A pull up machine is a valuable tool that lets you slowly build your strength until you can do bodyweight chin ups and pull ups unassisted.
If your gym has one then make full use of it and before you know it you’ll be knocking out a set of 10 bodyweight pull ups with ease!
Pull ups and chin ups are two of the very best exercises you can do so getting good at them is a priority and substituting them for less exercises is not an option. Instead of pull-up machines you may also find pull-up assist bands helpful – best I have seen are the P90X Chin-up Max and Lifeline Pullup Revolution. Both work using resistance cables that assist up to 100 pounds of your body weight and help you do more reps and more high quality reps than otherwise possible.
I’m generally no fan of exercise machines but this piece of gym equipment contributes to you being able to do a very effective exercise so I make the exception. Being able to do the very best exercises well is key, so a chin up machine is one of the best exercise machines you could make use of.
These machines are not available in every gym so you may not know what I’m talking about so allow me to clarify….
How Does A Pull Up Machine Work?
A pull up machine makes pull ups, chin ups and dips easier by counterbalancing your bodyweight with a weight stack. You select the amount of weight with more weight making the reps easier.
When you are in the bottom part of the movement with your arms straight you need to pull to get yourself to the top position.
Usually you would rely on your own strength to get you there, with a pull up machine the weight stack is elevated, therefore gravity brings the stack downwards when you pull. This makes it easier for you to complete a rep.
Should You Use A Pull Up Machine?
Pull up and chin up machines are controversial pieces of equipment with purists suggesting you should never use them and other claiming they can help you build your strength in the movement.
So who’s right?
Well, both of them actually.
Reasons Why You Should Use A Pull Up Machine
Many people substitute pull ups and chin ups with lat pulldowns, this is a big mistake as it is a less productive movementIf you were planning on skipping chins and pull ups then you are cheating yourself as they are two of the very best exercises you could do.
To do the, you might need to build your strength so that you can do bodyweight chin ups and pull ups. There are a number of ways to do this, here’s the best in order of effectiveness:
The Best Ways To Build Your Chin Up and Pull Up Strength
- Use a regular bar or
pull up station
where you do regular pull ups and chin ups with a spotter who helps you complete reps when your strength deteriorates.
- If you train alone and don’t have a spotter then placing a bench in the pull up station can help you to reduce the range of motion. Less distance to travel makes it easier, you could even start with negative pull ups and chin ups.
- Use a pull up machine to slowly build your strength, it’s less effective than the previous suggestions but its better than abandoning these movements completely.
If you really have no choice other than to use an assisted pull up machine then use one, if you can do the alternatives then do them.
In addition to these reasons, there are other benefits to using a chin up machine:
- Full Range of Motion– Using a bench (as in the pull up station article) reduces the range of motion whereas the chin up machine allows a full range which is of course better
- No Need For a Spotter– Great if you train alone and want to build your strength progressively
- Can Also Be Used For Multiple Exercises– The rotating bar at the top allows you to do close grip chins and pull ups.
- Easier To Track Progress– Using a spotter it’s hard to tell how much help they are giving you whereas the weight stack clearly marks how much resistance is helping you. It’s then easier to keep reducing the resistance as you get stronger.
Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use A Pull Up Machine
In all honesty, using an assisted chin up machine should be a last resort. One of the reasons for this attitude is because getting strong using machines doesn’t convert to actual bodyweight exercises.
In addition to this you have to contend with balancing yourself which you don’t have to do on an assisted machine. This means when you come to bodyweight movements they are harder.
It’s for this reason I only recommend using this machine as a last resort. If you don’t have a spotter use the bench method and do negatives instead. You’ll soon be strong enough to start doing pull ups from the bench and then you can knit the entire movement together.
In summary, I think using a machine can be useful if you train alone and you need to build your strength although it isn’t the optimal choice available. With that said, working towards bodyweight chin and pull ups and finally being able to do them is always going to be better than abandoning this great exercise.
I used this machine to slowly build my strength up so you can too, although in all honesty my strength progressed much more once I switched to using a spotter and a bench as explained in my
pull up station
Whatever you do, keep working towards those bodyweight movements!