October 09, 2020 10 min read
By far the best way to prepare for traditional pull-ups and chin-ups is the bodyweight row. It’s almost exactly an upside-down push-up and works exactly the opposite muscle groups, which makes it a great inclusion in any upper body workout. All you need to complete this move is a solid, immovable bar that’s grippable and high enough off the ground for you to fit underneath. Since you’ll be upside down and burning as much energy as a two-pot screamer dancing bat-faced at a bucks’ party, this move is also called an Australian pull-up.
There are tons of benefits to the Australian pull-up. For one, it helps target muscles that aren’t used in standard push-ups. Where the push-up targets upper-body muscles like the pecs, triceps, deltoids, and serratus anterior, Australian pull-ups also work the larger back muscles such as the rhomboid and latissimus dorsi. Regular pull-ups tend to target the muscles on the outside of the mid-back while the bodyweight row activates muscles that help you balance and move your scapular muscles toward the spine.
Unlike some other exercises with a high-risk potential for serious injury, the Australian pull-up is easy to learn and has tons of variations to add cardio or target different muscles more specifically. Anyone interested in getting their upper body Shredded-AF needs to include these bodyweight rows in their routine if they aren’t already.
There’s some evidence to suggest that Australian pull-ups improve posture by working on the erector spinae muscle group. In addition to preparing beginners for their first pull-up set, this exercise also builds the key muscles involved in standard pull-ups and many of their variants, so anyone who is trying to increase their pull-up sets can greatly benefit from the Australian pull-up.
Just like other bodyweight exercises, this one makes a perfect addition to a home workout routine. The Australian pull-up is a horizontal pull exercise, which is pretty rare to find in a bodyweight workout. Many people accomplish a horizontal pull using a door or a similar object that they can hold onto in a standing position, but that doesn’t give quite the same workout as a true Australian pull-up. Since you’re closer to the ground and can give yourself less leverage, the bodyweight row gives important back muscles like the trapezius and the scapular muscles.
It can be a real challenge to vary your bodyweight exercise routine. Rarely do you come across a new exercise that not only targets unique muscles but can be done in so many variations without the need for any specialized equipment besides a fairly low horizontal bar. You can even add some explosive plyometric motion to this exercise to get your heart rate up.
If you’re looking to break into calisthenics, the Aussie pull-up is the perfect place to start. Pair them with planks, side planks, lunges, and squat jumps and you’ll have an exercise routine you can do almost anywhere for free. Aussie pull-ups will also help you build strength so you can do more impressive calisthenics like dragon flags and planches.
Pull-up bar training will work all the large upper-back muscles and improve the range of motion of your shoulder blades. In addition, it builds arm and chest strength. Read on to find out how to do the Australian push-up with perfect form and find out all the benefits it will add to your fitness routine.
There’s no special equipment needed for this bodyweight exercise. All you need to do is find a horizontal bar that you can fit under and you’re good to go.
A note about the horizontal bar, though. The height of the bar matters for more than just fitting underneath it. As we mentioned before, doing a standing bodyweight row doesn’t give your muscle groups as much of a workout because they have better leverage, meaning it’s easier. The same principle applies to the Aussie push-up. If the height of the bar is greater, you’ll have more leverage and thus challenge your muscles less. If it’s lower to the ground, it will be more difficult. If you’re just starting out, find a bar that’s about waist height. Once you get good at the exercise, you can find a bar that’s closer to knee-level.
Follow these steps to execute an Australian pull-up the right way:
The starting pose should be underneath the horizontal bar with the top of your shoulders more or less even with the bar. When you lift your body weight to the bar, it should meet right in the middle of your pectoral muscles. Your heels should be on the ground if the height of the bar is low, but if you’re just starting out it might be easier to keep them flat on the ground.
There are a few grips you can use to vary the difficulty of an Aussie pull-up, but for now, let’s just talk about how far apart your hands should be. The best thing for scapular retraction is to place your hands shoulder-width on the horizontal bar. It might feel like it’s more challenging with a close grip, but that’s only because your shoulder blades aren’t able to flex backward when your hands are close together as they approach the sternum.
Keep your hands shoulder-width apart and your shoulder blades will be able to move. This will create that movement of the scapular muscles toward the spine which is one of the main fitness benefits of the Australian pull-up in the first place.
With your feet planted and your grip in the right position, there should be a straight line running the entire length of your body. That includes your neck. Don’t try and lift your head up to look at your body or let it fall back. To help keep your body in a straight line, you need to flex your core and push your shoulder blades back. This will puff up your chest and help keep your shoulders aligned as well.
Inhale first. Make sure you’re not pulling your body weight up to the bar with only your arm muscles. If you have the correct form down, it should feel more like you’re pulling the bar down to your chest. With your shoulders pulled back and your body in a straight line, you should feel the muscle groups in your upper back, chest, and shoulders doing the majority of the pulling work. Of course, your arms will be doing something, but they shouldn’t be doing everything.
Exhale and lower yourself back into the starting position by pushing the bar away from your chest. It should be exactly the reverse movement of the horizontal pull you just did and make sure it’s done at the same even pace. Although you might see some guys who drank too many energy drinks before they hit the gym doing pull-ups at a lightning pace, it’s completely unnecessary and could cause injury.
In addition to giving you rippled shoulder muscles, the Aussie pull-up variant builds strength in other muscle groups. There are many health benefits to this move, especially if you use some of the plyometric pull-up variations to get some good cardio in or pair it with other bodyweight training exercises such as calisthenics to improve your balance.
We’ve already mentioned how versatile the Australian pull-up is. There are also many pull-up variations that target similar muscle groups in the upper and lower back and can be used to prepare for traditional pull-ups or other pull-up variations that will get your arms, abs, shoulders, and back looking huge and ripped in no time. Down some pre-workout to get Amped-AF and try some of these muscle-building Aussie pull-up variations.
More challenging than the Australian pull-up or arguably even traditional pull-ups and chin-ups, negative pull-ups are a great way to keep pushing your back, shoulder, and arm muscles even after you’ve mastered everything else. You still need a horizontal bar, but you’re going to start from the top position of a traditional chin-up. Follow these steps to complete the rest of the negative pull-up exercise:
Give the negative pull-up a try and you’ll see how challenging it is. If you’re just starting, try 3 sets of 10 reps. Your shoulders and back muscles will thank you later.
If you muscle up enough, you can try doing the Aussie pull-up variation with an uneven surface. Your body will still be in a straight line during this exercise, but it won’t be even. Your head should be lower than your feet.
Similar to the traditional pull-up, this advanced variation will build your grip strength and help you muscle up in your shoulders and core. It will also increase the stabilizing capabilities of these muscle groups, which will increase athletic performance and daily bodily function. You can also hold a kettlebell or a dumbbell in your free hand if you’re feeling adventurous.
You can add a bit of cardio to your inverted rows by either letting go of the bar at the low point to switch between and overhand and an underhand grip or you can pause halfway through the pull, hold it for a few seconds, and then continue. This will increase the strain on your muscles and encourage hypertrophy. Remember, the faster motions help in plyometric exercise but they should still be fluid motions overall to prevent injury.
The Australian pull-up is a great preparatory exercise for pull-ups and chin-ups. It also builds muscle in your upper back, shoulders, and arms. It can even strengthen lower body muscle groups like your glutes and hamstrings.
As long as you can keep the correct form, regularly performing this pull-up variation should give you the strength you need to progress to traditional pull-ups and chin-ups. After that, you can use some of the more challenging pull-up variations we mentioned to build some insane muscle.