Pullups are one of the best bodyweight exercises that you can do to build a bigger back at home or at the gym.
The problem is, the exercise can be very difficult to do many reps even for the most seasoned lifters. In this video, I show you the real reason why you can’t do pullups and it actually doesn’t have to do with your biceps not helping as much as they do on the chinup.
The pullup is an exercise that works your back but happens to require a heavy involvement from the arms to do so. Most back exercises are similar in this regard. That said, when attempting to lift your own bodyweight against gravity, it becomes increasingly challenging.
You may find however that by simply flipping your hands underhand that you can do way more chinups than you could of the overhand pullup variation.
There is a good reason for this. In the pullup, your forearms (specifically your brachioradialis muscle) is required to contribute much more than it is in the chinup. This muscle, if not trained enough, can become your weak link in performing more reps of the pullup exercise.
The brachioradialis is most active when the forearm is pronated when the elbow is flexed. If you think of the position of the arm during a pullup you will quickly realize that this is the exact position that you are in.
In order to get better at doing pullups you will undoubtedly have to have more strength in your brachioradialis muscle. The best way to do this is with hammer curls, zottman curls, or reverse forearm curls.
Each of these flex the elbow with the elbow in either a pronated or neutral position. If you are just starting out and don’t have good strength to do any of these variations however, you can curl the dumbbells up with a supinated grip to maximize the biceps and then rotate to a pronated position and lower (as in the zottman curl).
Slowly build up your strength in these forearm exercises and you will find that your pullups will improve. Even if you can’t do one pullup right now, you can start to increase the number that you can do by working on this little worked arm and forearm muscle.
The best way to do this is by including movements into your normal biceps or arms workout so you don’t have to do added days or volume.