How To Do The Archer Pull Up Properly

The archer pull up is a unique pull up variation which requires that you use one hand stabilize yourself while the other does all the lifting.

Think of it as a single-arm pull up that uses one of your arms as a self-assist.

This isn’t a very easy movement, as you’ll find out in a few. So you’ve got to work on your stability and strength before you try to do it.

Here’s how you can do this pull up properly:

  • Get a pull up bar and grab it from a dead hang position with a wide grip. A supinated grip is better for bicep training (and a bit easier) but you also feel free to use a prorated grip in the alternative.
  • Pull your shoulder blades down and back, and get your body closer to the supporting hand.
  • Squeeze your core.
  • With the non-working hand straight, pull your entire body up until your chin comes above the bar.
  • Then, lower yourself back down to the starting position.

WHAT MUSCLES DOES THE ARCHER PULL UP WORK?

TRAPEZIUS

The trapezius originates from the base of your neck, gets across your shoulders and extends to your mid-back.

It helps move your neck, head, shoulders, arms and torso.

LATISSIMUS DORSI

This is the largest muscle on your upper back, which runs from the middle of your back to under your shoulder blade and armpit.

INFRASPINATUS

This muscle is located on your shoulder blade and it helps extend your shoulder.

THORACIC ERECTOR SPINAE

These are the three muscles located along the thoracic spine that help flex and extend it.

There are multiple muscles that the archer pull up works, but the ones mentioned above are the prime movers.

BENEFITS OF THE ARCHER PULL UP

BUILDS UPPER BODY STRENGTH

By strengthening your back muscles, the archer pull up helps improve your overall upper body strength, which comes in handy for all your upper body movements.

YOU CAN MAKE IT EASY

If you find the archer pull up too difficult to execute at first, you can bend your other arm just a little bit and only extend it fully at the top position.

You can also opt for an underhand grip instead of a supinated or pronated one to reduce the challenge.

HELPS CORRECT MUSCULAR IMBALANCE

When you’re doing this particular variation of the pull up, you only use one hand at a time to support your entire bodyweight.

This helps you work each side of your body independently to eliminate any imbalances or asymmetry that may exist in your upper body muscles.

IMPROVES GRIP STRENGTH

Grip strength assists in almost every single movement of your day, from opening a spice jar in your kitchen to trimming your compound hedge.

Aside from your home activities, grip strength also translates to increasing your ability to lift heavy weight during your workouts.

INCREASES BONE DENSITY

Strength training exercises like the archer pull up do a great job loading your bones to make them stronger and denser.

Higher bone density, according to research, slows down the process of bone loss as you grow older.

DOESN’T REQUIRE MUCH EQUIPMENT

The only thing you need for this exercise is a pull-up bar, or any other solid object that resembles it.

ALTERNATIVES TO THE ARCHER PULL UP

SINGLE ARM LAT PULLDOWN

The single-arm banded pulldown  works the latissimus dorsi on your back using one arm at time.

Steps:

  • Attach a D-handle to a lat pulldown machine and sit on the bench with your torso straight and core tight.
  • Extend one arm out to grasp the handle using a neutral grip and with your chest pushed out.
  • With your working arm stretched out, lean back about 15 degrees and keep your gaze forward.
  • Pull your shoulders down and back, taking care not to shrug them.
  • Squeeze the shoulder blades together, inhale deeply and pull the D-handle to your chest using your back.
  • Pause for a second before releasing it.
  • Complete your reps and switch to the other hand.

BENT OVER ROW

There are a lot of powerful rows that build strength and size on your upper back muscles, but the bent row is one of the most popular, and for a good reason.

You can do it with either an underhand or overhand grip, depending on the upper back muscles you’re looking to focus on more.

To hit the traps and rhomboids, use an overhand grip. And if your focus is on the lats and mid-back, an underhand grip will work better for you.

Steps:

  • Place a barbell on the floor.
  • Bend your knees slightly and lean forward to position your upper body above the barbell.
  • Keeping your back neutral, grab the bar with a shoulder-width apart grip.
  • Use your back to pull the bar towards your upper core.
  • Lower the weight back down until your arms are fully extended.
  • Repeat as many times as you want.

ARCHER PULL UP MISTAKES TO AVOID

KEEPING YOUR CHEST DOWN

As you lift your body, make sure you also lift your chest up towards the pull-up bar. You can ensure this by pinching your shoulder blades together to pull the chest muscles up.

BENDING THE NON-SUPPORTING ARM

Keeping your non-supporting arm straight places more force on the supporting hand, which will make the movement more challenging.

If you feel that arm bending, try “pushing” against the bar as though you want to move it away from you.

NOT TIGHTENING YOUR CORE

Pulling your body up using only one arm isn’t going to be easy at all. It requires a great amount of balance and stability, which your can achieve more easily if you squeeze your core muscles.

Brace your core during the entire lift so that you’re able to keep your body stable as you pull it up.

SUMMARY

Full disclosure? The archer pull up really is no joke.

You need an insane amount of strength, mobility and stability, which may take you longer than you’d initially thought to gain.

Take your time to master your form and strengthen your muscles before you try it.

You can also start with more basic versions of the exercise which will help you build-up to the archer pull up.