Australian Pull Ups: A Tutorial For Beginners (+ Advanced Guide)

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What is the Australian Pull Up? 

Diversifying your upper body workout routine is essential for overall strength development, and the Australian pull-up comes as a highly effective and accessible exercise. It’s a movement I use with all of my personal training clients who are looking to achieve their first strict pull-up.

Also known as body rows or inverted rows, Australian pull-ups offer a unique approach to targeting your back, arms, and core muscles. Funnily enough, they’re referred to as Australian pull-ups because they start from down under the bar. 

Now, let’s explore the mechanics of the Australian pull-up, discuss the skills needed to perform it successfully, and dive into the myriad benefits it can bring to your fitness routine.

Australian Pull-Up Muscles Worked

The Australian pull-up targets the upper body muscles including the latissimus dorsi, biceps, rear deltoids, abdominal muscles, and forearms muscles. It also targets the lower body muscle groups such as the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings as these muscles will have to be engaged to help stabilize the body. 

The Men’s Health suggests that the Australian pull-up is a great exercise for strengthening back muscles to build a better posture – especially for those who spend most of the day sitting. I agree, and this should be the included into your pull workouts.

How to do the Australian Pull-Ups?

1. Body Position

Position yourself under a low bar with your hands gripped tight at shoulders-width apart, and arms straight. Line your shoulders with the bar so that when you pull up, your middle chest touches the bar.  Straighten your body out by keeping your feet together, and recruit your glutes, and quads to keep your body tight. Your body should be at an inclined slope. 

2. Grip The Bar Tight

There are many grip variations you can do to perform this exercise, but for now, you would have a tight pronated grip shoulders width apart with your thumbs underneath the bar. Stay in an active hang with your scapulars retracted as this will provide you with additional support for the shoulder and increase power and muscle mass. 

You can use six different grip positions and widths to work different muscle groups. The close grip emphasizes your biceps and chest muscles more than the wide grip, which means you may be able to perform more repetitions. The pronated grip is better for working the lower trapezius and lats, whereas the supinated grip is better for working the biceps and the pec major.

3. Pull Straight To Your Chest

 Exhale as you pull the bar straight to your chest and engage your rear deltoids and your biceps, whilst keeping your body in a straight line. You should feel resistance in your upper body muscle groups such as the upper back, chest, shoulders, and arms doing the work, as well as the lower body muscles, the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings.

Retract Your Scapulas

As you pull up, make sure to retract your scapulas (pulling your shoulder blades together) as this will improve the muscular contraction and strengthen your shoulder blades. Other than this, it will assist in improving your posture and create efficient arm movement and joint stability.

4. Return To Your Starting Position. 

Inhale as you lower down into a starting position, and lock both elbows out before pulling back up. This maintains a full range of motion which will result in better muscle balance, joint stability,  proper activation of working muscles, and overall better movement quality. 

Australian Pull-Up Benefits

Increases Grip Strength

The Australian pull-up is great for building the anterior and posterior muscles of your forearms. Your grip strength is important because you require it for almost every activity, whether it’s opening a door or lifting up a box, they all require grip strength. One of the most efficient ways for higher reps, bigger lifts, muscular hypertrophy and serious training gains all starts from your grip strength.

Target Your Middle Back

The muscles that are in use in the middle of your back are the traps, rhomboid, and lats, this is great for those who are looking to sculpt their body and build muscle. Don’t be surprised if your back feels sore during the day you perform lots of Australian pull-ups, and even more sore the following day. This is because your muscles are working harder than they’re used to or in a different way which inevitably grows your back muscles, giving the body a V-shape physique that looks enchanting and powerful. 

Minimal Equipment Needed

The Australian pull-up can be performed almost anywhere with minimal equipment needed, you can perform this exercise by using a doorway pull up bar, a low bar at the park, a side of a dip bar, gymnastics rings, TRX,  or any study elevated surfaces in your home (such as two chairs parallel to each other or even under a four-legged table). You can blast your body anywhere using only body weight and exercise that only requires your body weight is considered calisthenics!

A Progression For The Pull-Up

This progression has a significant role in achieving and strengthening your pull-ups and increasing your repetitions. It works on the same muscle groups as the traditional pull-ups. They’re a great way to build muscular strength for your upper back, shoulders, arms, and core. With every single repetition that you do, you are increasing your ability to isolate and engage the muscles involved in pulling your own body vertically upwards towards the bar above you.

What is the difference between the Australian Pull Up and the Pull Up?

The Australian pull-up is an exercise that is used as a progression toward achieving the pull-up. With the Australian pull-up, you are pulling your body horizontally upwards, which makes this exercise easier since there is less load on the upper body as your legs are on the ground, taking most of your weight away from your upper body.

Whereas, with pull-ups, you are pulling your body vertically upwards without the assistance of your legs which increases the load on the upper body, therefore, creating more resistance on the muscles. Australian pull-ups improve your posture by working on the erector spinae muscle group, along with engaging many muscles along the spine of your scapulars, such as your rear deltoids and your traps which is good for broadening your shoulders and straightening your back.

2020 study assessed the effectiveness of resistance training that is time-efficient and simple to perform, these exercises include Australian pull-ups, bodyweight squats, and push-ups. This study was conducted for 24 weeks on untrained individuals and the results suggest that resistance training is a health promotion and disease prevention strategy that is considered first-line treatment for nearly all chronic disease states.

Mastering Australian Pull-Ups

For more advanced athletes, you may want to take your Australian pull-up to the next level by adding weighted resistance or by performing more methodical repetitions. This section is for more seasoned athletes looking to make further progress on their Australian pull-up.

  • Setup: Position yourself under the bar, lying on your back. Reach up and grab the bar with an overhand grip, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Body Position: Keep your body straight, forming a plank-like position from head to heels. Your heels should be on the ground, and your arms fully extended, supporting your weight. No sagging hips or shoulders. 
  • Advanced Techniques: Wear a weighted vest to add resistance, or ratchet up the difficulty by placing your feet securely on a folding chair.
  • Pulling Motion: Initiate the movement by pulling your chest towards the bar. Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together while maintaining a straight line from head to heels.
  • Hold and Lower: Once your chest reaches the bar, hold the position briefly to maximize muscle engagement. Lower your body back to the starting position in a controlled manner, ensuring a smooth descent.
  • Repeat: Perform multiple repetitions, concentrating on the quality of each movement. Gradually increase the intensity by adjusting the difficulty level or adding resistance as you gain strength.

Skills Required for Mastering Australian Pull-Ups

Australian pull-ups are accessible to individuals at various fitness levels, making them an excellent option for beginners and advanced athletes alike. Here are the skills required to perform Australian pull-ups effectively:

  • Core Stability: Maintaining a straight body or hollow body position throughout the exercise necessitates core stability. Strengthen your core with exercises like planks and hollow holds to enhance your ability to control your body during Australian pull-ups. Making sure to pull your rib cage down and your pelvis in a neutral spine to align properly is best to keep that core as strong as it can be. 
  • Basic Upper Body Strength: While Australian pull-ups are more accessible than traditional pull-ups, having a basic level of upper body strength is beneficial. Incorporate exercises like push-ups and bicep curls into your routine to build foundational strength.
  • Scapular Awareness: Similar to other pull-up variations, being mindful of your scapular movement is crucial. Focus on proper scapular retraction and depression during the pulling motion to engage the targeted muscles effectively. Seated scapula retractions may be helpful to build strength here.

Benefits of Advanced Australian Pull-Ups

  • Upper Body Muscle Engagement: Australian pull-ups engage a variety of upper body muscles, including the back, biceps, and shoulders. This comprehensive activation contributes to a well-rounded upper body development.
  • Scapular and Shoulder Health: The controlled movement in Australian pull-ups promotes scapular retraction and shoulder stability. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals looking to improve posture and reduce the risk of shoulder injuries.
  • Accessible for Beginners: Australian pull-ups provide a beginner-friendly alternative to traditional pull-ups. They allow individuals to build strength progressively, making them an excellent starting point for those new to bodyweight exercises.
  • Versatile Exercise: The versatility of Australian pull-ups allows for difficulty adjustments. You can modify the exercise by changing the angle, adding resistance, or incorporating single-arm variations to continually challenge yourself.

Master the Australian Pull-up Today!

Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast looking to diversify your routine or a beginner seeking an approachable upper-body exercise, Australian pull-ups offer a valuable solution. It’s a fairly simple exercise, and one that can be mastered in a relatively short period of time.

By incorporating this movement into your workout regimen, you can enhance your upper body strength, improve scapular and shoulder health, and enjoy the versatility this exercise brings to your fitness journey. Start at your own fitness level, focus on the proper form I’ve outlined above, and gradually progress as you build strength and confidence in your abilities.

To help make progress on your Australian pull-ups, consider the following helpful accessory movements:

As always, Gymless Heroes, be sure to consult with a qualified professional before starting a new fitness routine. For a more one-on-one approach to learning the Australian pull-up—or any other calisthenics movement, for that matter—hit me up for a free 30-minute consultation.

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