Proper form of the pullup, bodybuilding basics

The pullup is the #1 best exercise for building wide lats. In this video I’m going to show you the proper form to build cobra-wide lats. Just a note here, there are many pullup variants that have goals other than building really wide lats. I’m focusing here on the form you want to use if you want to target lats and build your lats as wide as possible for a great V taper.

If you are not strong enough to do a pullup yet, please watch my video “Pullups for Beginners!” – this video wont help you.

For wide lats, here are the THREE imporant aspects of form:

1 grip width: point elbows all the way out to side, not angled forward. See how far apart my elbows are when I point them out to the side? Thats a perfect width to start with. If you want, you can do them wider if you want but not much narrorer. Lets look at why …

2 Its because we want the elbows pointed outward, not forward. If you use to narrow of a grip, it forces your elbows to point forward. Elbows pointed forward uses more biceps and forearms, we want LATS. When doing pullups, keep your elbows pointed out. Many people let them drift inward as they get tired.

3 bar in FRONT of face, not behind head – shoulders. No added benefit to behind head, it just puts your shoulder at risk of injury. Keep bar in front of your face.

4 Range of motion. Only in PE class do you have to get your chin up to the bar, all that does is make people kick and squirm to try and get up. Just go up till the bar is about at eye level. Now lets talk abou the lower end of the range of motion.

5 a lot of people copmletely relax at the bottom and hang which lets their shoulders come up to their ears and lets their body hang about 3″ lower. Bigger range of motion isnt always better and this is a perfect example. We want to keep tension on the lats the entire duration of the pullup set. That means you need to keep your shoulders down and back the entire time. Dont let your shouders float up to your ears.


7 no kipping. Kipping is an advanced gymnastics maneuver, not something for a beginner or intermediate bodybuilder. If you cant do 25 solid pullups, then your joints, ligaments, and muscles are not ready for kipping.

OK, I lied. I said there were only 3 things but there were 7. I was afraid if I told you the truth you would have thought that doing pullups right was too complicated. Its NOT!

For information on how many sets to do and how often to do pullups, please check out the free home workout plans on my website. There are workout plans for every ability level.

4 thoughts on “Proper form of the pullup, bodybuilding basics”

  1. Why shouldn’t I do pullups behind my head? The piont is: When I am doing with head in front, i can use my breastmuscle to pull up my Body. When the bar ist behind my head i can’t. Because of this I think for people with almost strong breastmuscles pullups with the bar behind the head are better than pullups with bar in front. Pullups in front would strengthen their breast and pull down their shoulders, witch could cause impingement.

    1. Please be careful when attempting any pullups, military presses, or cable pulldowns (or other barbell work) behind the head. While you gain the mechanical advantage of additional muscles during the initial phase of the pullup (when done in front of you), you will be straining the long head of the tricep (one of the 3 extensor arm muscles), the teres minor (a small shoulder muscle above your working back muscles), and the infraspinatus (another small shoulder muscle that can become over stretched and begin to spasm or tear) if heavy work is done behind the head.

      Make sure that IF you decide that you’d still like to exercise the body at a mechanical disadvantage that you exercise your rotator cuff using external rotation and an incredibly small weight (even 2-5lbs is alot during such an exercise). This is not a bulk exercise but a safety exercise. Scooby shows great form with it right here…

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