I would like to be much better at pull-ups. I can sort of just barely almost do two in a row - on a sufficiently high bar.

Trouble is I am tall enough that in almost all gyms, I can reach the pull-up bars with my feet flat on the ground, my shoulders engaged and pulled down, and my arms slightly bent. That means that I can't start from a dead hang with my legs straight, as recommended in this answer. Instead, I have to either:

  1. Bend my knees so that the soles of my feet are pointing backwards.

  2. As above, but with my knees further bent, so my soles point up.

  3. Bend at the waist with my legs straight out in front - eventually moving toward pull-ups in a seated position with my feet off the ground.

  4. Sit in what my daughter would call "criss-cross applesauce" fashion.

  5. Hold on with a very wide grip.

  6. Something else?

None of these approaches seem easier than the others - they all feel pretty darn awkward, and I have a harder time with even getting a single pull-up when the bar is too low (again - most bars)

QUESTION: How should I modify my leg position when working on a pull-up bar that is too low for a proper dead hang?

Related Questions:

Where should our legs be when we do pull-ups or chin-ups?

What's the optimal height for my pull up bar.

Is moving my legs forward on pull-ups a bad things?

  • If you can "only" perfom barely two, ever tried using a pull up band as suppport? you could kneel in one. That is perhaps less awkward than "criss-cross-applesauce" and will give you support.
    – Julian
    Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 8:57

1 Answer 1


The easiest form I've found would be with knees bent back and crossed so one leg is essentially holding up the other. So that is basically #1, but it takes less focus and energy and your torso is in the most neutral position. It is the closest variation to a standard pull-up.

Option #3 is actually called an "L-sit" pull up and it's another common variety. It's sometimes harder because it takes more core activation to perform. Likewise, you can cross one leg over the other to make it easier. You can also keep the knees bent down to lessen the leverage which makes it easier. The "criss-cross applesauce" method might even be easier as the legs would be holding each other up.

An alternate approach would be find something that's not a pull-up bar but strong enough to hold a person (that last part is very, very, very important). One gym I went to had the pull up bar attached to a cable machine. The pull-up bar itself was too low, but the frame it was attached do was higher. So instead I just used the frame with a false grip (no thumbs). I have also used the frames of Smith machines and power racks.

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