Everybody knows that pull-ups are notoriously difficult for gym novices. They seem insurmountable when you’re beginning your fitness journey, but they’re a great way to show off your strength once you’ve built some muscle. The benefits of pull-ups are difficult to overstate as well, your grip strength, one of the limiting factors in a lot of advanced fitness routines will skyrocket once you can reliably pull off a pull-up, and your core strength along with your back will thank you for the opportunity to get some blood flowing and muscles building.
Australian pull-ups are an excellent intermediary for pull-ups– they’re one of the most famous pull-up variations, and they also have some benefits that you could never hope to achieve with your standard pull-up, and they’re just a plain old good time. So, grab a horizontal pull bar, tighten up your core, and let’s get started.
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Muscles Worked in an Australian Push-up
Australian Pull-ups work a lot of your upper body, they’re an excellent exercise for anybody trying to get some chest and back definition, as well as anybody looking to up their pull-up game. The position in which you have to have to hold your body is also great for your core. Before you take on any exercise new exercise it’s important to know what muscles you’re working out, so let’s take a deep dive into all of the different muscles Australian Pull-ups work.
The first time you do a set of Australian Pull-ups you’ll probably be the most surprised by the amount of involvement your forearms are getting. Your forearms are the most important part of almost any exercise you come across. If you aren’t able to keep the weights in your hands, or your body attached to the bar you’re lifting yourself towards, then you’re not going to be getting much work done. Australian Pull-ups are great at engaging the full range of your forearms as well.
Your forearm muscles are split into several compartments on the anterior and the posterior of your arm. The anterior compartments of your forearms are the muscles responsible for the flexion of your fingers and wrists. Holding onto the bar and dangling your body weight from your hands is going to fully engage your anterior forearm muscles the entire time you’re doing Australian Pull-ups. These pull-ups are great for increasing your raw grip strength, and that increase grip will translate to a better deadlift and sturdier wrists for any other free weight exercise you can throw at yourself. You’re also going to want to keep your wrists straight throughout this exercise, so your posterior forearm muscles are also going to see a good deal of work here. If you were only using your flexors, then you’d be pulling yourself up with a pair of curled wrists, and that would be murder on your joints as well as interfering with the engagement of your other muscles and totally ruining your form.
Your pecs, triceps, and deltoids are going to be the primary benefactors of the Australian Pull-ups. Your pecs or the pectoralis major are responsible for flexing your humerus. This is the muscle you’re engaging when you pick up a child or when you’re tossing something underhand. Anything you do that decreases the angle between your humerus and the joint it’s attached to, like when your arms are fully extended and you’re pulling yourself up towards a bar is going to engage your pectoralis major. They’re a large pair of muscles, so you can work them for a good while with a lot of weight, and Australian Pull-ups are going to allow you to get a good deep pec workout.
Your triceps are primarily for the extension of your elbow joint. Lowering yourself back into your starting position is one of the times you’ll be engaging your triceps the most, but that’s not all your triceps are responsible for. There are three distinct heads of your triceps, and they all have a function beyond extending your elbow. For instance, when you’re generating a lot of force in your arms, the lateral head of your triceps engage to facilitate that explosive generation. The long head of your triceps is often used to allow your body to generate a sustained force across your arms, especially when your shoulders and elbows are used at the same time. This is one of the reasons you don’t want to blaze through your Australian Pull-ups. Moving deliberately through your full range of motion is going to more actively engage more of your muscles on a micro level, giving you increased muscle growth over time.
Your delts are responsible for keeping your arms in their sockets, so it’s important to strengthen them when you’re progressing in the amount of weight you can lift, so you don’t injure your complex and intricate shoulder joints. Adding Australian Pull-ups into your routine is an easy way to engage these reclusive muscles without overloading them and risking injury. Just make sure you’re not letting your arms hang by their sockets, and you’ll be setting yourself up for success.
Australian Pull-ups are in the rowing family of bodyweight exercises meaning that they’re going to be activating muscles along the side of your body as well as the most obvious muscles responsible for pushing and pulling weights towards and away from your body. These pull-ups engage many of the muscles along the spine of your scapula, like your deltoids and your traps, which is great for broadening your shoulders and straightening your back. Your rhomboids and serratus anterior, muscles that are tucked away on your side and in your mid-back will help you keep your chest expanded as well. If you’re into a lot of chest exercises, then you need to make sure you’re working out your back to keep your chest from pulling on your back and giving you abysmal posture.
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Perfect Australian Pull-up Form
Pulling these benefits from Australian Pull-ups can only happen if you take the time to learn how to execute Australian Pull-ups properly. They’re a full-body exercise, so make sure you run through this mental checklist each time you line yourself up under the horizontal bar, keep your body straight the entire time, and move methodically throughout your entire range of motion, and you’ll start seeing progress like you won’t believe.
1. Begin With Positioning
You’re going to start your Australian Pull-ups by sliding underneath any horizontal bar you can comfortably reach. The lower this bar is, the better it will be for your pull-ups.
Line your shoulders up even with the bar, this is going to help with your targeting when you lift yourself up towards the bar, you should be meeting the bar right in the middle of your pectoral muscles. Make sure your heels are on the ground. If you’re opting for a higher bar, then you might want to aim to keep your feet flat on the ground.
2. Get a Grip
You can use a multitude of different grips to make your Aussie pull-ups easier or harder, but then we would be here all day discussing grips. Let’s start with a standard overhand grip (the neutral grip for this position), and we’ll discuss alternatives later on. Make sure your hands are shoulder-width apart, a close grip will keep your shoulders from flexing, and you’ll be cheating yourself out of a full range of motion. Allowing your shoulder blades a full range of motion will also allow the muscles on the scapular spine a fulfilling workout.
3. Keep Your Body Straight
You should be able to draw a straight line down your back now that your grip, shoulders, and feet are in place. Imagine your body maintaining a plane throughout this exercise. You should be able to strap an imaginary bed to your body without interference. Keeping your body straight is one of the reasons this exercise is so beneficial to add to your routine.
Keep your head looking forward the entire time, tilting your neck to look down at your feet is going to hunch your shoulders and contract muscles you should be using to lift yourself up. Engage your core and tighten your back. Recruit your glutes and your legs as well.
4. Pull the Bar Down (sort of)
While inhaling, imagine you’re pulling the bar down towards your body. This will prevent you from focusing your efforts only on your arms. This upper body exercise isn’t just a curl with extra steps. You should be engaging your upper back, your pecs, and your shoulders. Your biceps will also have their place in this exercise, of course, you can’t flex your arms without them, but be sure you’re not neglecting the rest of your upper body.
5. Revisit Your Starting Position
While exhaling, lower yourself into your starting position. You can imagine pushing the bar away from yourself, or you can engage in some eccentric contraction, by contracting your muscles while you lower yourself back down into your starting position. By contracting your muscles and lowering yourself slowly, you can control your descent, and add some extra tension to your routine. Regardless of your mental image, you shouldn’t be blasting through these. You want to pull up as methodically as possible, don’t cheat yourself out of a good exercise.
Australian Pull-Up Benefits
Growing Grip Strength
Your grip strength is an easy aspect of your fitness to ignore. It feels like lifting weights alone should be enough to grow your grip strength, but you need to take time to deliberately work the muscles in your forearms if you want to push your fitness to the next level. Australian Pull-ups are great for both the anterior and posterior muscles of your forearms. The grip you’re applying to the bar to keep your body in the air is working your anterior forearms, and keeping your wrists straight and your fingers fixed is applying your posterior forearm muscles.
Easy on Equipment
Australian Pull-ups really only need a horizontal bar, you can find those in the park, any gym worth its membership, or you can rig one together with a barbell and some ingenuity.
Strengthens Your Lower Body
If you’re doing your Australian Pull-ups properly, you should be keeping your legs in a straight line with your back. It’s important to keep your form up during Australian Pull-ups. Letting your from sag is an excellent opportunity to miss out on some full-body isometric exercise. Contracting your muscles at a fixed length is one of the best ways to apply tension to your muscles, strengthening them for future attempts. If your form lags during Australian Pull-Ups, you’re also missing out on the opportunity to lift the most weight possible.
A Stepping Stone for Full Pull-ups
Australian Pull-ups work a lot of the same muscle groups as normal pull-ups and chin-ups. They’re also an excellent way to improve your mind-muscle connection. Every time you pull off a set of Australian Pull-ups you’re improving your ability to isolate and activate the muscles involved in pulling your full body weight off of the ground and up towards the bar above you. If you’re working towards a full-body pull-up, then Australian Pul-ups are essentially tailor-made for getting your body ready to achieve that goal.
Creative Core Work
It’s hard to find an exercise that totally neglects your core, but Australian Pull-ups target your core in a way some exercises may not. Keeping your torso straight for the duration of your Australian Pull-Ups will fully engage your abs the entire time you’re performing the Australian Pull-ups, this bodyweight row is great calisthenics for anybody of any level.
Australian Pull-ups are so simple that varying their difficulty is as simple as changing the height of the bar you’re pulling up on. If you’ve taken a high-school physics class, then you know that more leverage makes lifting something easier, so reducing the leverage you have on your body will make your Australian Pull-ups harder. Start with a bar that’s about waist height, and adjust from there. Finding a higher or lower bar to pull yourself up on will adjust the difficulty of this exercise accordingly. If you’re ever struggling too much with these pull-ups, then find a higher bar, and when you’re ready to increase the challenge, just get lower to the ground.
Great For Your Middle Back
If you’ve been looking for a way to work your middle back, then this is the exercise for you. The same way that these pull-ups engage your core, your back has to put in some work to keep your body straight while you’re pumping away. Your latissimus dorsi is also going to have a lot of involvement with these pull-ups, increasing the growth in your middle back.
Additional “Outback” Tips
Australian Pull-ups are relatively straight forward, but that doesn’t mean you can do them without keeping a few things in mind. If you want the full benefits of this exercise, then you’d do well to remember a few things every time you belly up to this bar.
Watch Your Form
Form is important in every exercise, and Australian Pull-ups are no different. Keep your body straight by engaging your abs. If you feel like you have to let your butt sag while you’re doing your Australian Pull-ups, then you might want to consider using a higher bar and easing yourself into more intense pull-ups or take some time to work on some ab exercises to strengthen your core.
You also need to be engaging your lats and serratus anterior. Keeping your shoulders tight while you pull up will fully engage your upper body and you’ll be working on some reclusive muscles. If you need some help strengthening your lats and serratus anterior, trying working in some push-ups
Watch Your Speed
Exercising to build muscle and endurance is all about the tension you’re applying to your muscles. When you’re taking these pull-ups slowly and methodically employing all of the muscles involved in the full range of motion, you’re going to benefit much more than rapidly pulling yourself along. You’ll also be running a much smaller risk of injury, and wasting way less time.
Pulling It All Together
Australian Pull-ups are probably most famous for being a stepping stone towards the more popular and impressive looking pull-ups, but they’re so much more than just a half measure. As you’ve seen, Australian Pull-ups pull their own weight. You’re working out your upper body in unique ways, and challenging parts of your body that would otherwise be overlooked by more popular exercises. They’re quite modular as well, you can change anything from your grip to the height of the bar, and customize the amount of work you’re putting into them without having to fuss with new equipment or having to learn a totally new exercise.
You can add Australian Pull-ups to your routine if you’re looking to increase your upper body strength in preparation for something new, or you can just slot them in as an exercise that you know will work out some of your weak spots while providing the sort of challenge you can be proud of overcoming whether you’re aiming for the pull-up bar or stronger back muscles.
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