Tip: Try These 3 Tough Pull-Up Variations

Think you're good at pull-ups and chin-ups? Yeah, we'll see about that. Check out these athletic variations!

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Warning: These exercises are specifically tailored for athletes and lifters who are pretty damn good at pull-ups. At the minimum, you should be able to do the following before attempting the variations below:

  • 15-20 strict chin-ups (supinated, palms facing you)
  • 10-15 strict pull-ups (pronated, palms facing away)
  • 5 strict chin-ups with bodyweight + 45 pounds
  • 5 strict pull-ups with bodyweight + 25 pounds
  • No pain present on the superior aspect of your shoulder during any pulling based exercise.


This one is great because it trains more of the speed-strength and power side of the force-velocity curve, which is generally deficient in the pull training category. Switch-ups accomplish this without directly exposing the shoulder complex to the extreme amounts of mechanical stress and overload common in the muscle-up.

Wide-Grip Pull-Ups with Chains + Hip External Rotation

By applying an external load in the form of chains around the posterior cervical spine, you subsequently fire the deep neck flexors and retractors that are almost always weak and underdeveloped for the majority of lifters. The chains create a feed-forward mechanism and activate the target muscles through a process called "reactive neuromuscular training," espoused by Gray Cook and Mike Boyle.

By driving your neck muscles into protraction and a more pronounced forward head alignment, you engage the opposing muscles and correct any faulty posture. This exercise is another valuable tool you can add to your corrective training arsenal to correct common postural defects throughout the kinetic chain as alignment "up top" partially feeds positioning down below.

Pillar Chin-Ups

Pillar chins require that you establish a strict vertical body orientation from head to toe so that every muscle in your body fires up. What's unique about this exercise is that the glutes and hamstrings have to really step up their game.

Travis Hansen specializes in human-performance enhancement for athletes at all levels. He is also the leading authority on speed development for the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA). Follow at www.resultsbyscience.com