Pull ups are one of the most challenging bodyweight exercises to perform, requiring multiple upper-body muscles to work simultaneously to pull oneself up above the bar and back down again. The pull up demonstrates a superior strength to body-weight ratio and is a hugely rewarding exercise to master. For many people, being able to perform unassisted pull ups is the ultimate strength training goal. To help you or your client achieve the success of performing a pull up, here are some different progression exercises that can be programmed to help strengthen the required muscles and practice performing the movement pattern:
The dead hang is a simple exercise that involves hanging from an overhead bar. It is a great introduction to getting used to hanging from the bar and will help to build grip strength and core body tension. It will also help to increase the range of motion in the shoulders.
Isometric Pull Up Hold:
This exercise involves jumping up to the top of the bar and holding the position above the bar for as long as possible. This will help to build strength in the key muscles required to perform a pull up and will start to develop familiarity with the movement.
The inverted row is a horizontal pull exercise that works many of the same muscles as a pull up. For this reason, it’s an important exercise to include when working up to a pull up. To perform the exercise, position a bar (or TRX ropes) about waist height. Lie beneath the bar and grab it with both hands in an overhand grip. Engaging your core and forming a nice straight line from your head to heels, pull yourself up until your chest touches the bar and then lower slowly. The difficulty of this exercise can be adjusted with the height of the bar – the higher the bar is positioned, the easier the movement will be.
Lat pulldowns are another way to build the strength necessary for completing pull ups. This exercise can be used to teach the correct vertical pulling technique in a controlled motion, with the ability to increase or decrease the load depending on how much weight can be pulled. To perform this exercise, grab the bar with a wide, overhand grip and pull the bar down to approximately clavicle level. Squeeze the shoulder blades together and draw the elbows close to the torso in the movement.
Eccentric Pull Up:
Before getting to the lifting portion of a pull up, practicing the eccentric phase of the exercise will help to build the overall strength needed to perform the concentric movement. To perform these, jump to the top of the bar so that the chest is touching the bar. From there, control the descent by taking anywhere between 5-10 seconds to lower yourself back down to the bottom.
Band Assisted Pull Up:
Progressing to this exercise will see a regular pull up being performed with the assistance of a band. The use of a band will provide help at the weakest point of the lift, which is at the bottom. As you pull your body toward the bar, the band’s support lessons so that more of your own strength is utilised. Resistance bands are available in various sizes and thicknesses, so progressions from thicker to thinner bands can be easily made as you get stronger.
The pull up is certainly not an easy exercise to perform, but one that is definitely worthwhile attempting to master given its range of strength-based benefits. So if smashing out unassisted pull ups has always been a goal of either yours or your client’s, give the above progression exercises a go and get it done!
If you’d like to learn more about different exercise progressions or increase your health and fitness knowledge in general, our Cert III & IV in Fitness could be the perfect course for you.