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If you’ve mastered the pull-up then the L-sit variant awaits! It engages the core by working your abs SUPER hard, while still smashing your back. And best of all – NO KIPPING! Here’s all you need to know about this ego-killing pull up!
At a glance…
- An L-sit pull up combines a tough ab and core exercise in the L sit with a back-smashing strict hollow pull up
- The L-sit position puts us at a mechanical disadvantage through the pull-up movement making it feel harder
- There are 6 steps outlined below to perform both an L-sit AND a strict pull up, master these first before combining
- Progression can be slow – park your ego at the door before you start to train these!
What is an L-sit pull up?
An L-sit pull up is an intermediate bodyweight exercise where an L-sit position is held while performing a strict pull up. This works your core due to the L-sit hold, while also hitting the back and rear deltoids with the strict pull-up.
Part 1: Performing an effective L-sit
The L-sit is defined by the body forming an “L” shape – that is a vertical torso with legs protruding at approximately 90 degrees which should be parallel (ish) to the floor.
An L-sit can be done on the floor, between parallel bars (including high or low parallettes) or when hanging from rings or a pull-up bar. For our chosen variant we will do it from a horizontal bar.
How to perform a hanging L-sit from a pull-up bar
Performing a hanging L-sit is easier said than done, here is my 6 step method for nailing it every time:
- Take a wider than shoulder width grip on the bar and get in to the hanging position
- Brace your core to hold your torso vertical
- Lift your toes upwards pivoting at the hips ONLY
- Try to maintain a straight leg (or as straight as possible) while raising your toes upwards
- Stop when your legs are approximately parallel to the floor
- HOLD this position for your chosen duration
Progressing your L-sit
L-sits are hard. Getting in to position can be awkward for those with limited body control or experience with calisthenics movements.
To progress it over a number of workouts aim to get in to position and HOLD it for an increasing amount of time. Perform multiple reps of this hold each time you choose to train it. Typically I would recommend starting with 30 second holds for 4 rounds, building the duration each week.
Part 2: How to do a strict pull-up
A core part of an L-sit pull up is… the pull up! To practice this half of the movement follow the 6 step process below:
- Grab the pull up bar with a wider-than-shoulder-width grip
- Lift off the ground or stool, and hang from the bar
- Brace your core and focus on keeping strong, controlled legs pointing downwards (this encourages engagement throughout the movement rather than a dead ‘hang’)
- An L-sit pull up benefits from a ‘hollow’ position – achieve this by pushing your chest OUT and retract your shoulder blades. Imagine trying to squeeze a balloon between them!
- Pull yourself upwards by focusing on keeping your elbows in place and allowing your upper back to do the work
- With your hollow-chest position you should find your head clears the bar and your chest comes up towards the bar from underneath. Complete the rep when your chin clears the top of the pull-up bar.
Lower yourself back and pause briefly between reps to keep the form strict and prevent ‘kipping’, which is undesirable in an L-sit pull up variant.
Progressing your pull-up
The best way to increase the number of bodyweight pull-ups you can perform is to do them MORE regularly. Try a couple of work sets at the end of EVERY workout, aiming for one or two reps short of failure with each.
From week to week increase the target number of reps by a modest amount – even just ONE extra rep a week on each set would be an awesome achievement for most! Heck, if you did that for a year you’d be hitting sets of 52 reps…
What if you can’t do a single pull-up?
If you are struggling to perform a single rep then try and assisted pull-up – that is one done with a band or assistance machine to reduce the effective body weight being lifted.
With that said if you are uncomfortable with pull-ups it would be best to focus on this movement alone and not add the complexity of the L-sit to it for now.
Combining the pull up and the L-sit
OK so now we have sufficient BASE skills to perform the two core components, lets put them together…
- Get in to the L-sit position and take a second to brace ourselves
- Once steadied, perform a strict pull up with the same process outlined above
Sound simple? It really is TOUGH! Prepare to be humbled – you may only be able to do a couple of reps at a time. Build these up slowly as you get more experienced and a stronger core!
Be aware that with the legs stretched out your pull-up mechanics will be subtly different as they will push your centre of gravity ‘forwards’. Expect to feel the pull up in the back slightly differently – with the lower back firing in the movement as well.
What are the benefits of doing L-sit pull ups?
In case you haven’t picked this up, an L-sit is tough, and a strict L-sit pull up is TOUGHER! So why should you even bother? Well, there are a few awesome benefits…
- Calisthenics experience – as a fitness nerd I think it’s pretty cool to be able to do a few basic bodyweight movements. An L-sit pull up has crossover to various calisthenics moves form holds such as the tuck planche through to pull ups and leg raises
- Core strength – you will quickly realise that your core will be absolutely SMASHED by an L-sit. Use them as a compelling hold to train your abs.
- Body control – nothing is as humbling as the first L-sit attempt. Practicing and performing these will improve your overall body-awareness massively allowing you to improve your calisthenics work (if you choose to go that route with your training)
Why are L-sit pull-ups so hard?
Adding mechanical disadvantages is a key way to progress bodyweight movements and is common in calisthenics or similar bodyweight routines.
The L-sit position makes the pull-up harder. It puts you at a mechanical disadvantage with the centre of mass moving around and increased ab engagement.
This means yous would only REALLY move on to train this if you have already mastered the basic pull up.
Hitting a set of L-sit pull ups is an easy way to make someone eat some serious humble pie – they are TOUGH! But they feel worth it – getting in some serious core work is always a struggle and these MAKE me engage my abs like few other isometric movements do! Try them out – but be ready for a challenge!
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