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Pullups and chinups.

Description: Using a bar and the hands over the head, lift the body.

Motions trained: Overhead pulling

Main muscles used: Lats, biceps and triceps
   Other muscles:

Palms facing, narrow grip. Palms away, wide grip. Palms facing each other, pistol grip. Towel pullup Working up to a one-armed pullup

How to do it: Grasp the bar with your arms extended. Initially, I suggest using a grip about shoulder width apart and the palms facing towards you. This will let you do a chinup (so your chin goes over the bar). With your body straight, pull yourself up, pause briefly, then lower yourself.

A somewhat wider grip with the palms facing away from you is a pullup, so called because you cannot get your chin over the bar. Pull your chest to the bar.

You can also flip upside down (toes at ceiling) and do an inverted pullup. This will train the motion of pulling to the chest.

Another variation (good for vacations) is to face a door, throw a towel over the top, then grab the top of the door with your fingers, placing your elbows on the door. Without moving your arms, do a pullup. This really isolates your biceps.

How to work up to it: Weight machines abound that have a pullup bar and some weights to assist you. Put on your bodyweight first (so you have no weight you are moving) and gradually remove weight every few reps until you find it rather rough going. Practice this, over several weeks removing weight until you get no assistance. Note; work on your abs too, since you will need them to help stabilize you a bit.

You should also practice negatives, as I mentioned earlier.

Ramping it up: Try to work up to a one-handed pullup using the towel trick. Start these with negatives and be sure to flare your lat so your shoulder doesn't get too much strain. A weight machine that assists in pullups can be helpful here.

You can vary this by throwing a towel over the bar, grabbing it with both hands and using that. This is a very narrow pullup that really works your grip strength. If you have access to parallel grips, so that your palms face each other, then use those too.

A great partner drill is to have your partner hug your legs and let go randomly to build explosive power. If you get good explosive force, pull yourself all the way up over the bar with a chinup (yes you'll need to use your legs most definitely to build the momentum), swing up your elbows and do a dip to get you way up in the air. If you've got a gymnastics bar, you could go for broke and do a handstand, then finish it off by twirling over the bar, ready for the next one. No, I can't do that yet...

Do's and don'ts: Don't hoist or kick up your legs. This just means you are using momentum to launch you. That is bad. Don't use weird grips or try for superwide or narrow grips, since these will unduly stress your joints.

Comments: These plus dips can make a complete upper body workout.