Pull-ups, though difficult for beginners, should be an integral part of your exercise routine. While most people are familiar with the chin-up version of the pull-up, fewer people know about or realize the benefits of the chest to bar pull-ups. Also known as sternum pull-ups or C2B pull-ups, they come with a variety of benefits that you wouldn’t receive from the standard chin to bar movement.
Let’s get the negative side of this out of the way. A lot of people, especially those who are just starting an exercise routine, shy away from pull-ups of any kind. They not only look difficult and stressful, but they are hard for people to pull off who don’t have much upper body strength. But that’s why they are so important.
Pull-ups build upper body strength is a way few other exercises can. And best of all, they are simple to perform. They may be difficult to pull off initially, but continued practice can really help develop a lot of functional strength over time.
Another deterrent to incorporating pull-ups into an exercise routine is the lack of proper equipment. If you are at a gym, your options are a little better and odds are there are a few pull-up bars there to choose from. But in your home, you may not have the equipment or even the place to put the equipment.
Thankfully, options for pull up bars are expanding, and you can purchase collapsible and expandable bars that can be placed in pretty much any narrow space. Many people opt to hang a pull-up bar in their doorway or hallway.
The Benefits of the Chest to Bar Pull-Ups
So what makes this variation of the pull-up so special? You should know right from the start this exercise will be harder to do than a traditional chin-up, because it requires a greater range of motion.
But that’s exactly what makes it so great, as it works more of your body and increases muscle growth at an exponentially higher rate. So while the work will be harder initially, the results will be much better than if you were just doing simple chin-ups.
These chest to bar pull-ups or sternum pull-ups are also a great choice for people who just aren’t getting the results they are looking for from regular pull-ups. With the chest pull-ups, you will work more of your arm muscles, your chest muscles and abdominals in a way they would not get a worked with regular pull-ups. These pull-ups also work much of your lower back, an area not typically worked through other variations of the movement.
Performing the Chest to Bar Pull-Up
Before you start trying this on your own, you should know there is a proper way to perform it. You’ll want to stick to the proper form for this to maximize your muscle development and ensure that you are not risking injury.
First, let’s start with the hands. You will want to use an overhand grip on the bar for this movement. While it is easier for many people to use an underhand grip for chin-ups, you won’t be able to easily bring your body up as far above the bar as you need to for this exercise with that type of grip.
Then you want to ensure your back is hyperextended. This means your chest is jutting forward and your back is curved. If lying horizontally, it would be the position your back would have in order to perform what is known as a “superman” exercise.
You can let your legs either be bent or fully extended, but just make sure you aren’t using your legs or lower body to give yourself some momentum. You don’t want to be propelling yourself with your legs or pushing yourself off the floor. Instead, use your upper body to pull yourself up, since that is the portion of your body you should be trying to work during this exercise.
Then just pull your body upwards, ensuring the bar is level with or below your sternum. Hold that for a second or two, then ease yourself back down slowly. Just do this as many times as you feel comfortable initially, and gradually build up your reps as you become more comfortable with the exercise.
Having Some Trouble?
If you’re just starting an exercise regimen for the first time in a long time, then the chest to bar pull-up is probably not where you want to start your pull-up routine. You first want to make sure you have mastered the basic pull-up or chin up. Use either an overhand or underhand grip- whichever you are more comfortable with.
If even that is proving too difficult, then you can do a few exercises to build up your upper body first. These will be strength-building exercises that work your upper muscles to gives you what you need to start doing pull-ups in succession.
Negative pull-ups are the perfect place to start to building up to the full exercise. You can also use various curls such as arm curls and concentration curls to strengthen your biceps.
To get into the motion of doing pull-ups, you can use an assisted pull-up machine to perform the workout with essentially a lighter weight. These are pull-ups that work some of the same muscles and use the same basic motion, but require much less work on your part.
To get the most benefit out of your pull-ups, you will want to increase the number of reps you do. Once you can do the first few without a massive struggle, you can aim for doing about 10 at a time. Every few days or once a week, you can up that number by a few – whatever you feel comfortable with.
Ideally you will want to work toward doing hanging pull-ups, as they place all the work onto your upper body, and ultimately work towards the master of pull-up exercises – the muscle up!
(If you’re looking to build a bigger back, check out our ‘best back exercises for mass‘ article too)