Pull-ups aren’t easy but they yield great results. If you’re looking for a way to build and tone your arms and lats, pull-ups are it. This compound exercise also burns fat and calories. The trick for achieving the biggest benefit is to perfect the move. We’ll show you how.

Master the form
Pull your shoulders down, away from your ears. Keep shoulders locked and elbows slightly bent as you start. Initiate your pull up with the lats (latissimus dorsi, the flat muscle on your back and sides) rather than your biceps. Even better – head to the gym or get someone in the know to monitor your form and offer feedback until it feels natural.

Build your biceps
photodune-4026159-exercising-biceps-with-dumbbells-xsAlthough you don’t lead with your biceps during the pull-up, they do provide a big assist. Strengthen yours with bicep curls to get better at doing pull-ups.

Consider assistance bands
Did we say pull-ups are hard? Give yourself a hand with assistance bands while you build strength and stamina.

Do some bent over dumbbell rows
This is the same idea as with the bicep curls. Dumbbell rows help you build strength in your biceps, back and forearm grip. Since you need all of these for the perfect pull-up think of yourself as laying the foundation for success.

Add in some negatives
These help your arms get used to supporting your weight. Instead of pulling up, stand on something sturdy and high enough to place your chin just over the bar. Slowly lower yourself until your arms are fully extended.

Watch your breath
Remember to breathe (inhale) on exertion, or as you pull yourself up and exhale on release, or as you lower yourself (fully extending your arms)

Try the assisted pull-up machine
This is a great way to practice the move as well as build endurance. Head to the gym and ask a trainer or staff person for tips on using the machine safely.

Pace yourself
You don’t have to break records. You only have to get started and give yourself time to master the form. Eventually, you’ll be able to perform more pull-ups. In the meantime, be patient. If you do too much, too soon you’ll risk injury. Only do as many pull-ups as you can do while maintaining perfect form. It is okay if that is just one to start.
Keep at it
As with any new skill you have to devote time, effort and patience to develop competence. Chart your progress and celebrate being able to do even one more pull-up this week than last week. Don’t give up…. hang in there (pun intended).