a full range of motion. As a result, your muscles will start to gain mass and build strength.

perfect pull-up 01

Your back muscles are supposed to be the driving force and need to be used with a full range of motion. The perfect pull-up should start with you in a stationary position and your hands grasping the bar, your arms straight and your elbows unlocked. Stop pulling your body up once your shoulder blades come close together and your chin goes above the bar.

You can also try half pull-ups if you’re a beginner trying to master this exercise or if you just want to target your arms. This means that you won’t be putting as much physical demand on your back muscles during the exercise. Check out our program Beginner Pull-Ups if you’re new to this exercise.


You won’t reap the rewards of this exercise if you use momentum to raise your body instead of your arm strength. This “technique” doesn’t do anything to maximize your strength or muscle mass. You need to really feel your back muscles working during the exercise.

By using little to no momentum, you’ll get everything you expect out of pull-ups by building strength and muscle, not to mention reduce the risk of injury. Although a little swinging might be helpful when you want to do one or two more repetitions, you should never spend most of your set swinging around like you’re on monkey bars.


Although pull-ups are more for upper body training, don’t forget that your legs are still attached to your torso, which is attached to your arms. If you let your lower body hang and move around instead of keeping it straight and engaged, you could lose some of your strength and balance.

If you move your legs around too much and arch your back, this also changes the direction your arms are pulling in. This can drain your energy and make you much more prone to injury. Pull-ups should be done with your back and legs straight and engaged.


Your shoulders might tend to come forward as you do a pull-up, which puts extra stress on them and can again lead to injury.

perfect pull-up 02

Keep your shoulders back and lowered before you bend your elbows to raise your chest up toward the bar. Try to feel your shoulder blades touching as if you’re trying to hold a pen between them. At the same time, stick out your chest. This helps you target the right muscles and reduce the risk of injury by taking any unnecessary tension off your joints and tendons.


Your elbows should be behind you and pointing at the floor, much like if you were trying to put your elbows in the back pockets of your jeans. If your elbows are too close together and pointing in front of you, you’re mainly using your arms to raise your body up to the bar. Once again, this keeps you from using all your strength and really working your back.

No matter which grip you use or how far apart your hands are on the bar, your elbows need to point toward the floor instead of your sides. This helps you engage your back muscles as much as possible and also take joint stress off your shoulders. A grip that’s too narrow automatically puts your elbows in the wrong position.

Now that you know how to do the perfect pull-up, start our program Pull to increase your pull-up max!

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