woman exercising with weights

How to do a pull-up: 3 exercises to improve your shoulder and grip strength

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Strong Women trainer Risqat Fabunmi-Alade demonstrates this 3-move 10-minute back workout so you can get strong enough to do a pull-up. 

Loading up a squat rack with tons of plates is impressive, but it’s seeing someone fly through pull-ups that really makes our jaw drop. This enviable bodyweight move requires a whole lot of strength in your lats, shoulders, biceps and even in your hands. Strengthening each of these body parts will help them work together to get you where you want to be – over that bar.

Pull-ups require strong lats and biceps as well as grip strength to hold yourself on the bar, plus a strong core to keep alignment and stable shoulders,” says fitness trainer Emma Obayuvana. “This workout’s moves use isometric holds and slow tempos to increase the time under tension and the intensity on the muscles for a strong upper body that will get you over the bar.”

Here, Risqat Fabunmi-Alade from our Strong Women Training Club demonstrates three exercises that will improve shoulder, core and grip strength. Just think: with every rep, you’ll be closer to hitting your pull-up goal. 

HEAVY DUMBBELL HOLDS

woman lifting weights
How to do a pull-up: improve shoulder and grip strength with a tempo arnold press, demonstrated by Strong Women trainer Risqat Fabunmi-Alade in this quick 10-minute workout
  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms by your side, feet hip-width apart and a soft bend in your knees.
  2. Pull your shoulders back and down and squeeze your abdominal muscles while you grip your dumbbells hard.

Hold for 30 seconds 

HOLLOW HOLD

woman exercising on floor with dumbbell
How to do a pull-up: improve shoulder and grip strength with a hollow hold, demonstrated by Strong Women trainer Risqat Fabunmi-Alade in this quick 10-minute workout
  1. Lie on your back and tuck your pelvis so there is no gap between your spine and your mat.
  2. Lift your shoulders, neck and head off of the floor and place your arms overhead, holding a light dumbbell if you can.
  3. Extend your legs out straight and lift your heels off of the ground - the closer they are to the floor, the harder it will be.

Hold for 30 seconds

TEMPO ARNOLD PRESS

woman lifting weights
How to do a pull-up: improve shoulder and grip strength with a tempo arnold press, demonstrated by Strong Women trainer Risqat Fabunmi-Alade in this quick 10-minute workout
  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms extended out at 90 degrees from your body and a bend in the elbow, so your knuckles face the sky.
  2. Open your arms wide so they come into a scarecrow position, palms facing out and elbows in line with your shoulders.
  3. Press the dumbbells overhead so that they touch at the top.
  4. Lower back down to the scarecrow pose, then back to the starting position.

Repeat 10 times

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Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).

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