The L pull-up has features of both the pull-up and the half lever. This movement really forces you to use the back to pull properly, and as the legs and core have to be held in a static position as well, it means that it is almost impossible to cheat on this exercise, as long as it is performed correctly. This is a very advanced calisthenics exercise (pull-up variation). Therefore, if you can’t complete a single bodyweight pullup you can forget about this exercise for now. It’s simply going to be too challenging.
Here are step-by-step instructions on how to perform the L-sit pull-ups using the perfect form.
- Grab a pull-up bar with an overhand grip and hang with straight arms.
- From here, raise the legs until they are horizontal. Make sure that you keep the knee joints locked out. You will notice at this point that the body resembles an “L” shape, which is where the exercise gets its name.
- Holding this position with the legs, pull yourself toward the bar until your chin reaches over it. Notice in the pictures that my legs stay as horizontal as possible throughout the whole movement.
- Then lower yourself down until you reach the start position. This counts as one repetition.
If you cannot either perform the leg raise or hold the legs in an “L” position, spend time with the leg raise and the half lever to build up strength. You can also work with the legs at an angle instead of horizontally, and then as you become stronger simply move them up.
Many people struggle to perform both the pull and the leg raise at the same time. This is completely natural and is just a sign that your body is not strong enough to do both simultaneously. Spend more time with each separate movement and then progress when you are ready.
You should aim to perform three to four sets of five to eight repetitions.
Additional performance tips
These additional tips will help you even further with the proper execution of the exercise.
- Get into a dead hang position while hanging from a pull-up bar — elbows locked and shoulders packed down.
- Raise your knees so that your thighs are roughly parallel to the ground. Then lock your knees and point your toes so that your legs are extended straight in front of you (i.e. making an L-shape with your body).
- Maintain this L-Sit position while performing your pull-ups — making sure to use the proper pull-up technique.
- Exhale forcefully and begin to pull yourself up to the bar until your arms are fully flexed.
- Try to keep a neutral head position (looking straight ahead or slightly up) as hyperextending the neck can lead to compensations throughout the spine.
- Pause for a moment before slowly lowering yourself down until you reach full elbow lock — inhaling as you descend.
- If unable to perform L-Sit correctly, raise your knees but keep them bent, then perform your pull-up as you would.
Difference between the classic bodyweight pull-ups and L-sit pull-ups
With L-sit pull-ups, your legs are raised in front of you which causes the center point of gravity to change. This shift in gravity makes this pull-up variation more difficult. In addition, holding your legs raised in front of your body creates an intense isometric contraction in your abdominals and prevents you from jerking to cheat.
- L-sit chin-ups. In this variant, you’re holding the bar like you would with regular chin-ups – using an underhand grip.
- Neutral grip L-pull pull-ups. Here you’re palms face each other.
- L-sit pull-ups (chin-ups) with raised knees (your thighs will be parallel to the floor, and your shins will be vertical like the upper body). You hold the bar either with an overhand or underhand grip.
- L- Sit pull-ups on rings.
Muscles engaged in L-sit pull-ups
The L-sit pull-ups work the same muscle groups as regular chin-ups plus they also strengthen your core and hip flexor muscles, which are responsible for raising your leg towards your chest.
- Main muscles: latissimus dorsi, biceps (short head), teres major, hip flexors, quadriceps, core muscles
- Secondary muscles: pectoralis major (lower and outside), triceps (long head), teres minor, rhomboids, brachioradialis, biceps (long head), deltoid (front and rear)
- Antagonists: deltoid, pectoralis major (upper), triceps
Replacement exercises for the L-sit pull-ups
- Wide-grip pull-ups (regular pull-ups)
- Behind-the-neck pull-ups (rear pull-ups)
- Negative chin-ups
- Assisted pull-ups
- Rock-climber pull-ups
- Commando pull-ups
- Negative pull-ups
- Towel pullup
- Resistance band-assisted pull-ups
Closing thoughts about the L-sit pull-ups (L-sit chin-ups)
Once you’re good at the basic “L-Sit” – well — then do the actual L-sit pull-up, but not before! Execute the pull-up much as with the regular pull-up. The difference is you hold the legs in a “L-sit” position throughout. If you can’t keep the legs completely straight, you can drop them just a little, but the goal should be to make a perfect L as above. These are killer grip movements and should be worked up with caution. Work up to sets of 5 (that will take most people a while), and then 10.