Building Aerial Strength at Home with Pull-Ups

woman doing pull-ups on a set of stall bars in her home gym

A concern we’ve been hearing a lot lately is that time away from your apparatus means you’re losing strength. Firstly, we want to assure you that many of us are in a similar position. Most of us don’t have a rig at home. But just because we can’t get up in the air right now doesn’t mean we can’t still train one of the most important exercises for aerial strength: the pull-up!

We’ll look at how to train pull-ups in a variety of ways, based on what’s available to you. Don’t worry – there’s something for everyone here.

Remember To Warm Up

You know how in class, we don’t just walk into the studio and jump straight into pull-ups? Remember to warm up first with a little light cardio and some neck and shoulder rolls for mobility. Otherwise, you’ll risk angering or harming your aerial muscles instead of strengthening them. Spend 10-15 minutes warming up the muscles of your arms, shoulders, and don’t forget your lats and upper back muscles!

Raising The Bar

Start off with a set of 10 shoulder shrugs – just like you would in class. When your shoulders feel warm, move on to pull-ups. Vary your grip on the bar to work all the muscle groups we use for different apparatus entrances. Do a set with your hands together, palms facing away from you, another set with hands shoulder-width apart, palms facing toward you, and a third set shoulder-width apart, palms facing away.

Your set should be long enough that the final pull-up feels challenging, like you’re not sure you could manage another one. Remember to keep your core engaged and elbows pulled in at your sides, rather than allowing them to wing out.

Not there yet? If you’re not ready for unassisted pull-ups, bring a sturdy chair over to your bar. Stand on the chair, hold the bar, sink your hips as low as they’ll go, and push with your feet as you pull up with the arms.

Note: Most pull-up bars are NOT intended for inversions and can become dangerously unstable when used incorrectly. Serious injuries have resulted from improper use. Please do not invert on your pull-up bar. 

Grab Some Ground

Warm up your shoulders with some shrugs on the floor. Find your downward dog position and push the floor away from you. After that, allow your shoulders to come up by your ears, then sink your shoulders down your back. 

Then find a spot in your house with a smooth floor. Put a towel or a pillow on the floor, and kneel on top of it. Reach forward and place your palms on the floor in front of you, coming into child’s pose with your hips lifted. Push hard into the floor, then bend your elbows and drag yourself forward. Push yourself back to the starting position and repeat.

Try a set with arms shoulder-width apart, then a set with your thumbs and forefingers making a Hershey Kiss shape to simulate a straddle grip on a horizontal bar. If you only have carpet, try this exercise with something smooth and slidey, like furniture movers, under your knees.

Use A Door

If this floor exercise is too challenging or doesn’t work in your space, grab a resistance band and open up a door. Throw the band over the top of the door, and stand facing the edge of the door – close enough that you can rest your forehead on it. Reach up to take one end of the band in each hand, then pull your hands down to your sides. Keep elbows in and maintain a hollow body posture as you pull. The higher up you grab the band, the more challenging this one will be.

Slow and Steady

Whichever option you’re using, go slow and listen to your body. It’s okay if it’s been a while since you’ve used these muscles – just be gentle on yourself, physically and emotionally. It may take time to get back to where you were before the break, but we have faith that we will all get there together.

For more exercises to help keep or rebuild your aerial strength at home, check out our other blog on the subject: How To Safely Build Aerial Skills on the Ground. For a more structured approach to pull-ups, Sky Candy teacher Michele Frances currently has an Online Drop-In Class called Pull Up Bar Workout, which meets Tuesdays at 6:45pm and Sundays at 3pm.