To do proper pull-ups with zero body swing, it’s important to start from a stationary bottom position called a “dead hang.” From there, cross your ankles and perform the pull-up slowly. You should count to 2 slowly during the upward movement, then count to 2 again during the downward movement. To stop swinging during pull-ups, it also helps to tense your abs and focus on pulling your body straight up to the bar until it touches your chest.
Why Do You Keep Swinging When Doing Pull-Ups?
Whether you learned pull-ups at a Crossfit gym that prioritized the number of reps performed, or you haven’t had a lot of experience with the exercise, you may have some bad pull-up habits. These habits can cause your body to swing as you perform the exercise. The most common causes of swinging during pull-ups are:
- Jumping to grab the bar.
- Bringing your knees up in front of you.
- Bending your knees behind you.
- Performing pull-ups at higher reps/intensity than you’re ready for.
By practicing proper form and stepping up to a bar rather than jumping, you can eliminate your pull-up swing. We’ll go into more detail on the perfect pull-up below. First, why is it important to eliminate the swinging motion during pull-ups?
Is Swinging During Pull-Ups Bad?
A swinging motion during pull-ups results in a less effective workout for the muscles the pull-up is designed to engage. Instead of working your lats (the large muscles in your back), swinging pull-ups use your body’s momentum to get the job done. Your legs will generate most of the momentum, making the pull-up a leg exercise rather than one that builds strength in your upper body.
- Swinging during pull-ups reduces the effectiveness of the exercise, making it easier to perform.
- If you swing during a pull-up, the power is generated from your lower body, not the muscles in your back that should be engaged during a pull-up.
- Swinging during pull-ups increases your risk of shoulder injury.
Swinging during pull-ups also increases your risk of injury. The irregular swinging motion and quick fall of “kipping” pull-ups places strain on your shoulder joints and back. For the best workout and lowest chance of injury, it’s time to learn how to do pull-ups without the swing.
9 Tips to Perform the Perfect Pull-Up Every Time
A proper-form pull-up is one of the most challenging bodyweight exercises you can perform. That said, it’s well worth the effort. A good pull-up activates the latissimus dorsi, or lats, which run from your upper back down to the top of your hips. Few exercises work the lats better than pull-ups. Here’s how to perform them without swing for the ideal back workout.
Don’t Jump to Grab the Bar
Because jumping up to grab the pull-up bar can start you swinging, it’s best to grab the bar without having to jump. Not only will jumping and swinging tire your grip, but it will also make performing no-swing pull-ups difficult. Use a box or step stool to step up to the bar and grab hold without jumping. Place the box so that it won’t interfere with you once you start performing your pull-ups.
Start From the Correct Position
When performing a pull-up, your starting position should be what’s referred to as a “dead hang.” To achieve this position, grip the bar overhand with your arms extended. In this position, you should not be swinging forwards or backward. However, it’s crucial to keep your shoulder blades pulled down and back. This will activate your back muscles and allow you to perform a pull-up from this challenging “dead hang” start.
Extend Your Legs and Cross Your Ankles
In addition to beginning in dead hang without any swing, keep your legs extended straight downward when performing pull-ups. Many gym-goers tend to tuck their knees to their chest or bring their feet behind them. Avoid this. Instead, keep your legs straight and cross them at the ankle. This “pencil” form will prevent swinging.
Not only will performing slow pull-ups result in a challenging, muscle-building workout, it will also stop you from swinging forward and backward. Pull yourself up to the bar slowly, counting to 2 as you do so. On the way back down, move just as slowly. Count to 2 during this downward motion. Both the concentric and eccentric (upward and downward) motions of the pull-up provide an excellent workout. You’re cheating yourself of half the benefit of pull-ups if you let yourself drop down after you pull yourself up to the bar. Dropping down quickly also causes you to start swinging.
Focus on Form
When pulling up to the bar, it’s crucial to use your arms and back properly. Bring your shoulder blades together and down. It helps to think of putting your shoulder blades “into your back pockets.” Additionally, keep your elbows straight out to the side, in line with your body. If you allow your elbows to move forward, this can cause you to swing during the pull-up. It also cheats you of your workout, as it shifts the focus from your back muscles to your biceps.
Tense Your Abs
Keep your core tight as you pull yourself up to the bar. Tense your abs as if you are bracing for someone to hit you in the stomach. This tight core will help keep your body straight and prevent you from swaying as you do your pull-ups.
Pull Your Chest Up to the Bar
When performing pull-ups, complete the total range of motion. This means you should not stop pulling up as soon as your head reaches the bar. Pull your body straight up until the bar touches your chest, just below your collarbones. It’s better to perform a few pull-ups with this form than to perform many kipping pull-ups.
Steady Yourself if You Start Swinging
If at any point during your pull-up set you begin swinging, return to your dead hang starting position until the swinging stops. If your grip is failing, feel free to let go of the bar and step up to it again once you’re ready to continue.
Reduce Your Reps
Once you start doing proper-form pull-ups, you’ll likely see a decrease in the number of reps you can perform. This is expected because you are now truly lifting your body weight with your back muscles without any help from momentum. Continue to perform proper pull-ups and gradually increase your reps. They will get easier with time. You can also perform lat pulldowns, both normal and wide grip, to build back strength and make pull-ups easier.
How Do You Stop Swinging During Pull-Ups?
Swinging during pull-ups is caused by using your lower body to lever yourself upwards. It’s a bad habit that reduces the effectiveness of pull-ups. Many athletes resort to swinging during pull-ups to power through a set. Here’s how to avoid this mistake:
- Step up to the bar to grab it—don’t jump.
- Begin from a dead hang starting position.
- Keep your legs straight and cross them at the ankles.
- Perform pull-ups with both a slow upward and downward motion.
- Keep your shoulder blades together and keep your elbows straight out to your sides.
- Tense your abdominal muscles.
- Pull yourself up until your chest touches the bar.
- If you begin swinging, return to the dead hang until the swinging stops.
- Perform fewer reps than normal until you build the strength to complete longer sets of no-swing pull-ups.
Learning the proper form for pull-ups provides incredible benefits. You’ll see an incredible increase in upper body strength by performing regular pull-ups with no swing.